So everything I learned in the first couple of days post-pregnancy was on the go. Family, friends, lactation consultants, pediatricians and, of course, Dr. Google, were my go-to sources for all things questionable and worrisome. For the most part, all the advice was incredibly helpful, especially that which was given by my parents and in-laws. I mean, come on, they raised my husband and me, WELL 👍🏻😉 (not that I have a bias or anything). However, at times they would suggest things that I was sure I had been warned against. I cannot count how many times I had to whip out my phone just to reassure myself that my concerns weren’t outrageous. That was the way they were taught to do things, and now, as a consequence of studies and increased knowledge, just a little more than two decades and the curriculum already took a complete 180.

Here are 7 newborn-caring practices my parents were taught, that have changed since:

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1. THEN Baby should always be put on the side while sleeping.

Safe to Sleep

Poster from the Safe to Sleep Campaign of the National Institute of Health.

Shown above is the exact poster that was in my hospital delivery room, so, although I didn’t know much going into pregnancy, that was definitely something I read as I slow-paced in my hospital robe, in pain to the restroom every hour. Posters like that were also found in every pediatrician’s office that we brought her to, therefore, when I first came to find my daughter tightly bundled in a swaddle and hat (I’ll come back to that in a bit) while both mine and my husband’s parents were over, you can imagine my horror-stricken face (it also didn’t help that my hormones were out of whack).

Before the studies on SIDS and before the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with its guidance report, parents were told (at least those in the Soviet Union as I can’t say anything about those who resided in America in those days) to put babies to sleep on their sides to prevent the baby from gagging on refluxed milk. However, it appears as though the risk of suffocation from babies laying on their sides outweighs the former.

“… parents were told to put babies to sleep on their sides to prevent the baby from gagging on refluxed milk.”

I will add, though, that the worry of baby gagging was definitely real for this momma as my baby girl had some close calls due to reflux, but she was always able to let me know!

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2. THEN Baby should be always tightly bundled with hands and feet straight.

Swaddled Babies

Hannah Whitaker for The New York Times. Stylist: Heather Greene

Putting a newborn to sleep is probably perhaps one of the greatest skills every mom wishes she possessed. Swaddling is a must as it resembles babies life in the womb. However, I immediately noticed differences in the techniques when the nurses would do it at the hospital and when any Slavic grandparent would do it.

First, here, once the baby is born, skin-to-skin contact is emphasized, whereas, there, the baby was first wiped then tightly swaddled, emphasizing on the fact that the hands and feet were to be especially straight, before handed to mom (I will add that today moms are given the option of having the latter done if preferred).  It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but the way babies are swaddled here, primarily, is to resemble their position in the womb (they’re like a cute little ball). I kid you not, the reason for the Slavic preference in swaddling is due to the fear that babies will develop crooked feet if not swaddled like a little stiff soldier.

Not only are they swaddled tightly (making sure arms are in, something my daughter especially disliked), but they are made to be extra warm (don’t forget the hat!) and cozy. I confirmed this when my mother showed me a picture of myself when I was a little baby (she was apparently holding me as she was about to come out of a car), all that was clearly visible was that “I” was what appeared to be the thick colorful blanket in her arms (suffocation hazard?). I guess the Ukrainian winters were to blame, but the practice stuck. I will say baby girl experienced a few heat rashes here and there until I finally caught on to what was happening (Californian weather is definitely not comparable, but all jokes aside, overheating is also a risk to be aware of!).

“… the reason for the Slavic preference in swaddling is due to the fear that babies will develop crooked feet if not swaddled like a little stiff soldier.”

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3. THEN Baby can have a pacifier right away.

I wouldn’t say this one is a huge deal unless you’re breastfeeding, in which case it was a big deal for me. Here, it is recommended to wait until breastfeeding is established before introducing a paci, but back then there was no hesitation. The reason for this is because it was an age without automatic breast pumps and lactation consultants (specifically in the Soviet Union), and either you had milk and baby latched, or not, no one questioned if the paci was interfering.

“… either you had milk and baby latched, or not, no one questioned the paci.”

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4. THEN Use Brilliant Green (зеленка) for proper umbilical cord healing.

Unless you have Slavic parents (or have been exposed to “Brilliant Green” for some other reason), you have no idea what this dye is and why it would ever be put on skin intentionally. You would especially hesitate to put something like this on something as delicate as your newborn’s umbilical cord. However, you would be surprised to know that this dye actually has some antibacterial properties (I didn’t actually know the details until I looked it up).

Brilliant green has been used for decades (and continues to be used in Russia and Ukraine) in newborn umbilical cord care, it’s just not as common in the United States (at least not where I live at least). Apart from mild Q-tip cleaning, I was told to leave it be when asked if any topical treatment was needed to help with cleaning… and it worked, no problems (guess it’s not as necessary as suggested).

“…, it’s just not as common in the United States.”

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5. THEN Baby can have water and if supplementation to breast milk is needed, give cereal (манка) or cow milk.

So I don’t know about you, but never did the thought cross my mind on how people fed babies before the existence of formula. I mean it should have because I knew breastfeeding wasn’t always possible. I wasn’t a breastfed baby. Due to early bottle exposure (not my mother’s choice) and an eventual loss of milk supply (a consequence of nipple confusion and me not adequately feeding), I required supplementation as a baby. So, when I finally asked my mom what I was fed she answered formula (ok, I know that one) and cereal or манка (what? is that even allowed?).  Yup and they would sometimes even give cows milk. Not much nutritional value as compared to formula (ask any Slavic grandparent and they will tell you babies are much stronger than they used to be), but it got the job done because here we are!

Water was also given to babies (I can’t say at what age exactly). When my baby was fussy at one point someone suggested I give water, to which I replied, “whaaa?” I proceeded to ask Dr. Google and sure enough, I got my answer. No way Jose! Giving water to newborns can have fatal consequences as water fills a baby up, giving the false impression of fullness (and water doesn’t have any nutrients, so that’s a no-no). Of course, I’m sure our parents gave it in moderation, but that’s a risk I’m not willing to take!

“Giving water to newborns can have fatal consequences as water fills a baby up…”

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6. THEN Brush baby’s tongue to prevent baby discomfort during feeding and mouth thrush.


Ok, so this is one of those that is actually pretty common even today, so what do I mean by it “changing”? Well, pediatricians don’t really emphasize on brushing baby’s tongue as much as my parents and grandparents do (lol). In an attempt to combat nighttime fussiness, I tried swabbing the tongue. End result? Same as before. At least it wasn’t what was bothering my little one. I think at the end of the day it bothers parents more than it does babies. Although mouth thrush can get pretty bad, that is rare. So at the end of the day, to each his own? The whiteness eventually goes away once baby transitions from breast milk and/or formula.

“…  pediatricians don’t really emphasize on brushing baby’s tongue…”

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7. THEN Co-sleeping.

This is a pretty controversial one because both sides are pretty strong on this one. But that’s a topic for a different day. The point is that our parents (mine did) used to do it and no one told them they shouldn’t. Sure they were aware of risks and did what they had to ensure baby’s safety, but as far as I know, it wasn’t prohibited. Not as much as it is today. Every pediatric appointment I have gone to, I have been asked about co-sleeping. The medical community has been strongly against it due to its association with increased SIDS and suffocation hazards. However, after reading a recent NPR report, there are bridges that are being formed to try and reach some sort of compromise. So we’ll see where this one goes!

“…our parents used to do it and no one told them they shouldn’t.”

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Well, there you have it. These are the seven that I could think of off the bat, I’m sure there is plenty of other “advice” given to mommas that might raise some eyebrows today.

Maybe I missed something? Let me know!

Share some of the strangest advice someone has given you in the comment section below. I’d love to hear all about it!



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