The Weirdest Parenting Advice: 8 Crazy & Outdated Tips from the 20th Century

The “perfect parents” don’t exist just as perfect people don’t exist. And that’s okay. Parenthood is beautiful in raising kids in such a chaotic world and society, and the only thing that can perfect the art of parenting is passing down parenting tips to new parents who are raising kids for the first time. But this also means shedding old and outdated parenting advice that’s no longer relevant.

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Parents React To 1930s Parenting Advice

And look, I’m not a new mom or anything, but it doesn’t take a genius to know how parenting has evolved over the past century. In witnessing modern parenting is taking place, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint what some of the weirdest parenting tips were from back in the day. So let’s explore some of the more, dare I say, outrageous ones.

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  1. Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, apparently, it was completely normal to give your baby opium to treat asthma and restlessness. While opium use was hitting its peak with people turning into addicts after using it medicinally, parents would pour Stickney Poor’s Pure Paregoric syrup down their babies’ throats, which contained 46% alcohol and one and three-sixteenth “grains of opium per ounce,” according to Gizmodo. Another company even made cherry-flavored cough drops that were full of opium.
  2. By the 1910s, parenting started to become even more strange. A book written by a husband and wife doctor couple, the Sadlers, curated a parenting guide for new parents called The Mother and Her Child. They recommended such odd things that must be done once a baby is born, such as making sure the baby’s very first bath is in oils and lard. Yes, I said lard. Although the reasons why are still very vague, they must’ve thought it was beneficial enough to put it down in writing.
  3. Along with bathing your baby for the first time in fats, the so-called parenting experts during the 1910s also recommended putting your baby in an oversized shoe, before you start cuddling the little one. Why? Simply because they believed that handling your baby as little as possible was the right thing to do.
  4. Of course, parenting advice was still pretty wacky as the decades moved on, but the guides became way more intense by the 1960s. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Walter Sackett, an American pediatrician, wrote the parenting book Bringing Up Babies. He warned new parents that they should be as unloving towards their child as much as possible in order to avoid raising a socialist. He specifically said, “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.”Right… because babies should totally learn how to walk, feed, and clean themselves on their own. (Sarcasm, obviously!)
  5. At the beginning of the 1960s, new mothers were advised to drink alcohol to help with breastfeeding, something that is highly advised against from early pregnancy throughout early motherhood. The 1957 issue of Mother & Baby, one of Britain’s top parenting magazines said, “Some members of the medical profession maintain they always advocate a daily glass of beer as a recuperative for nursing mothers. Our own experience has been limited to the theory that a glass of stout is a wonderful pick-me-up and helpful in maintaining the natural milk.”
  6. And just like alcohol, smoking cigarettes is also extremely advised against throughout early pregnancy and motherhood, and in general throughout the course of life. But according to Smoking and Pregnancy: The Politics of Fetal Protection by Laury Oaks, a 1966 edition of a top-tier obstetrics textbook encouraged pregnant women to smoke half a pack of cigarettes a day.
  7. By the late 1960s, parenting hacks rounded a dark corner, when lobotomies were recommended to help kids and their behavior. Walter Freeman performed thousands of these medical procedure, including many children, and although the thought of one is extremely haunting today, they were way more normal back then.
  8. By the 1970s, parenting advice started to seem a little more normal and similar to today’s recommendations on good parenting. However, as told again by Mother & Baby magazine in 1972 (I don’t want to judge, but there seems to be an interesting pattern here with where we get our parenting tips from), apparently parents were only supposed to bathe their babies twice a week. The recommendation was given on the notion that the baby would be happier if it was a sweaty one.

Parents React To Parenting Advice From The 1910s

It’s really interesting to see how the whole concept of weird parenting dies down as we near closer to today’s date. There were many more bizarre (and seemingly dangerous!) hacks that dealt with potty training, tantrums, and more, as mothers and fathers searched for the “right ways” to teach their kids how to live on their own. But it remains to say that new parents will always have a unique experience in raising their children, and maybe society decades later from today will find our ways of parenting also odd.

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 19, 2021. 

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