If you’ve ever raised a child, then you probably already know that books full of parenting advice are a dime a dozen. Though some, no doubt, offer valuable tips and tricks for parents-to-be, there have always been others that don’t quite hit the mark. Here we’ll take a romp through some of the most truly horrible parenting advice of the last century.
Start them early on the Starbucks diet
In a 1963 book calledBringing Up Babies, author Walter W.Sackett introduced a piece of advice that was even considered a little crazy back in his own day. This gem of parenting wisdom advised mothers that a baby’s first birthday was an excellent time to introduce them to the joys of coffee. Yep, really. Sackett not only advised that by this time all babies “should be weaned away from fat-containing milk entirely” but that “the youngster should be … getting his liquids in the form of fruit and vegetable juices, soups, water, nonfat dry milk, and the gradual introduction of tea and coffee.”
Ironically, even the author seemed to acknowledge that his advice was a little on the questionable side. He wrote on, “Don’t scream when you find me recommending tea and coffee for babies. Yes, I know they contain caffeine, and that caffeine is a drug.” So how did he brush this detail under the rug? With the argument that coffee was at least better than soda because it contained less sugar. Our advice? Option #3: Resisting the urge to fill your baby’s bottle with either espresso or Dr. Pepper.
The law of attraction gone terribly wrong
Back in the 1920s, the eugenics movement was still alive and well in the United States. In case you’re unfamiliar, “eugenics” is an extreme set of thoughts and beliefs aimed at promoting the reproduction of certain “superior” human population groups while excluding those deemed “less desirable.” Fortunately, eugenics is now widely acknowledged as a terrifying proposition it is, but it none the less had a brief surge of popularity in the 20s.
During its heyday, B. G. Jefferis and J. L. Nichols produced a book called The Science of Eugenics in which pregnant mothers were urged to avoid even thinking of ugly people while they were pregnant. The idea was that thinking such thoughts might accidentally produce an ugly baby. “Pregnant mothers should avoid thinking of ugly people, or those marked by any deformity or disease; avoid injury, fright, and disease of any kind,” the pair wrote. Instead, mothers were encouraged to “cultivate an interest in admiring beautiful pictures and engravings” in the belief that this would result in a beautiful child. No pressure or anything, mom.
The dangling baby idea
During the 1920s and 30s, mothers did not play when it came to making sure their babies got plenty of fresh air. Though there’s nothing wrong with treating your baby to a trip outdoors, in the early 20th century mothers went as far as leaving their babies outside from morning till night. Back then, it was even common for babies to be left outdoors alone while their mothers were inside being blissfully unaware of the skincare nightmare that was taking place inside their baby’s carrier.
This was considered all well and good if you lived in the country, but what if you were a city dweller? That was were the “baby cage” came in. Apartment dwellers could buy portable baby porches that were roughly the size of a large window air-conditioner and were in installed in much the same way. The baby was then perched outside on the contraption’s ledge. The hovering ledges were surrounded by large chain-linked cages, engineered to prevent the children from plummetting to their deaths from 20 feet in the air.
World’s worst pre-natal plan
In 1956, a lady named Patricia Carter published a book called Come Gently, Sweet Lucina. Throughout the book, Carter argued that although she fully induced natural labor, she believed that it should be pain-free and shouldn’t really require all that much work. Sounds lovely, right? Unfortunately, the book goes rapidly downhill once Carter begins to describe exactly how one might go about approaching such a plan.
Carter theorized that having a smaller baby must make for an easier birth. In order to accomplish this, she herself had managed to gain only five pounds throughout her entire pregnancy. How’d she do it? With a strict diet of laxatives, cigarettes, and plenty of whiskey highballs. Where to even begin…
The mom-shaming movement
While today we know that its no one’s fault if a baby comes down with a case of colic, this hasn’t always been the case. During the early part of the 20th century, it was believed that a colicky baby was the result of their mother breastfeeding while angry. Not only were heated emotions a no-no for new moms, but it was also equally important to avoid “worry, grief, or nagging,” lest your breastmilk dry up altogether.
Unfortunately, things didn’t end there. A baby born with an umbilical cord wrapped around its neck? Clearly, the mother had been too active and had engaged in such crimes as reaching for objects on a high shelf. A mother who wasn’t strict enough with her child? Obviously, she was raising the tyrant of tomorrow. If you think motherhood is hard today, just be glad that you weren’t around during the days when literally anything that befell your child was believed to be its mother’s fault.
Diapers are for wimps
During the 1930s, the U.S. government decided to share their brilliant tips on childrearing with the masses, via a pamphlet called Infant Care. It advised parents to start potty training their new ones pretty much immediately after birth. This would last until the child was around 6-8 months old, at which time they should theoretically be ready to graduate from potty training university.
As you can see, some age-old parenting advice should be clearly be left in the past where it belongs.