March 8, 2024 | Grace Cameron

Facts About Odd Parenting Practices

Parenting techniques vary from culture to culture and there are fads that come and go. But does mother always know best? Below are 22 odd parenting techniques throughout history.

1. Fresh Air Babies

In the 1920s, experts encouraged parents to sunbathe their babies and to keep little ones out in the fresh air for as long as possible.

odd parenting practices

2. Baby cages 

Continuing the fresh air mandate, city dwellers in the 1930s hung baby cages outside apartment windows so their children could get the recommended amount of fresh air and sun...while they were perilously suspended high above busy streets.

Odd Parenting Practices facts Getty Images

3. Open Air Parking

In modern Denmark, parents dine and shop for hours while leaving their babies curbside in strollers to get fresh air.

Odd Parenting Practices factsPixabay

4. Spitting Image

Greek tradition has it that you should spit at a baby three times to ward off evil spirits, bad luck, and the evil eye.

Odd Parenting Practices factsShutterstock

5. Spitting Up

Wolof mothers in Mauritania spit in their newborn’s face, while fathers spit in the ears to give blessings that stick. For an extra dose of good luck, the parents rub saliva over the baby’s face.

Odd Parenting Practices factsWikimedia Commons, Mishimoto

6. Out of the Mouth of Babes

Before they even utter their first words, Igbo babies in Nigeria are given a blessing to ensure that they will be well-spoken: An articulate relative spits chewed up alligator pepper on a finger and then rubs it in the baby’s mouth.

Odd Parenting Practices factsPixabay

7. Thumbs Down

Parents went to great lengths in the 1940s to curb thumb-sucking. One product, made with nail polish peppered with capsicum and acetone (yep, that's a flammable liquid), was put on the baby's thumb to stop the habit.

Odd Parenting Practices factsFlickr, Nelson Kwok

8. Swaddled Up

In the Middle Ages babies were tightly wrapped in linen bands until eight or nine months to help them to grow straight.

Odd Parenting Practices factsPixabay

9. Lard Bath

Many babies in the early 1900s had their first bath with lard.

Odd Parenting Practices factsGetty Images

10. No Hugs

For many years in the early twentieth century, children were not to be hugged, kissed, or even touched too much. A 1928 parenting manual also cautioned against children sitting in their parents' laps.

Odd Parenting Practices factsGetty Images

11. Proof of Lazy Parents

Baby-proofing was seen as a sign of laziness in the 1950s. Experts believed that mothers could keep their children in check by simply yelling at them. Did these "experts" ever actually talk to a real mother?

Odd Parenting Practices factsShutterstock

12. Keep Calm and Carry On

People in Victorian England kept their kids calm with medicine laced with opium and other narcotics. That'll do it. 

Bizarre Medical Practices factsShutterstock

13. Cold Bath

Mayan babies in Central America are given an ice-cold bath to treat heat rash and to sleep well. The babies scream a lot, but the mothers expect this. Sounds about right.

Odd Parenting Practices factsPixabay

14. Whistle Training

In Vietnam, babies are often potty-trained using a whistle. It works; Vietnamese babies are potty-trained at as early as nine months.

Odd Parenting Practices factsShutterstock

15. Wasting No Time

The Vietnamese might be onto something: in 1932, a US government pamphlet advised parents to start toilet training babies immediately after birth.

Odd Parenting Practices factsWikimedia Commons

16. Look Mom, No Diaper

Following these potty-training trends, modern moms and dads are choosing to skip diapers altogether; they raise their children diaper free from birth. The movement is called Elimination Communication or EC for short.

Odd Parenting Practices factsPixabay

17. They Grow up so Fast

As recently as the mid-1900s, two- and three-year-olds were expected to wash, feed, and dress themselves. The question parents are asking is: when did this end?

Odd Parenting Practices factsPixabay

18. The Seven-Year Hitch

In medieval times, seven-year-olds in England could be engaged to marry. They could also be held criminally responsible and even selected to be a priest.

Odd Parenting Practices factsPxHere

19. Grounded

Until they are three months old, babies in Bali are not allowed to touch the ground; doing so is thought to defile their purity.

Odd Parenting Practices factsWikimedia Commons, CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

20. Smoke it Out

Three-day-old babies in the Eastern Cape of Africa are held upside down over a smoldering bush to rid them of fear and shyness.

Odd Parenting Practices factsShutterstock

21. No Eye Contact

Parents in the Kisii ethnic group of Kenya dare not lock eyes with their newborns for fear of giving too much power to the infants. Hey, adults still use this on first dates.

Odd Parenting Practices factsShutterstock

22. Best Dad in the World

The Aka tribe in central Africa is home to perhaps the best dads in the world. In this tribe, the men do the breastfeeding while the women go to work or hunt. Yes, men can breastfeed; they have all the equipment and only need the stimulation. Yes, we just found this out too.

Odd Parenting Practices factsShutterstock


Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


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