Everyone is an expert when you have a baby and that means advice flies at you constantly.
You practically need a shield when you set off with a newborn in their pram for a walk these days.
You won’t be hardly two steps out of the door when Rita from down the road starts bending your ear about how babies need to be left to cry.
So much of the advice is outdated that your best bet is to nod and smile along then immediately forget whatever batty theory you’ve just been ordered to follow.
But the outdated advice isn’t just from 50 years ago. The official guidance from organisations like the NHS is changing all the time and it’s hard to keep up – even though we are bombarded with all the latest information whenever we log on to the internet.
Here are some examples of the changing advice, old and new, offered to parents:
1. Plug socket covers
These are sold as essential for baby-proofing your home and so can be found in pretty much every child-related shop in the country.
But the Department of Health issued advice last year stating they can actually be a fire hazard. Apparently the risk of electrocution as a result of a child sticking their fire in the plug socket is extremely low. Even if it’s switched on.
A British safety standard going back to 1947 means that the top hole in the socket contains a “shutter” inside. Only by inserting a plug, with a top pin, can the shutter be opened, which in turn activates the live part of the socket.
For a child to get an electric shock, therefore, it needs to not only stick their finger deep into the top hole, but also one of the other holes.
This advice has changed since I had my first so I had already invested quite a few quid in plug socket covers.
2. Peanut butter
We’ve had it drummed into us for years to not give small babies peanut butter. It’s on the list of banned foods along with honey and mouldy cheese.
But parents of children with eczema are now being advised to give their babies peanut butter three times a week to help them build up a tolerance to it. I wrote a blog post on the subject a few weeks ago, you can read more about it here. Do consult your doctor before introducing peanut butter to an infant’s diet.
3. Babies should sleep on their backs not tummies
The Back to Sleep campaign is credited with causing a huge reduction in the number of sudden infant deaths. Cot death figures are at an all-time low today, which is obviously a fantastic result.
The previous advice had been to put children on their tummies to sleep. It is still not really known why this can be a factor in cot death.
It’s worth mentioning that as soon as my two children could roll over, they both slept on their front. I imagine they had grown out of the real danger phase by that point but it’s not realistic to go into their rooms and move them every time they roll. No one would be getting any sleep then.
4. Baby rice in the bottle
This was given as advice to help babies sleep through the night. Mums would start doing it at just a few weeks old.
We’re now told to wait to wean until six months to give babies’ digestive systems a chance to develop properly. Starting weaning early can increase the risk of allergies.
For my parents’ generation, formula feeding was the common practice. Today if I think about my mum friends, most have breastfed for at least a few months.
Attitudes towards breastfeeding hit a low in the 1950s when it was considered a lower class practice. Doctors would often advise formula milk was as good as breast milk.
Plus with infant formula companies handing out samples in maternity wards, nursing rates took a nose dive. With just 28 per cent of mums breastfeeding in the 1970s, efforts were launched to promote the healthy benefits of nursing babies.
Today the figures are up, with 81 per cent of British mums trying breastfeeding at some point. However we are still lagging behind many countries, with just 34 per cent of babies still breastfeeding at six months.
Pregnant women are offered advice and support on breastfeeding before they have even had the baby. There are breastfeeding charities and drop-in groups. Now the figures show the highest rates of breastfeeding in the UK tend to be in more affluent areas.
It’s quite the turnaround for something that was considered a lower class practice.
6. Room sharing
I never spent one night in my parents room when I was a baby. However the safer sleep advice today is that babies should be in your room until six months.
I must confess to ignoring this advice, and kicking both of mind out of our room by the time they were 10 weeks old.
7. A nip of whiskey to treat teething babies
Parents used to be encouraged to rub whiskey on the gums of teething babies. Unsurprisingly, it had the added bonus impact of making the intoxicated babies sleep for longer.
Giving whiskey in the bottle today is not only discouraged, it’s a crime.
8. Bin the rusks
Rusks were a popular first finger food if you go back 20 or 30 years.
Now they’re an NHS no-no because they are horrendously high in sugar. No wonder kids loved them so much!
9. Guinness during pregnancy
The theory was it was full of iron which was good for women as they approached their due date.
Now we’re told to eat lots of green vegetables and red meat to get our iron fix. Phew, I hate Guinness.
10. When baby has a fever, cool their skin by rubbing in alcohol
What is it with the older generations and alcoholic remedies! And they say we’re the booze Britain generation. We’re not raiding the drinks cabinet every time our baby cries, not for them anyway!
The theory with this one was it cools babies down. The trouble is it cools the body too quickly and causes baby to shiver, which actually raises their temperature more.
Aspirin would also be given to treat a fever years ago, but this can cause the potentially fatal Reye’s syndrome, where the brain swells dangerously. Now doctors say no children under 18 should take aspirin for pain or fever relief.
The conclusion from this exploration of outdated advice? Don’t leave your baby with grandma and lock away the liquor when they visit.
Have you been told any outdated advice about bringing up kids? I would love to hear from you.