The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #123: The Weird History of Judgy Parenting

When Nicholas Day became a father eight years ago, he suddenly felt a deep, primal aversion to a thing he had never previously cared about: pacifiers. He felt certain that giving a pacifier to his baby would ruin the kid’s life—and worse, it would be proof that he’d failed as a father. Nick wanted to know where his pacifier fear came from, so like a good journalist, he went looking for answers.

Turns out, the root of Nick’s fear went way farther back than online parenting debates. It was actually centuries old, and based on some pretty far-out judgy ideas about parents and kids. And the more Nick dug, the more weird stuff he learned about parenting of the past. (Note what’s going on with the baby and the goat in the image above, for example.)

This image of a six-year-old thumb-sucker terrified parents in 1880

Tune in to this episode, in which Nicholas Day walks us through the bizarre, hilarious, and strangely relatable history of parenting babies.

More resources to keep you from freaking out about out your infant
Nick wound up writing a whole book about infancy; it’s called Baby Meets World: Suck, Smile, Touch, Toddle: A Journey Through Infancy.

And here’s the CDC’s list of typical developmental milestones for kids ages 0-5.

Special thanks to a few anthropologists
Jennifer Eyre, Dr. Holly Dunsworth, Dr. Ian Tattersall and the American Museum of Natural History helped us clarify some prehistoric parenting history.

What made YOU anxious as a new parent?
Superstitions? Studies? Expert-y books? Well-meaning advice? Tell us! In the comments.

Photos: Top image (A woman holding a baby who is feeding from a goat): Wellcome Images, (CC BY 4.0)

Our sponsors for this episode are Amazon Kindle, StoryWorth, Third Love, and Little Passports. Use the promo codes at checkout for a special discount.