Bad Baby Advice Through the Ages

Libby Copeland recently wrote a round-up of historical parenting books for I found it fascinating!

As she mentions, some of the stuff just seems weird, like slathering babies in lard. Some of the other suggestions through the years we now know to be really harmful for babies. I was particularly struck by the passages about nursing and weaning.

It’s nothing new for books or social media to suggest that we wean our babies early (Copeland cites a book that insists upon 9 months as the time to wean), but I was interested in the book that suggested mothers’ stress was making their milk “angry” and leading to colic in babies. At least for me, stress was totally affecting my milk, just not in the ways the article suggested.

One of the books was available online, and it contains some relevant pearls of wisdom. I had a great time reading about Sadler’s suggestions for nutrition and exercise for nursing mothers. It seems pregnant and nursing mothers have, for centuries, suffered my same woes with bowel regularity. From reading this book, it also seems nursing mothers (in the US) have long struggled with keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep. Those are certainly my biggest two health obstacles right now.

Sadler even writes, “The mother’s milk increases in strength day by day and month by month as the baby grows, and is the only perfect infant food on earth.” But…he also goes on to suggest that colic is due to unclean nipples…and that menstruating weakens the milk.

I was fascinated when some of the books Copeland reviews discuss wet-nurses and weaning (citing Shakespeare quotes as evidence to the necessity of weaning babies!). I’m always interested in the concept of a wet-nurse now that I’ve nursed babies. [Aside: I totally wonder what it would feel like to nurse someone else’s baby.] I was a bit horrified reading about babies getting solids at just a few days old, even black coffee by 6 months old. I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing my six-month-old does not need, that thing is caffeine.

I thought Copeland did a great job summarizing her finds and I really enjoyed this collection of “wisdom.”

Did you read any of the books Copeland links to? What did you find most interesting about baby advice through the years? Leave us a comment to let us know!

1 comment to Bad Baby Advice Through the Ages

  • Our 22 month old likes coffee (not that we give it to him but he likes to sneak in sips and go, “Ahhhhh” so I am guessing it is more about wanting to do what we do) and my husband frequently says, “No coffee for you. Ever.” It is interesting on how theories change and develop but how, based on best evidence available at the time, parenting books, at their foundation, are all about what it best for babies and parents.

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