Vintage Parenting Ads That’ll Make You Cringe

It’s no secret that the task of parenting is a difficult one and finding good parenting advice can be hard. If these vintage parenting ads were anything to go by, it was even harder back in the day.

Whether you are a first-timer or looking to have your third child, you might just find yourself searching for helpful parenting advice. Luckily, the internet makes it easier to search up real parenting advice with credibility. A simple Google search can connect you to experts and research studies.

However, these vintage parenting ads, which were more about selling products than saving children or making mom’s lives easier, didn’t give the best advice. Way before the digital age, parents had fewer tools to use in their parenting endeavors and a lot of it was confusing, based on wives’ tales and misinformation. These ads certainly didn’t help.

Keep reading to see some of the strange — and just plain wrong — parenting advice in these vintage parenting ads.

1. Smoking Is Good for the Baby!

Smoking during pregnancy is highly discouraged now, but there was smoking ads solely targeting pregnant women in the old days. It was said to be perfectly safe for the mother and the baby, can you believe it?

2. Beer Is Beneficial, Too!

If smoking cigarettes sounded bad, what about drinking alcohol? This malt beer company claimed to be nourishing for new mothers and their babies.

3. Stress = Poisonous Breast Milk

Postpartum depression is now well-covered in the media, and it’s no secret how stressed-out moms can get depressed while caring for their newborns. Sadly, that wasn’t always the case. Old advice warned mothers against being anxious or stressed because it would make their breast milk poisonous — which could just make moms even more anxious.

4. A Tight Corset Is Perfect for Pregnancy

For many parents, it’s never too early to look for parenting advice. This maternity corset is enough to have any modern parent wishing no one had looked in the first place.

5. Sugar Is Perfect for Babies

Adding sugar to a baby’s bottle was highly encouraged to get them to drink it all down — as much as several spoonfuls of sugar. Today, doctors talk about how much soda can negatively affect young children, but back then, giving soda to your infants was the norm.

6. Soda Is for Babies

Advice for kids’ consuming soda was widespread. The Soda Pop Board of America claimed that babies who drank soda early on had a higher chance of being socially accepted during their teen years.

7. Babies Don’t Need Affection

While modern research proves that human contact is one of the many things you can do to help your child develop successfully, vintage parenting ads didn’t. One 1928 parenting manual recommended limiting affection to one forehead kiss a day when you go to say goodnight.

8. Dads Being Good Dads? A Nightmare!

While it is now expected for dads to carry out just as much of the parenting duties as moms, it wasn’t the case back then. Men were masters at their job, and women were meant to run the house. End of story.

9. Nothing Is Better Than a Greased-up Baby

Have you ever received parenting advice and wondered where any of the credibility came from? This piece of vintage parenting advice had parents bathing newborns in lard, butter, or oil for a week after birth. Now, it’s advised to bathe newborns sparingly as to not dry out their skin, which sounds a lot more reasonable than greased-up babies.

10. Butter Is Healthy & Lubricates Arteries

If people weren’t encouraged to slather their newborns with butter, they were encouraged to eat it.

11. Candy Provided Much-needed Energy

Kids are probably hoping that this bit of parenting advice was still around. Daily candy for children was encouraged. It kept kids energized, after all.

12. Who Needs a Multi-vitamin When You Have Donuts?

When it comes to getting kids their vitamins, donuts are hardly the first thing to come to mind. Back in the day, Vitamin Donuts were promoted as a way to get kids an extra daily dosage of vitamin B.

13. Sugar Makes Kids Skinny

Knowing about the effects of excessive sugar consumption now, this vintage parenting ad claiming sugar as a form of body fuel and a factor in keeping kids so skinny is enough to make anyone cringe.

14. TV Is Healthy

This bit of parenting advice is still widely debated today. Earlier, screen time was promoted with only benefits. Now, it’s linked to a higher risk of obesity and aggressive behavior.

15. Baby Cages Were Real

We’ve heard about the benefits of crating for your dogs, but what about your baby? Yes, that’s right. Back in the day, a “baby cage” was advertised as a way to keep babies out of the way while parents did their housework. These cages could be suspended out of windows of apartments, giving any parent a fright.

16. Leave Kids to Bathe Themselves

With so many household duties relying on mothers, this soap ad told parents to have their young toddlers bathe themselves. Sadly, kids’ accidental drowning followed.

17. A Tan Baby Is a Healthy One

Fresh air used to be the common cure for many ailments, and babies were left outside as a result. Whether it was in the cold or under the blaring sun, infants were left outside in good faith that it was healthy for them. We now know that babies lose body heat much faster and have a harder time regulating their body temperature.

18. Only Weak Kids Get Sick

Survival of the fittest used to go hand-in-hand with parenting advice. If kids were affected by germs and got sick, it was just because they were too weak.

19. Leashes Were Seatbelts

Way before there were modern car seats for your young ones, things like this leash-turned-seatbelt for kids were what parents were told to buy to protect their kids.

20. Cocaine for Toothaches

Scary enough, cocaine-laced medicine was easy to come by for parents looking to solve some of their children’s ailments.

21. Morphine Was a Mother’s Friend

Not too far off from the cocaine drops, this morphine-laced syrup was advertised as a mother’s “friend.”

22. Dodgy “Cathartic” Pills

We aren’t quite sure what’s in these pills that make them “cathartic,” but if any of the past medicine ads are an indicator, they aren’t safe in terms of modern medicine.

23. Babies Should Be Seen, Not Heard

Who needs modern baby monitors with this vintage parenting ad? “Because babies should be seen and not heard.” In case you’re curious, Laudanum is a tincture of opium containing approximately 10% powdered opium by weight. Reddish-brown and extremely bitter, laudanum contains almost all of the opium alkaloids, including morphine and codeine. So, basically, you’re giving your child an opioid dose to quiet them down.

24. Talcum Powder Showers

The use of baby powder and the associated risk of cancer is widely debated, but back before it was regulated, talcum powder was used in “baby showers.” The heavy scents of lavender and floral notes were sure to irritate baby’s sensitive skin.

25. Thumb Sucking Stopped with a Metal Harness

Extreme measures were made to stop thumb sucking. While experts don’t approve of the modern thumb-sucking gloves or bitter-tasting gels, vintage parenting ads like this one went one step further by encouraging parents to wire up their babies.

26. Realistic Guns Made the Best Toys

Long before talks of gun control, realistic toy guns were a heavily advertised commodity for young boys.

27. A Gun for Everybody Makes a Happy Family

Yes, guns were a hot commodity for kids and topping kids’ Christmas wishlists. Parents were encouraged to buy one for their kids to make them cool at school.

28. What Could Be Better Than Lead?

Guns weren’t the only problematic toys that were a part of vintage parenting ads. This ad showcased lead paint, a fun activity for young ones then — not so much now.