Changeling stories have existed for ages. According to legends, a changeling is a fairy child left in a human child's place as the human is whisked away. These changeling children were reportedly sickly, mischievous, or aggressive children who needed to be left out in the wilderness or even tortured in order to get the real child back. That means that true stories of changelings - or those stories that were believed to be true - often resulted in the death or mistreatment of a child.
What may have started as a means to explain sickly or misbehaving children became a real concern. Signs your child is a changeling vary from legend to legend, but typically include strange behaviors or illnesses. When we look at changeling signs today, we encounter superstitions and misunderstandings of conditions such as autism, but for the people who lived during this particular time period, these concerns were very real and worthy of investigation.
Your Baby Has Unusual Features Or Birthmarks
Nowadays, we know a great deal more about birthmarks and disabilities than we did in the days when changeling stories were considered true and disfigurement could mean a death sentence. Physical deformation was often reason enough to believe that a child was a changeling, as is shown in the story "The Maiden Without Hands." Unfortunately, this meant that children who did not look the way their parents wanted them to were suspected to be changelings, and the ways that these parents tried to get their real children back were often cruel. In light of what we know today, children who might have been seen as changelings could have had conditions such as Down syndrome or spina bifida, making stories of the abusive treatment of children thought to be changelings all the more horrifying.
Your Child Has An Aversion To Iron
Iron has long been recognized as being anti-magic, including for fairies. Some stories suggested that desperate parents leave iron shears open in the crib to get rid of a changeling in a sort of double-whammy effect - not only would iron repel a fairy, but shears left open would also form a cross. That's, of course, ignoring the fact that open shears are a hazard, particularly to the young children who were far more likely to be in the crib than a fairy.
Your Child Is Left Handed
We live in a right-handed world, with left-handed people still being somewhat suspect to a large majority of the population. In the time of changeling stories, however, that stigma was even worse. Because left handedness is uncommon - only around 10% of the population is left-hand dominant - it was often considered to be yet another sign of a changeling child. Like the various medical conditions that may cause a parent to believe that their child is a changeling, left handedness likely led to terrible consequences for the child, including torture, drowning, or poisoning, in an attempt to get the human child back.
You Have A Sudden String Of Bad Luck
Between a changeling's negative traits and the fact that their beloved child has been swapped with a fairy, parents have plenty of bad luck to deal with. But a visit from a fairy child can have even more consequences, as some stories describe how changelings can suck good fortune right out of a household, and even blaming changelings for a family's poverty, making the idea of getting rid of them even more attractive.