Mother and Baby

"Never hug your child!" and other terrible parenting advice from the past 100 years

Section: Relatable

Today, we are lucky that we have access to a plethora of parenting expertise, from well-researched books to midwife know-how, to curling up on the sofa with the latest copy of Mother&Baby magazine. 

Great advice hasn't always been so forthcoming. From cuddles capped at 10 minutes to a glass of beer whilst breastfeeding, it's fair to say that parenting advice has come leaps and bounds since the 1900s. 

Here's the most terribly-bonkers parenting advice from the last 100 years, that is - just frankly - terrible! 


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1) "Angry mums cause colic" -1916

According to Lena and William Sadler's The Mother and her Child, published in 1916, it was thought that feelings of distress from mums could cause their little ones to have colic. 

They also said that breastfeeding mums could run dry by engaging in "worry, grief, or nagging".
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2) "Bathe your baby in lard" -1910

Babies were given special baths made from lard, in the early 1900's, giving a whole new meaning to baby soft...  
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3) "Leave them outside in the garden" -1916

Sir Frederick Truby King advised mums to feed their children every four hours - never at night - and to leave them outside in the garden to toughen them up. He also said that cuddles should be capped at 10 minutes. Blimey. 
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4) "Babies need to be outside from dawn till dusk" -1920 

Fresh air was all the rage in the 1920s, however mums were told to take it a little too far and even sunbathing was encouraged for little ones(!!) Feeding, sleeping and nappy-changing were all encouraged to be outside in the fresh air. 
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5) "Ugly thoughts equal ugly children" - 1920 

Over 100 years ago, mums-to-be were told they must refrain from thinking of ugly things if they wanted beautiful offspring. 

"Pregnant mothers should avoid thinking of ugly people, or those marked by any deformity or disease; avoid injury, fright and disease of any kind." recommended the book Searchlights on Health: The Science of Eugenics, published in the 1920s.
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6) "You mustn't hug your baby" -1920

American psychologist John B. Watson advised against giving your children signs of affection in his controversial book from the 1920s. Psychological Care of Infant and Child. 

He wrote, "Never hug and kiss [children], never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning… Try it out. In a week's time you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective with your child and at the same time kind. You will be utterly ashamed of the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling it."
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7) "Pregnant woman should be careful listening to the radio" -1947

Women were advised by the Canadian government to not listen to the radio at loud volumes, as there were concerns they would get too excited... 
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8) "A glass of stout is great for breastfeeding" -1956

Drinking alcohol whilst breastfeeding is to be avoided, but that wasn't always the case. According to a Mother&Baby magazine in the 1950s, believed a glass of stout helped maintain natural milk! 
The article read, ‘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.’
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9) "Give babies coffee at six months" -1962

According to pediatrician Walter W. Sackett Jr, babies should wean a lot sooner than today's advised six months old. In fact, he stated that at just 10 days old they could have strained vegetables and by nine weeks old your little one would be eating  "bacon and eggs, just like Dad!"
He also recommended giving babies black coffee starting at six months to get them used to "the normal eating habits of the family".
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10) "Smoking during pregnancy is perfectly safe" -1966

We all know of the dangers of lighting up when expecting, however, that wasn't always the case. In the 1966 edition of a leading obstetrics textbook, it stated that "pregnant women could safely smoke half a pack of cigarettes a day". 

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  • Author: Aimee Jakes Aimee Jakes
  • Job Title: Shopping and Community Editor

Aimee is the Shopping and Community Editor at Bauer Media where she works on fitness, fashion and beauty content across a number of titles such as heat, Closer and Grazia.

Her hobbies include truffle mac and cheese, Class Pass and relentlessly checking (and scolding!) the weather app.

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