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Our modern debates about the best way to raise kids are nothing new. In the West, books of childrearing advice were first printed a few hundred years ago.  

From the beginning, these books cleaved between nature vs. nurture, discipline vs. permissiveness, science vs. religion. 

That anxiety now leads parents to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on childrearing advice. This advice is often insightful and useful. (I learned about family meetings in a book of advice for parents, and it dramatically changed my family life for the better.) However, parenting advice can also be self-serving, even exploitative.

The English verb “to parent” was first used in the 1660s, around the same time that John Walmot famously wrote:

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”

It was the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. In the West, philosophers were writing about childhood in a new way. In 1693, John Locke published the hugely influential Some Thoughts Concerning Education.  

He emphasized the role of parents in raising “virtuous” children, which for him meant children with strong self-restraint. Locke was against rewards such as candy or toys. Unusual for his time, he also wrote against corporal punishment.

While Locke advocated a Puritan ideal of babies as blank slates, Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that humans are born innately good and that civilization and socialization “degenerate” children. His book Emile, or On Education published in 1762 was influential enough to inspire a new form of national education in France.

These books (and their publishing success) influenced later works on childrearing. The split between Rousseau and Locke is an early version of the parenting debates that rage today: permissive vs. authoritarian, helicopter vs. free-range.

Advice literature for parents soon became widespread. Physicians typically published these books. For example, both William Cadogan’s 1749 Essay on Nursing and William Buchan’s 1804 Advice to Mothers went through many American editions. 

Just as the medicine practiced by these physicians was terrible, so was their advice.  For example, in Advice to Mothers, Buchan famously wrote that “in all cases of dwarfishness or deformity, ninety-nine out of a hundred are owing to the folly, misconduct or neglect of mothers.”

The Maternal Physician (1811) was pro-breastfeeding and cold baths;  Advice to a Wife  recommended that babies stop nursing by six months but at least was anti-cold baths.

Advice to a Wife also answered the apparently common question “To prevent a new-born babe from catching cold, is it necessary to wash his head with brandy?” with the wise advice “brandy is more likely to give than to prevent a cold.”

Soon ministers and preachers jumped in with their Bible-based books and pamphlets about raising children. These advocated for the strict moral development of children through respect for authority and regulation of behavior.

Each era had leading themes. Throughout, childhood was increasingly viewed as precious, pure and sacred.

By the early 20th century, “scientific” advice from psychologists and scientists became dominant.

In many cases, scientific didn’t mean sound.  In Dr. L. Emmett Holt’s bestselling 1894 book The Care and Feeding of Children, he told mothers to strictly schedule their children’s bowl movements (two a day), not to kiss them, and to ignore their crying.

This book influenced John B. Watson’s 1928 Psychological Care of Infant and Child;  Watson told mothers to “never hug and kiss” their children or “let them sit in your lap.” For more insanities from early parenting books, read Don’t Think of Ugly People.

While pamphlets and books from psychologists and scientists were popular, the most influential source of scientific parenting came from the U.S. Children’s Bureau. The pamphlet Infant Care reached tens of millions of parents after it was published in 1914. Clearly people were searching for advice; the Bureau received 125,000 letters a year from mothers searching for answers about how to raise their children.

The Modern Era

Societal change accelerated in the early 20th century. Extended family structures broke apart as people moved hundreds or even thousands of away for new prospects. Tight-knit communities came undone during the first World War. New traditions were introduced via waves of immigration and new media like the radio.

In 1918, the word “parenting” as a verb was first cited in the Oxford English Dictionary. It was first recorded in a satirical cartoon in the Washington Post.  

However, in written use, the word “parenting” didn’t overtake “childrearing” until 1975. It’s been on a sharp upward spike ever since.

In 1946, Dr. Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Childcare exploded the parenting advice landscape. It immediately sold nearly a million copies.

Propelled by the baby boom and a positive, balanced approach, The Common Sense Book was the second-best selling non-fiction book for over 52 years. Only the Bible outsold it. 

While millions embraced The Common Sense Book, it also experienced a backlash for being too permissive, especially from religious leaders like Norman Vincent Peale.

The book’s success inspired a flood of new parenting books from psychologists, physicians, and hundreds of self-described experts.

This new parenting advice industry gathered new momentum during the baby boomlet of the late 1970’s. Notably, that’s also when the use of the word “over-parenting” spiked. 

In 1984, parenting advice moved to the womb with the influential bestseller What to Expect When You’re Expecting. There was also a backlash to that book, “for promoting paranoia and fear among pregnant women.”

An Invaluable Marketing Demographic

In the past, parents were stressed about the very survival of their children. As childhood mortality decreased, parental anxiety shifted to other concerns. Early parenting books focused heavily on hygiene and medical needs; modern books focus on behavior and academic achievement.

Parenting today may actually feel harder than ever. Parents are stressed from increasing demands on their time, a more competitive economy, reduced support and advice from family and community, and fear-driven media that exploits parent’s worst nightmares to get ratings and clicks.

Some parental anxiety is self-imposed. Many parents view childrearing as a job that can be perfected.  Inside and out, we’re bombarded by the idea that there’s always something we can do better.

But the most powerful parental anxiety comes from simple, genuine love and concern for our children’s wellbeing. 

All this anxiety has made parents into a dream segment for marketers. Families are one of the largest consumer segments in American society. There are more than 4 million babies born in the U.S. every year. Total U.S. spending on baby products alone was at least $23 billion in 2013. It will cost over $290,000 to raise a child born today to the age of 18.

Today, Amazon returns 35,814 results for parenting books. A Google search for “parenting advice blog” returns 104,000,000 results. 

Yet all this information doesn’t necessarily mean that parents are better informed; as sources of information have multiplied, it may mean that parenting biases (and fears) are simply more entrenched.

Believe in permissive parenting? Google returns 168,000 links to back you up. What about authoritarian parenting? Google returns 211,000 results to help you argue your point.

While debates about the best way to raise kids roars on, we can at least turn to history to see how many childrearing fads simply come and go. Hot housing, four-hour feeds, tiger mom, eagle mom, etc etc.

The truth is that even with the best information, parenting can be insanely difficult and complicated.

Perhaps Dr. Spock was right: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” 

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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The shape appeals to kids and the organic and gluten-free labels appeal to parents in the freezer aisle, but if you've got a bag of Perdue's Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets, don't cook them.

The company is recalling 49,632 bags of the frozen, fully cooked Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets because they might be contaminated with wood.

According to the USDA, Perdue received three complaints about wood In the nuggets, but no one has been hurt.

The nuggets were manufactured on October 25, 2018 with a "Best By" date of October 25, 2019. The UPC code is 72745-80656. (The USDA provides an example of the packaging here so you'll know where to look for the code).

In a statement on the Perdue website the company's Vice President for Quality Assurance, Jeff Shaw, explains that "After a thorough investigation, we strongly believe this to be an isolated incident, as only a minimal amount of these packages has the potential to contain pieces of wood."

If you have these nuggets in your freezer you can call Perdue 877-727-3447 to ask for a refund.

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