"Crying is a baby’s exercise”: The weirdest expert advice from the last century 1 year ago

"Crying is a baby’s exercise”: The weirdest expert advice from the last century

It's gotta be a no from us...

The most common weird baby advice still doing the rounds today usually involves supplementing your tot's diet with shots of hard whiskey or rubbing it on their gums to soothe teething pain.

Luckily (because science) we've moved on from taking the first piece of parenting advice proffered by the nearest granny. But in progressing to a better, safer future, we've left behind some of the advice of yesteryear, which still has some comedic value – if absolutely no grounding in medicine or science whatsoever.

Here, for your reading pleasure, we've collected the top pieces of wrong and hilariously inappropriate pregnancy and parenting advice published over the last century or so. Once you get over the shock of them, they're actually fairly funny. In a "haha thank god these trends are over with and please let them never return because ME NERVES" kinda way.


Always place your baby in the cot with its head pointing north, says Dr George Naphys in The Physical Life of Woman (1878). Why? Eh... "There are known to be great electrical currents always coursing in one direction around the globe. There is no doubt that our nervous systems are in some mysterious way connected with this universal agent, as it may be called, electricity."


Dr L Emmett Holt warned parents to avoid playing with their offspring until they were at least six months old. In his 1894 manual he says such interactions could cause nervousness or agitation, also advising parents that crying is “the baby’s exercise”.



A baby should cry vigorously several times each day," say Drs. Lena and William Sadler in their book The Mother and Her Child (1916). "Handle the baby as little as possible. Turn it occasionally from side to side, feed it, change it, keep it warm, and let it alone; crying is absolutely essential to the development of good strong lungs." Yikes.

weird parenting advice

During this time it was also believed that left-handedness in children represented a "defiant personality" and should therefore be trained away, which often led to use of painful braces. Suspicion of left-handedness carried on until recently in schools around Ireland (as you may have heard from parents or grandparents who were slapped with a ruler) due to an old Catholic teaching that left-handed people were servants of the devil.


"Pregnant mothers should avoid thinking of ugly people, or those marked by any deformity or disease; avoid injury, fright and disease of any kind." So say B. G. Jefferis and J. L. Nichols in Searchlights on Health: The Science of Eugenics.


Toilet training usually begins at around age two, but in the 30s the US government were determined to get their country's babies trained up at just four weeks. How, exactly? Well, a 1932 manual advises parents to hold their baby “over the chamber, using a soap stick, if necessary, to start the movement.”


A more frightening trend of this era was the use of baby cages, hung out the side of tall buildings to ensure the city children living in them got their daily dose of fresh air. In a cage. Feet above the ground.


Mums weren't immune from a bit of a talking to from the good doctors of the time either. In Motherhood and the Coming Baby, there is a chapter dedicated to The Mother’s Clothing that advises women to choose clothing 'for comfort, warmth, looseness and ease of movement'. It adds, "Surely you can not hope to be comfortable and dress in the height of fashion at the same time!" No, of course not! Us silly women, always asking for far too much...


Parenting experts in the 50s were of the opinion that baby-proofing was lazy. Their take instead? A child should learn what they can and can't touch from their mam roaring at them to put stuff down. Yeah... because that always works.

A 1958 issue of Mother & Baby also suggested mothers who feel sad after giving birth should... no, not visit a doctor or talk to somebody, but strip furniture. Not quite sure where they pulled that one from, but okay.



Swinging Sixties parents were told that, while brewing themselves a cup of Joe, it's quite okay to make one for baby too. Dr. Walter Sackett prescribed a black coffee every morning, starting at six months.

More shockingly though, a 1966 obstetrics textbook said pregnant women could smoke up to half a pack of cigarettes per day.

weird parenting advice


Computers and video games were growing in popularity during this decade – but not amongst expectant mothers. Both were added to the list of things pregnant women should keep their distance from.


Anyone remember that weird phase where expectant couples and parents of infants bought Mozart cassettes or CDs because one small study had them believing that listening to his music would make their little one a genius? Yeah. Unsurprisingly, this is also the decade that gave us 'helicopter parenting.'

Have you a heard any hilariously bad parenting advice lately? Share it with us on Twitter @HerFamilydotie.