Parenting is tough, so it is no wonder that we often turn to those around us, the Internet, and anything else to find a remedy for whatever ailment seems to be possessing our child that day. However it is important to use your parental instincts before implementing recommended advice. Now I am not saying to ignore medical recommendations, but do consider that plenty of parental practices that are no longer followed, were once widely agreed upon practitioners.
1900s Boric Acid as a Cleanser
In the early 1900s, a parenting book, The Mother and Her Child, advised the mother to cleanse her nipples with boric acid to create a sterile nursing environment. Although boric acid is a mild acid and rarely fatal to humans, ingesting the compound, especially by a child, is contraindicated. Boric acid is primarily used as detergent, insecticide, and flame retardant. Yet the book was written by two doctors, Lena and William Saddler, which also advised the mother to watch her emotions lest she produce convulsions in the baby. Thank God we no longer advise mothers to clean themselves with laundry detergent before feeding their baby.
1920s Cage Babies
In the 1920s, there came a fad of letting your baby get plenty of fresh air; however, there was a problem with applying that advice in the roaring twenties. More people lived in cities than farms, and mothers were often working and going to school, which made it difficult for children to spend the recommended amount of time in the sun. So what was their solution you ask? Simple. They precariously caged their children outside of their window to bask in the sunlight. You could even order one of the contraptions with curtains, so you could leave the baby there longer. Where was Children’s Bureau when all of this happened? I’ll never know.
1940s Thumb Sucking Repellant
Although thumb sucking was once encouraged, by the 1940s it was considered a habit that had to be curbed. Just how far were parents willing to go? Well one popular product was a brush on lacquer which consisted of acetone, nail polish, and capsicum. Really? An organic solvent and a pepper extract was the best they could do? I mean I guess it beats those braces they used to treat left handness. They used pretty extreme lengths to end thumb sucking in children, but by the 1960s, thumb sucking wasn’t even taboo anymore; parents allowed their kids free reign with the habit.
1960s Stimulants are Good for Babies
At some point in researching terrible parenting advice for this article, I was hoping to see an improvement. I figured as we came closer to modernity, the advice had to have gotten better. Not so fast. The 1960s was perhaps riddled with the worst parenting advice I’ve encountered. In that era, an obstetrics textbook claimed that expectant mothers could safely smoke up to half a pack of cigarettes a day. While a different book, written by a Dr. Walter Sackett, recommended giving your baby coffee at the six month mark. That is of course after you gave your baby solid foods at the ripe age of two days and transitioned them to bacon and eggs at the mature three month mark.
2018 Universal Distress Chart
Some questionable parenting advice continues today. When my twins were around 4 months old, I remember reviewing a passage for an Early Childhood Development class that was not worth the paper it was printed on. It showed a universal chart that matched up children’s crying patterns with assigned emotional states. This did not allow for variances from child to child, instead it stated that very specific actions identified specific meanings across all children. This is simply not possible, as each child is unique and different and has its own system that his parents will learn. With twins, I had my own population sample at home to support this and defy the textbook’s claims.
The list of terrible advice could go on forever. All of it, at some point, was widely accepted and even recommended by experts and medical professionals. It has only become harder to discern sage parental advice as corporations can easily fund scientific research that bolsters parenting practices advantageous to their business. So all things considered, a parent still knows best.