Vintage Do’s and Dont’s for Raising a Baby (1940s Parenting Advice)

Vintage parenting tips are making a comeback as modern parents look to the past for guidance on raising their children. With the rise of technology and the fast pace of modern life, many parents are turning to the tried-and-true methods of previous generations. By incorporating these timeless techniques into their parenting, modern parents are rediscovering the joys of raising happy, healthy, and resilient children. In this article, I have a vintage list, from the 1940s, of some timeless do’s and dont’s for raising a baby.

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Table Of Contents
  1. Vintage Do's and Dont's for Raising a Baby
  2. Resources

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Vintage Do’s and Dont’s for Raising a Baby

Through the 1940s, the methods that we used for raising babies were exactly what we call natural and simple methods for raising babies today.

In the 1950s, however, a shift occurred towards a more commercial and psychological approach to child-rearing.

Despite this shift, there has been a resurgence in recent years of parents embracing more natural and historical methods for raising their babies. Some of those methods are:

  • Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is a natural way to provide your baby with all the necessary nutrients and antibodies to fight infections. It also promotes bonding between you and your baby.
  • Cloth Diapering: Using cloth diapers can be a more natural and eco-friendly alternative to disposable diapers. They are also cost-effective in the long run.
  • Homemade Baby Food: Making your own baby food is a simple and natural way to ensure that your baby is getting fresh and healthy meals. It also allows you to control what ingredients go into your baby’s food.

Remember, there is no one right way to parent. But I can tell you that I have used these methods myself with several children, and there is not a single bad suggestion in this list!

Consult your doctor at regular intervals during your baby’s infancy whether he is sick or well.

As a vintage mom, I can’t stress enough how important it is to take your baby to regular doctor visits. During their first year, babies grow and develop so quickly that it’s crucial to keep track of their progress and make sure they’re hitting all their milestones. Plus, seeing your baby’s pediatrician regularly can help catch any health issues early on, giving your baby the best chance at a healthy life.

Doctor’s visits are a great time to ask questions and get advice on all kinds of things, from feeding and sleep to playtime activities. I know as a mom myself that being proactive about my baby’s health and development is key, and regular doctor visits are a big part of that.

Make sure to schedule appointments with your doctor at regular intervals, even if your baby seems healthy. And of course, ALWAYS CHECK THE SUGGESTIONS THAT YOU FIND ON THE INTERNET WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST!

Nurse your baby if you possibly can.

Of course, there may be circumstances where nursing is not possible, and that’s okay. The most important thing is to provide your baby with the best nutrition and care that you can. But as the daughter of a La Leche League Leader (La Leche League was founded in 1956) who also became a certified lactation consultant, I can tell you that professional support supplemented by peer support will fix almost every nursing problem.

Keep your baby on an exact time schedule as far as possible.

I truly believe that keeping a baby on a schedule can provide numerous benefits for both the baby and the parents. For starters, it can help regulate the baby’s sleeping patterns, leading to better quality and longer periods of sleep. This is particularly important in the first few months of a baby’s life, as they require plenty of rest for their development. Moreover, establishing a consistent sleep routine early on can help prevent sleep problems from developing later in childhood.

Following a set schedule can aid in the development of a baby’s circadian rhythm, leading to better overall health and well-being. A consistent schedule can help establish a sense of security and stability for the baby, which can promote overall emotional and cognitive development. Having a predictable routine can help your baby anticipate what comes next, creating a sense of security and comfort, particularly during times of change or transition.

A consistent feeding schedule can also help regulate your baby’s appetite and digestion, reducing the likelihood of overeating or digestive issues. And, a consistent schedule can provide opportunities for bonding with your baby, such as during feeding or bedtime routines, strengthening your relationship and promoting emotional development. Vintage child-raising experts were very worried about illness, so a lot of the schedule is set up to leave the baby by himself in a safe, clean place, and bonding is restricted to the parents during feeding and care, so that parent can wash up and occasionally even change clothes before holding the baby.

Of course, the final reason for keeping Baby on a schedule is that following a schedule results in a predictable and manageable routine for the vintage housewife, allowing for more time to rest, self-care, and housekeeping. A vintage housewife does not neglect her other duties after she has a baby, but she also does not overwhelm herself or neglect herself.

Keep yourself calm and well while you are nursing and caring for your baby.

As a vintage mother, I believe that it’s essential to take care of myself and stay calm and well after having a baby. Bringing a new life into the world is a beautiful experience, and also incredibly exhausting and overwhelming. That’s why I make sure to carve out time for myself every day to recharge and focus on my own well-being. Whether it’s taking a warm bath, reading a book, or simply sitting quietly with a cup of tea, these little moments of self-care help me to stay centered and focused. When I’m feeling calm and relaxed, I’m better equipped to handle the demands of motherhood and provide my baby with the love and care they need to thrive. So, as a vintage mother, I believe that taking care of myself is just as important as taking care of my baby, and I make it a priority every day.

Furthermore, as a vintage mother, I know that taking care of myself is not just important for my own well-being, but also for the health of my marriage. It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of motherhood and forget about the other important relationship in our lives.

Your marriage is the most important relationship in the family. It is the foundation of your family. That’s why I make a conscious effort to prioritize my marriage by taking care of myself.

When I’m feeling good and taking care of myself, I’m better able to be present and engaged with my husband. I can stay within my feminine and receptive nature at this time by letting him plan, but I can also make myself available to listen, to spend quality time, and, after the doctor’s OK, to prioritize intimacy so that HE doesn’t feel unimportant or pushed out.

So, as a vintage mother, I believe that taking care of myself is not just about me, but also about maintaining a happy and healthy marriage for years to come.

Weigh your baby regularly.

Baby’s expected gain is 6 to 8 ounces a week for the first 6 to 8 weeks. If you have a scale, weigh your baby two or three times a week with his diaper on. It may seem like a small thing, but tracking your baby’s weight gain is really important for their overall health and development. So, if you haven’t already, consider investing in a scale or ask your pediatrician if they have one you can borrow. Trust me, it’s worth the peace of mind, especially if your baby is particularly fussy. A REALLY fussy baby may be just hungry, and a scale can help you catch that early! (This happens to me with my biggest babies all the time.)

Bathe your baby every day. In hot weather, he should also be sponged two or three times a day.

It’s important to bathe your baby every day. Not only does it help keep them clean and fresh, but it can also be a bonding experience for you and your little one. Plus, regular baths can help prevent diaper rash and other skin irritations, which can be a real discomfort for your baby. Of course, you don’t want to use harsh soaps or shampoos that can dry out their delicate skin, and for the first few weeks, even water is not recommended (an oil bath is recommended), but a gentle bath with warm water can do wonders. So, take the time to give your baby a daily bath, and enjoy the special moments you’ll share together.

Many mothers find it simplest to bathe their young babies just before the midmorning feeding. Another convenient time is just before the 6 pm feeding, especially since this will remain the regular bathtime all through the preschool years. It’s not a good idea to give a bath just after a feeding, though.

In addition to daily baths, it’s also important to sponge your baby on hot summer days. When the temperatures rise, it’s easy for little ones to become overheated and dehydrated, which can be dangerous. By giving your baby a sponge bath with lukewarm water, you can help keep their body temperature down and prevent heat exhaustion. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe their forehead, neck, and armpits throughout the day to help them stay cool and comfortable. Combined with making sure that Baby is well hydrated and stays out of direct sun and wind, you can keep your little one much happier during hot weather.

Keep your baby in fresh air and sunshine as much as possible. See that he is out of drafts and corners where wind cannot blow down on him and bother his ears.

One of the best things you can do for your baby’s health and happiness is to expose him to fresh air and sunshine as much as possible. This will help him breathe better, boost his immune system, and improve his mood. However, you should also be careful to avoid drafts and corners where wind cannot blow down on him and bother his ears. These can cause ear infections, colds, and other problems. To prevent this, make sure your baby is well-covered and protected from the wind, especially around his head and neck. You can also use a hat, a hood, or a blanket to shield his ears from the breeze. The old-fashioned method of wrapping a baby and putting him into a high-sided pram on a sheltered porch worked particularly well.

Clothe your baby according to the temperature, warmly in the winter, lightly in the summer.

If you want to keep your baby comfortable and healthy, you need to dress them according to the weather.

In the winter, bundle Baby up in warm clothes, such as woolen sweaters, hats, mittens, and booties. Wool is the BEST material for babies to wear, especially in winter, but be careful of cheap wool and chafing! You can also use blankets and quilts to cover them when they sleep or go outside.

In the summer, dress them in light clothes, such as cotton shirts, shorts, and sun hats. You can also use muslin wraps or thin sheets to protect them from the sun or insects.

Soft, natural materials like cotton, wool, or silk are ideal for baby’s delicate skin. They are breathable, gentle, and easy to wash. Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, may cause irritation, rashes, or overheating. They may also contain harmful chemicals or dyes that can affect your baby’s health. So, avoid synthetic materials and opt for natural ones whenever possible.

Air bedclothes and mattress regularly.

It is important to air out your baby’s bedclothes and mattress regularly. This helps to prevent the buildup of moisture and bacteria, which can cause mold, mildew, and unpleasant odors. The vintage daily chores for Baby’s room from America’s Housekeeping begin by stripping your baby’s bed down to the mattress and opening up the windows to allow fresh air to circulate. Every week, you also air the mattress outside in the sun for a few hours, which can help to kill bacteria and freshen them up.

Here is the basic daily cleaning routine from America’s Housekeeping Book:

  • Air the room thoroughly by opening the windows and doors. If possible, let the sun shine in to kill germs and freshen the air.
  • Change the sheets and pillowcases on the crib or bed. Shake out the blankets and spread them smoothly. Turn the mattress occasionally to prevent sagging.
  • Empty and wash the diaper pail with hot water and soap. Rinse well and dry. Sprinkle some baking soda or borax in the bottom to deodorize.
  • Dust the furniture, shelves, and window sills with a damp cloth. Wipe off any fingerprints or stains with a mild soap solution. Polish any metal or wood surfaces with a soft cloth.
  • Sweep or vacuum the floor, paying attention to the corners and under the furniture. Mop or wax the floor if needed.
  • Wash any toys, books, or other items that the baby may have put in his or her mouth. Sterilize any bottles, nipples, or pacifiers that may have been used.
  • Arrange the room neatly and attractively. Put away any clothes, diapers, or supplies that are not needed. Make sure there are no sharp objects, cords, or small items that may pose a choking hazard for the baby.

Use mosquito netting over the crib, playpen or carriage when the baby is out of doors in summer. Have the baby’s room screened.

One of the joys of summer is taking your baby out of doors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. But you also need to protect your little one from insects and disease. That’s why the Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book recommends using mosquito netting over the crib, playpen or carriage when the baby is out of doors in summer. Mosquito netting is a fine mesh fabric that lets air and light through, but keeps out mosquitoes, flies and other pests. It also provides some shade from the sun’s rays.

You can buy mosquito netting by the yard at fabric stores or online, and make your own covers for your baby’s outdoor furniture. Or you can look for ready-made covers that fit your crib, playpen or carriage. Some of them have elastic edges or ties that make them easy to put on and take off. Mosquito netting is a simple and inexpensive way to keep your baby comfortable and safe in the summer months.

To protect your baby from insect-borne diseases, you also want to screen the windows in their room. Screening windows can prevent mosquitoes and other insects from entering your home and biting your baby. Mosquitoes can spread viruses like Zika, dengue, and yellow fever that make your baby sick. The primary reason for widespread DDT spraying, which began in the 1940s, was to kill off populations of lice, fleas, and mosquitos, which spread malaria, typhus, and other deadly diseases. It wasn’t until we had widespread treatments for these diseases that we could begin paying attention to the environmental side effects of DDT spraying.

Be sure the baby gets at least 16 hours sleep a day the first year, and 20-22 hours sleep the first month.

Sleep is very important for your baby’s growth and development. The first year of life is when they need the most sleep, especially the first month. You should try to make sure your baby gets at least 16 hours of sleep a day the first year, and 20-22 hours of sleep the first month. That might sound like a lot, but remember that babies sleep in short cycles and wake up often.

To help your baby sleep well, the 1948 Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book recommends keeping a regular bedtime routine, making the room dark and quiet, and avoiding overstimulation before bed. Pay attention to their cues and signs of tiredness, and ease them into sleep training gently. Sleep training is great, but like all other schedules, it should be done gently and in tune with your baby’s unique needs.

Keep your child out of crowds in winter weather.

It’s better to keep your baby warm and cozy at home, and limit the visitors to close family and friends for the first six months, according to the Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book. Like the previous recommendation, this one is directed at preventing dangerous illness. Just since the pandemic, we have seen a resurgence in our society of old-fashioned methods for dealing with illness like quarantining and home nursing. This is another vintage method of preventing illness that we need to bring back!

Boil bottles and nipples after each using.

Boiling bottles and pacifiers is a simple way to sterilize them and keep your baby safe from germs. You just need a large pot of water, some tongs, and a clean towel. First, wash the bottles and pacifiers with soap and water and rinse them well. Then, fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Carefully drop the bottles and pacifiers into the boiling water and let them stay there for at least five minutes. Use the tongs to take them out and place them on the towel to dry. That’s it! You have clean and sterile bottles and pacifiers for your little one.

Give the baby complete quiet at feeding and sleeping hours.

Many vintage baby experts recommend giving the little one complete quiet during feeding and sleeping hours. This practice was expected to promote a calm and peaceful environment that allowed the baby to relax and focus on the essential task of feeding or sleeping. Most experts and mothers though that excessive noise or stimulation disrupted the baby’s natural sleep and feeding patterns, leading to fussiness, irritability, and sleep deprivation for both the baby and the mother.

However, it’s important to note that the Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book, which was written by a mother and child-rearing expert who actually took care of her young children at home, warns against over-reliance on quiet during sleep and feeding times. While creating a peaceful environment is beneficial, parents should avoid training their baby to only sleep when it is quiet. This can create a dependency on external conditions and make it challenging for the baby to sleep when exposed to normal sounds and noises. Additionally, expecting the husband or other family members to be completely quiet while the baby sleeps or feeds is unrealistic and unfair. It can lead to strained relationships and resentment towards the baby.

Pushing the husband out of the family by prioritizing the baby’s needs can lead to feelings of neglect and exclusion, which can create resentment and ultimately harm the marriage. A strong and stable marriage provides a safe and secure environment for the baby to grow and develop.

Don’t forget to “bubble” your baby after feeding.

To bubble the baby, parents should hold the baby in an upright position, supporting the head and neck with one hand and gently patting or rubbing the back with the other. This can help release any trapped air in the baby’s stomach and prevent discomfort or colic. Parents should continue to burp the baby until they hear or feel a satisfactory belch. It’s important to note that over-bubbling can also be uncomfortable for the baby, so parents should pay attention to the baby’s cues and stop when they appear calm and settled.

If you feed the baby out of a silver mug, be careful that the cup is not too hot.

Using a silver mug and spoon to feed your baby has been a long-standing tradition in many cultures, and the 1948 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book recommends it as well.

Silver has been used for centuries for its ability to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When used to feed a baby, silver utensils can help prevent the transmission of germs and reduce the risk of infections. Additionally, silver is non-toxic and does not leach harmful chemicals into the baby’s food, making it a safe and healthy option.

It’s essential to note that while using a silver mug and spoon to feed your baby can have several benefits, parents must take necessary precautions to ensure their baby’s safety. One potential risk of using a silver mug is that it can retain heat for an extended period, which can cause burns if the liquid is too hot. Therefore, it’s crucial to test the temperature of the liquid before feeding the baby and make sure that the mug isn’t too hot. Do this by touching a small amount of liquid to the inside of your own wrist to check the temperature, the same way you check the temperature of a bottle.

Don’t give the baby tea, coffee, beer, or wine of any kind, fried foods, pickles, pie, lollypops, candy of any kind, nuts, pancakes, berries, ice cream cones, rich cakes, puddings or meat gravies.

These foods are typically high in sugar, salt, or fat and can cause digestive issues, tooth decay, and obesity. Moreover, it’s crucial to avoid alcohol or caffeine at a young age, as they can negatively affect a baby’s developing brain and nervous system. In the past, there was a harmful practice of using whiskey for teething, but it’s now recognized as dangerous and not recommended. Instead, parents should provide a safe and comfortable teething ring or use other soothing methods to ease the baby’s discomfort.

Don’t be a martyr to your baby.

Since the rise of the attachment parenting model in the 1970s, mothers have been expected to be martyrs to their babies. But even before that, it was a problem. In fact, the primary reason for the rise in popularity of “scientific scheduling” for babies among experts in the 1800s was in an attempt to avoid the problems that excessive motherly martyrdom created in families.

Mothers often put their children’s needs before their own, but it’s important to remember that your marriage should also be a priority. In fact, putting your marriage first can actually benefit your children in the long run. Mothers who take care of themselves have happier marriages and are better able to provide for their families.

Self-care can take many forms, such as taking a relaxing bath, going for a walk, or spending time with friends. It’s important for mothers to find activities that bring them joy and make them feel rejuvenated.

Mothers should also prioritize their physical health by eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Taking care of their physical health can help mothers feel more energized and better equipped to handle the demands of motherhood.

Don’t let anyone with a cold come near the baby without wearing a gauze mask over nose and mouth.

This idea should be familiar to anyone who lived through 2020! It is also part of the immense concern about illnesses that underlies other suggestions about keeping Baby at home, or no kissing.

Babies were believed to be born with a certain immunity to the so-called children’s diseases. Now we know that this cannot be counted upon, however, and the greatest care should be taken to protect your baby from infections like RSV. No one with a cold or runny nose should be permitted in the same room with him. If you have a cold, wear a gauze mask over your nose and mouth when you care for him. Better still, turn his care over to someone else until you’re well.

If Baby shows any sign of illness, keep him quiet in his own bed and away from family or visitors until the doctor can see him or advise you what to do.

Don’t rock or jounce your baby unnecessarily.

Vintage advice to mothers did not advocate for holding a baby too often, especially in the first months. Partly, this was again concern over illnesses, but it was also a recommendation to prevent mothers from martyring themselves by holding the baby all the time and then worrying about not being able to get things done. It was also because after WWII, the general unfitness of the US population during the draft led to a renewed emphasis on the importance on teaching good sleeping and eating habits from the earliest ages to prepare the infant for a healthy life.

Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book acknowledged that babies sometimes just cried because they wanted to be held and comforted, but said that in the early months, Baby was better off by himself once he had been made comfortable, that he needed to sleep the greater part of the day, and that he could do this best in his bed. It also recommended ensuring that he got plenty of snuggling and loving when you nurse or feed him and a special time, usually just before his evening feeding, as a loving-and-playtime.

Don’t use a pillow under your baby’s head. Pillows are used to bolster your arm for nursing, in the carriage, and if necessary at the baby’s feet in the crib.

Honestly, enough said. But in case you don’t know, this is still recommended today. Pillows are dangerous for babies.

Don’t buy any bedding or clothing which cannot be laundered satisfactorily.

And by laundering satisfactorily, I mean boiling the baby things, including the diapers. So linen, cotton, and wool for warmth. You can actually boil boiled wool for blankets, but using wool as an outer layer allows you to keep a baby warm and waterproof, so even if you can’t boil the wool like you do cloth diapers and sheets, it is still important. I also avoid ruffled things and fabrics that need starching to look good for babies.

Don’t let anyone kiss your baby if you can avoid it but if you cannot, let the kissing be done on the back of the baby’s neck.

This is, of course, more of the illness prevention advice.

Think about it: we carry all sorts of bacteria and viruses in our mouths that can easily transfer to our babies. Plus, babies’ immune systems are still developing, so they’re more vulnerable to getting sick. That’s why it’s so important to avoid kissing your baby on the mouth, especially if you’re feeling under the weather.

Instead, stick to giving your baby kisses on the forehead, back of the neck, or even the feet! Those are still plenty of ways to show your baby all the love and affection they need without risking their health, especially as Baby’s mother.

Though he cries, don’t pick your baby up if he is well. A good lusty cry is excellent exercise.

Now, I know that some people might say that you shouldn’t spoil your baby by picking them up every time they cry. But I actually disagree with this recommendation and prefer the instruction from Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book that when babies cry, sometimes, he might just want some snuggles and comfort from his mama.

When a baby cries, it’s their way of communicating with us. And as moms, it’s our job to respond to those cues and give our babies the love and care they need. That means picking them up, holding them close, and soothing them until they feel better, sometimes. Sometimes it means ensuring that he got plenty of snuggling and loving when you nurse or feed him and a special time, usually just before his evening feeding, as a loving-and-playtime. And sometimes, it means making him comfortable in his bed to develop good sleep hygiene, even though he is fussing a lot.

And, of course, there are times when you might not be able to pick up your baby right away. Maybe you’re in the middle of cooking dinner or dealing with another child. That’s okay – babies are resilient and can learn to self-soothe over time. It’s not bad for children to learn to self-soothe and self-entertain. It is a very vintage way of raising a child.

Don’t let your baby suck on an empty bottle.

Babies have a sensitive digestive system and sucking on an empty bottle can lead to swallowing air, which can cause discomfort and even lead to colic. When babies swallow air, it can cause gas to build up in their stomach, which can be quite uncomfortable for them. So, to avoid any unnecessary discomfort for your little one, it’s best to make sure you use a pacifier instead of an empty bottle.

Don’t allow play after feeding hours.

The best routine for a healthy baby development is sleep, change, play/interact, feed, and then sleep again. Playing with a baby too soon after feeding can cause discomfort and even lead to vomiting. And that’s definitely not what we want for our little ones.

You can see in my vintage newborn schedule, how this same basic routine is followed in baby schedules from the 1940s.

Don’t put anything sharp into the baby’s nose or ears.

This one should also be self-explanatory, but just in case you haven’t heard, my Grandma always said not to put anything smaller than your elbow into your ears or your nose.

Don’t wash out your baby’s mouth unless your doctor tells you to.

Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book recommends washing baby’s mouth out with sterile water every time you give him a bath, but as always, I suggest erring on the side of asking a pediatrician, rather than not!

Don’t leave safety pins open.

Yep. ‘Nuff said. And on that note, there are all your vintage do’s and don’ts for raising a baby the old-fashioned way.

We’ve covered a lot of ground today in our discussion of vintage do’s and don’ts for mothering your new baby. We’ve talked about the importance of a good feeding routine, how to handle those crying fits, and even when to let your little one play. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a step back in time with me to explore some tried-and-true methods of baby care. While YOU may not have eight kids like I do, these tips are still relevant and valuable for any mother looking to give her baby the best possible start in life. So let’s take a moment to appreciate the wisdom of our mothers and grandmothers before us, and embrace the vintage ways of raising our little ones. Here’s to happy babies and happy mommas!


“Do’s and Dont’s”, Best Wishes, 1959

Better Homes and Gardens Baby Book, 1948