6 Ways Parenting Advice Has Changed Over the Years

parentingYou should let your baby co-sleep. You should never let your baby sleep with you. You should start feeding solids. You should wait to feed solids. You should give your children some freedom. You should keep a tight leash on them.

Parenting is tough enough as it is without having to field advice from every direction. Your best friend who had a baby 10 years ago, your mom who had children 25 years ago, your grandma, your mother-in-law, the stranger on the train — everyone knows just how you should parent, but everyone has something different to say. Why does everyone have such different parenting advice about the right way to care for a baby? Probably because parenting ideas have changed so much over the years. Your friends and family, and yes, even strangers on the train, usually mean well; it’s just that they’re doling out advice they received which is often outdated. As we learn more, experts update and revise recommendations. That’s why it’s probably not a great idea to listen to grandma (even though we love her and her heart is in the right place!). Your pediatrician is generally your best source for up-to-date, accurate, reliable information.

I was talking to a friend about how things have changed over the years in regards to parenting. We were specifically discussing bullying and how many different platforms exist in which kids can bully one another. When I had my first child (20 years ago), not everyone had a computer or a mobile phone. Smart phones weren’t around. Social media sites hadn’t been invented. Heck, it wasn’t until the mid to late 90s that my friends and I popped those AOL discs in our computers and dialed up to connect to the Internet. We didn’t have to worry about protecting our kids from the dangers of Snapchat or Facebook back then.  Ahhhh, things were simpler then! I know I sound like grandma talking about “the good ole days,” but parenting really has changed immensely over the past couple decades. Here are some of the biggest differences I’ve seen:


The Safe to Sleep campaign was originally called the Back to Sleep campaign and it started back in 1994. My first child was born in 1994. At that time, my pediatrician was just starting to dole out the advice of laying baby down on his side with rolled-up receiving blankets tucked on either side to keep him in that position. An older pediatrician, he was hesitant to tell parents to lay their babies on their backs since he’d been instructing parents for years and years to lay them on their tummies to prevent them from aspirating any spit-up that should happen. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sleeping in the same room, but not on the same surface, there are still major proponents who tout the benefits of co-sleeping.

Car Seats

When my son was born, the car seats on the market had a giant arm rest type thing that pulled down over the child’s head and buckled in. Children sat rear-facing until they were 20 pounds, at which time we turned them around. Now, it is recommended that children stay rear-facing until they are old enough to drive. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but with the backing of new data showing how much safer it is, parents are encouraged to keep their children rear-facing until they are two years old, or they outgrow their convertible car seat, which is usually at 40 pounds. That is a big change in only 20 years although not quite as big as the change from when I was a kid and most people didn’t use car seats at all. In fact, seat belts were optional and some cars didn’t even have them at all!


When I brought my son home from the hospital, I was told to start feeding him rice cereal at two months. Now, most pediatricians advise waiting until baby is at least 4-6 months old before starting solids; some recommend waiting even later as a precaution to possibly avoid the development of food allergies. I know my mom always shook her head at my waiting so long to feed my son solid food because she was instructed to start feeding me solids at only a couple weeks of age.


In the United States circumcision is still a topic of debate. Although many families elect to circumcise for religious or cultural reasons, others are left with the decision: to circumcise or not to circumcise. The American Academy of Pediatrics said there was no medical indication for routine newborn circumcision in the 1970s. In 1989, they revised their position, saying there were potential medical benefits. Then in 1999, the AAP said there was insufficient evidence to recommend routine circumcision. And finally, the first federal guidelines on circumcision were announced December, 2014 wherein U.S. health officials say that medical evidence supports having the procedure done and health insurers should pay for it. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. This parenting thing is confusing!


Since the advent of the first smallpox vaccine, innumerable lives have been saved by a simple injection. There was never any question about having our children vaccinated. The doctor told us what vaccine our children needed at each age and we held their little hands as the immunizations were administered. Then sometime in 1998, a fraudulent paper suggested evidence that the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine was linked to the onset of autism spectrum disorders. The paper was found to contain no scientific evidence and was later retracted, but the damage had been done. Today, as many as 25% of parents believe immunizations can cause autism so increasing numbers of parents are opting out of immunizing their children. Because of this, diseases we haven’t seen in ages are making a reappearance. In 2010, a whooping cough outbreak in California was the worst in 50 years. In 2012, there was a measles outbreak in Texas.


Back in the day, parents got their advice from friends, family, and their pediatricians. Nowadays, today’s informed parent can get advice from any number of sources, not all of which are accurate. Everyone with an opinion can find an audience online. Anyone needing advice can obtain it from hundreds of different websites. With that said, here’s my advice to you: look for websites from health organizations that don’t stand to make a profit in their advice. Sites like the American Academy of Pediatrics are a great way to start your research. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. Filter your information through the lens of common sense. Sure, you can get some amazingly wonderful advice from seasoned moms; advice your pediatrician may not tell you, but consider the source and make wise decisions about following that advice. If you’re reading information on a website or in a book that goes against your parenting instincts, click the little red X in the corner of the site, or throw that book away!

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