'Crazy' Old-Fashioned Baby Advice Isn't That Strange Compared to Today's Parenting Trends

All the Rage 6

mom and baby in strollerCry it out. Formula feeding. Home birth. Circumcision. Attachment parenting. Name a parenting choice, and I can find you at least fifty thousand angry arguments about why it's wrong. Or right, depending on who's doing the arguing. There's one consistent truth about parenting, and that's that however you choose to raise your child, someone thinks you're screwing it all up ... and they won't think twice about telling you how you SHOULD be doing it.

If you didn't get a chance to read through this Slate article on bad baby advice throughout history, it's definitely worth a look. It's amusing to see proof that people have been telling moms how to raise their kids for hundreds of years, and that some of the old-school advice that sounds utterly insane to us now isn't all that different from today's parenting trends.

For instance:

Don't spoil your baby with night feedings. In the '60s, a pediatrician came out with a book called Bringing Up Babies, in which he instructed parents to raise their infants under strict schedules.

Absolutely no night feedings, he wrote, no matter how young the baby, nor how much it cried. “If we teach our offspring to expect everything to be provided on demand, we must admit the possibility that we are sowing the seeds of socialism,” Sackett warned, likening overindulgent parents to Hitler and Stalin.

Outrageous! Horrible! And ... hmmm, doesn't sound that different from the Ferber Method, actually. Except maybe without the Hitler part.

Toilet train your newborn.

In 1935, a U.S. Department of Labor “Infant Care” pamphlet called an infant’s regulation of his bowels and bladder a key part of his “character building.” Mothers were instructed to start bowel training their babies at 2 months of age, holding the baby over the “chamber” at the precise same time each day, and “using a soap stick, if necessary” to provoke a movement. By 6 to 8 months, the pamphlet predicted, the baby would be trained, and by 10 months, parents could start in on bladder training.

What? Utter madness! What kind of crazy person would try and potty train an infant? Aside from all the advocates of elimination communication, that is. Judging by this description from DiaperFreeBaby.com, the only thing that's changed (aside from the soap stick) is the fancier way we have of talking about it:

It is a gentle, natural, non-coercive process by which a baby, preferably beginning in early infancy, learns with the loving assistance of parents and caregivers to communicate about and address his or her elimination needs.

Smear your baby in lard.

Several advice books around the turn of the century advised that newborns be “well smeared” in lard, olive oil, or “fresh butter.”

Gross! Weird! That's so ridiculous, unless of course your child has a raging case of cradle cap:

Rub an amount of a pure, natural oil -- such as almond or olive oil -- on your baby's scalp and leave it on for about 15 minutes.

I could keep going, but you get the point. Yesterday's nutso-sounding baby advice isn't really all that bizarre, especially when you consider how almost everything eventually comes back in style. Pre-mastication, anyone?

Do you think any current baby advice will sound weird to people in the future?

Image via © iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

baby sleep, skin care, poop & diapers


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jhslove jhslove

Sorry, you lost me when you compared the advice not to feed young babies at night to Ferber. If you really think that's true, you obviously don't know anything about the Ferber method. Agree with it or not, he clearly states that it's not to be used for babies under five or six months old. Also, the Ferber method does allow for night feedings. We "Ferberized" our daughter but continued to give her a night feeding until several months afterward because she needed it.

fave82 fave82

Oh lord Linda, look out! Everyone without a sense of humor will be dying to comment on this!

SuzyB... SuzyBarno

So strange how parenting advice changes. My grandma, who had my uncle in 1940, tried to toilet train him at 2 months old by giving him a laxative and then placing him on the pot everyday at the same time. She says he was potty trained at 18 months but still to this day he cannot have a bm without taking a laxative. She also believed in not holding your baby too much because it will spoil them. Lets just say all her children have issues with relationships. Not sure but that might have something to do with it.

SuzyB... SuzyBarno

Love my grandma but you gotta hold and love your babies!

Mama2... Mama2MonkeyBoys

Ferber Method does not deny the baby night feedings. Otherwise, good article.

we2an... we2angels

As crazy as it sounds I believe the reason both my girls potty trained shortly after turning two and easily was because their horrible constipation issues required putting them on the toilet as infants to have a bm.

However I do see the point if the article, we roll our eyes at our grandma's but the stuff they tell us now is just as wacky

Erica Conley Shannon

In another 30 years the Ferber method will probably be on a list like this.

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