Modern Parenting Advice Is Just As Pseudosciency As 19th Century Advice
It’s easy to romanticize the past, to talk about a simpler time or how our parents did this and that and we turned out fine. But Friday’s piece by Therese Oneill in The Atlantic sheds some light on 19th and 20th century parenting, and how doctors in the good ole’ days were often just as misinformed as some of the whack-job “experts” lining our bookshelves in modern times.
In 1878, in The Physical Life of Woman, Dr. George H Napheys cites a published study by child care expert Dr. Henry Kennedy. The study presented evidence that, if you truly wanted your child to maintain health, the baby’s sleeping position most always be with the head pointing due north.
Say what? Then Oneill goes on to quote advice like “Pregnant mothers should avoid thinking of ugly people, or those marked by any deformity or disease” and “handle the baby as little as possible.” However, the part that made my jaw drop to the floor was this, from The Mother and Her Child by Drs. Lena and William Sadler:
We run into many snags when we undertake to discipline the nervous baby. The first is that it will sometimes cry so hard that it will get black in the face and may even have a convulsion; occasionally a small blood vessel may be ruptured on some part of the body, usually the face. When you see the little one approaching this point, turn it over and administer a sound spanking and it will instantly catch its breath.
Oneill’s article is titled “How Parenting Advice Has Changed,” but I’m not so sure it has. I mean, obviously doctors aren’t telling parents to slap the shit out of newborn babies anymore. But there’s still plenty of pseudosciency stuff prevalent in our time, so now for your pleasure, here are some doozies I know to be taken as modern parenting advice:
1.) Don’t take your baby out in public until she is at LEAST one month old or she will catch a cold that will probably turn into something worse that will damage her brain that will make her develop slow and she’ll never get into a good college and she’ll die sad and alone somewhere in Nevada.
2.) Drink castor oil/do squats/eat jalapenos/have orgasms to induce labor.
3.) If you eat lots of sweet potatoes you WILL have twins.
4.) BPA will turn your boy into a girl.
5.) Having Chaz Bono on Dancing With the Stars will turn your baby girl into a boy.
An on and on.