I was quite surprised on Tuesday to read how mothers should not use wet wipes on a baby’s skin, as the chemicals embedded in a wipe can cause some over-sensitive babies to develop allergies such as eczema.  I only remember using good old-fashioned soap, water, and cotton wool or a soft flannel when my own two sons were babies, but when I was pregnant back in 1982, people who had been there and done it already were full of advice about what I should or shouldn’t do regarding baby and child care.  I listened to them all and to my health visitor who of course had much to say on the topic, but interestingly enough she’d had no children of her own.

I’ll give some explanations below as to the advice I followed 35 years’ ago,  and how it had changed by the time my first grandchild was born in 2005.

1.  Always lay a baby on its front or its side to go to sleep, never on its back.

I followed this advice religiously, afraid that my two sons might vomit and choke to death if they were laid flat on their backs.  Now the advice is always to lay a baby on its back and never on its front!

2.  If your baby has colic, see your GP who will prescribe Merbentyl Syrup.

This was the advice I was given back in 1982 when Leon, furious with his milk-only diet and with tiny hands balled into fists and little legs drawn up in pain, screamed night and day.  Merbentyl Syrup certainly eased the poor sod’s pain.  However, when I mentioned it to my daughters-in-law, they had never heard of it.  I found out that it was now not recommended and had been discontinued.

3.  Start weaning babies onto solid food at 4 months.

My sons were ready for rusks and pureed fruit at 4 months and gobbled everything down gratefully.  Now mothers are told not to wean until 6 months.  Still, this has to be better than when my grandmother had given birth to her first baby back in 1926.  She’d been given no advice at all, and had to take her newborn to Bethnal Green hospital after trying to feed him a large saveloy and a plate of pease pudding!

4.  Give only boiled water after 6 months if they wake in the night.

My health visitor told me this when I mentioned that we were getting no sleep.  She told me that Leon was becoming ‘crafty’ and knew that if he screamed I would come running.  Apparently if you only gave babies water during the night they would soon realise they were not going to get fed and go back to sleep.  It was at this point I asked her if she’d had any babies of her own (the answer was negative).  After 6 months you are desperate for sleep, and you know that water isn’t going to soothe a hungry baby screaming for food at 3 am!

My daughters-in-law were told to feed on demand day and night.  Neither of them got any sleep until their babies were at least 3 years old.

5.  Give boiled water in-between feeds.

Of course!  It makes sense, especially on a hot day, as babies are humans too and are made up of about 60% water.  I always carried bottles of cooled boiled water around with me for my babies.  However, my daughters-in-law were told not to give water in-between feeds, as it would dilute their milk (they breast-fed).  I never breast-fed, but still can’t get my head around the advice not to give a baby anything to drink in-between feeds.

6.  Toilet train at 2 years old.

This works very well actually (you won’t get much of a result before the age of 2).  You pick a few weeks in the summer and let the infant run around in the garden with nothing on its lower half, while you watch them like a hawk with a poe in your hand, ready to sit them down on it at the crucial moment.  They soon get the hang of it.  However, my daughters-in-law used ‘trainer pants’ and the ordeal went on for months.  The kids thought they had nappies on and couldn’t feel the unpleasant sensation of urine running down their legs (girls) or seeing themselves pee (boys).  One granddaughter was over 3 years old before she was toilet trained!

Strange, isn’t it, how advice changes over the years!  If you’ve had babies, what advice were you given as a new parent?