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8 Vintage Parenting Trends That Boggle the Mind

Every generation has their weird parenting trends. There’s something about a bad idea that has a way of captivating people. Every few years, someone with the word “doctor” in front of their name tells us to ignore all common sense, and parents, collectively, decide: What the hell, we’ll give it a shot.

It’s not just us – our parents did it too. And some of their ideas were downright insane.

1 | Open-air baby cages

In the 1930s, if you wanted to know if a mother really cared about her baby, all you had to do was look at where her baby slept. Any mother worth her salt, the experts said, would lock her baby in a metal cage that was hanging out the window.

Baby cages were created as a way to get city kids outdoors. Parenting experts, at the time, said that babies needed to be “aired out” with the odd trip outside. For moms in apartments, though, the easy way to get your babies out was to hang them precariously out of the windowsill.

These things sold decently well – even Eleanor Roosevelt owned one and let her own daughter rest on a metal mesh hanging out the window. Sales started to drop, though, as a new parenting fad started to catch on: caring whether your child lives or dies.



2 | Smearing babies in lard

The second a newborn baby was born, in the 20th century, nurses would take it over the bath and give it the first and most important scrub-down of its life – by smearing it with lard.

“Take a piece of lard about the size of a walnut,” obstetrician guides of the era recommended, and “rub the grease thoroughly” across the baby’s head, with “especial attention to the ears”. Nurses were to make sure they got lard all over the newborn’s body before gently wiping it off with a wet sponge.

3 | Never touching your baby

If you’ve ever hugged your children, according to a parenting guide written in the 1920s, you’ve pretty much ruined them already.

Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap,” the writers, Watson and Morgan, told parents. Anyone who spoiled their kids by occasionally touching them, they said, ought to “utterly ashamed” of the “mawkish, sentimental way” they treat their child.

If a parent was weak and sentimental, Watson and Morgan allowed a little kiss at night. “If you must, kiss them on the forehead when they say goodnight.” Then, when you see your children in the morning, give them a firm, business-like handshake. After all, you wouldn’t ruin your children by letting them feel loved.

4 | Introducing solids at two-days-old

In the 1950s, parenting expert Walter W. Sackett told the world that this whole breastfeeding thing was ruing kids. “Milk, including human milk,” he declared, “is truly deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.” If you want to get your kids on the right track, you needed to feed them cereal – starting at two-days-old.

Sackett insisted this was “very natural”. He had heard of an African tribe, he said, where the mothers would chew up food and then dole it into their children’s mouths, like a mother bird feeding its baby. No mother would ever have trouble getting their child to eat cereal, he argued, when it’s “the consistency of putty”.

5 | Giving kids coffee

A few years later, Dr. Sackett upgraded his recommendations. Getting your kids on cereal when they’re two days old, he declared, was a fine start – but hardly far enough.

By 9 weeks, he declared, every baby should be starting the day with a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs. And since no breakfast is complete without a cup of joe, a good parent might as well slip a hot cup of coffee in there, too.

The six-month-old child often enjoys, and is not harmed by, a cup of coffee,” Dr. Sackett assured the world. Caffeine, he insisted, was harmless, and a child on a steady diet of coffee would “grow accustomed to the normal eating habits of the family.”

6 | Making Your Child’s Head Point North

“In order to ensure the soundest sleep,” parents in the 1880s were assured, “the head should lie to the north.

The idea came from Dr. Henry Kennedy, who assured parents across the world that pointing a baby’s head at the North Pole would fix most of their problems. Electrical currents, he argued, course around the world and move through our babies’ nervous systems. Getting their heads pointed the right way let all the electricity pass through smoothly and ensured a good night’s sleep.

It’s one of those things that almost sounds scientific – until you read on to the part where the writer goes completely crazy. Because it didn’t take long before Dr. Kennedy was insisting he could pacify “acute diseases” by placing a child like the arrow on a compass.

7 | Stripping Furniture To Treat Depression

If you’re struggling with postpartum depression, forget tackling the roots of your problems or trying to find meaning in life. A 1958 issue of Mother and Baby has the real solution: stripping all the furniture in your house.

“Many people find,” the magazine claimed, that getting on their knees and stripping, sanding and staining wooden furniture “solves their emotional problems and save them hours on the analyst’s couch.”

It all sort of reads like a lazy husband’s convoluted plot to get his wife to strip the furniture so he doesn’t have to. In practice, it probably created more problems than it fixed by filling the house with noxious gasses.

But who knows, maybe it worked. Maybe those fumes killed enough brain cells to make mom forget about all her worries.

8 | Keeping Mothers Away From Babies

At the start of the 19th century, several men offered a new solution to get mothering right once and for all: keep mothers out of it.

Parenting, some men argued, was too important to be entrusted to women. “This business has been too long fatally left to the management of women,” one man wrote, “’who cannot be supposed to have the proper knowledge to fit them for such a task.”

He wasn’t the only person pushing the keep-women-away-from-babies campaign. Another man declared that 1825 would be the year that ended the “time of ignorance” when women were put in charge of babies.

The movement, of course, never completely took off – presumably ending as soon as the men were left alone with a crying baby for more than five minutes.

Strange parenting fads, though, would never die. Every year, another new expert would come out with a new way everyone had to raise their child from now on and parents would follow suit. And we can count on it – a few years from now, some of the things we do with our kids today will show up on a list just like this one.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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