Generation Gap : Old Wives’ Tales and Parenting Advice

We’ve all been there, either standing in the checkout lane with rounded bellies present and accounted for, or in a brightly lit aisle holding our newly minted bundles of joy in our arms. These two visuals seem to immediately attract attention, even if we are as quiet as can be. You know it’s coming. I know it’s coming. It’s as though we have put out a scent or tracking device.

Then it happens, you feel the tap on your shoulder or a hand on your very rounded belly. These women look at you and smile, silently reminiscing their own journeys through motherhood, which began decades ago. Everyone is different, but for me it’s an easy reaction. I smile and shyly say “hello.” I listen as they complement my belly or the new baby. I listen still as they proceed to gave parenting advice or share an old wives’ tale that has been used in their family for decades. I listen, because they have earned that right.

While their advice may, at times, be a bit outdated and fall under the “old wives’ tale” category, they once stood where I stand now. In my opinion, this alone bridges the generation gap. So, I stand there and politely listen as they share some piece of advice.

old wives' tales

While well-intended, I am sure we have all heard our fair share of interesting ones. In fact, that’s how this post can to be. I was sitting with my mother, recounting her days as a new mother and the advice she received from her mother. This gave me the idea to compile a list of old wives’ tales and parenting advice from past generations.

Old Wives’ Tales and Parenting Advice

1. If you rub her head it will stimulate her hair follicles, so her hair will grow faster.

(This was said to me while standing in an aisle at Target holding my fussy baby, while in a sleep-deprived state. I managed to smile politely, but I am sure you can visualize the encounter.)

2. Place a 50 cent piece on your newborn’s belly button with gauze and medical tape to ensure he/she has an innie instead of the (apparently) less desirable outie.

(This was the advice given to my mother by her mother when I was born. Can you visualize a newborn with a 50 cent piece taped to their belly? No? Well try, because she mostly certainly did it to me!)

3. When a baby is teething, place a little whiskey on their gums to ease the pain. 

(While my grandmother felt this was wise advice, thankfully my mother tossed it out the window!)

4. Red thread cures a baby’s hiccups. The parent places red thread in their mouth, then places it on the baby’s forehead. VOILA! No more hiccups!

5. A pregnant women should not raise her arms above her head because the umbilical cord could wrap around the baby’s neck.

6. If you have heartburn while pregnant, it means your baby will have hair. 

(False hope! With my first pregnancy my heartburn was so severe, I have to sleep sitting up. Imagine my surprise when my baby girl was as bald as a cue ball!)

7. Babies should cry a lot in order to develop their lungs.

8. Solid foods make babies sleep through the night.

(If only!)

9. If you crave salty food while pregnant, you are having a boy.

10. If you crave sweets, fruits, and orange juice, then you are having a girl.

11. Drano Test – Spit in a cup with a tablespoon of Drano. If it turns green you’re expecting a girl, and if it turns brown you’re expecting a boy.

(It worked when my aunt tried it in the 90’s.)

12. If the baby’s heart rate is above 140 bpm, it is said that you are having a girl. If it’s under 140 bpm, then you are having a boy.

13. If you don’t have any morning sickness, then you are expecting a boy.

14. If your urine is bright yellow you will have a boy. If your urine is a dull yellow you are expecting a girl.

15. If you are carrying high, with a large round belly, then you are expecting a girl. If you are carrying low, with a smaller belly that sticks straight out, you are having a boy.

16. Using a string, hang your wedding ring over your belly. You are expecting a girl if the ring swings back and forth. It’s a boy if the ring swings in a circle.

old wives' tales

In truth, most people see old wives’ tales as just that and nothing more: a thing of the past, but that simply isn’t true. For many women, their “advice” has been handed down from generation to generation, making it all the more important for them to share the last bit of knowledge given to them by their mothers and their mothers before them. I know this to be true, because although my own mother recounted the exact moment she placed a 50 cent piece over my belly button with a laugh, I could hear the dread in her voice as she realized my daughter does, in fact, have an outie. So, while she may have felt the advice given to her decades ago was ridiculous, it still unconsciously resonated with her.

Next time you are standing in an aisle, sleep-deprived, while holding your newborn, be prepared for some unsolicited advice, and remember to smile.



Nikki is new to the area. She graduated from the Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Campus in 2009 with a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education. She married her husband the same year. Nikki loved the creativity of teaching and continues to bring that same creativity as a stay at home mom. During the day you can find her chasing after her precocious toddler. By night she is a Pinterest junkie! She enjoys getting out and spending time with her family!


  1. #12 has some basis in truth, but not the way people think. Baby boys have higher heart rates DURING LABOR. Not during pregnancy. This is actually important research, as knowing expected heart rates allows doctors to evaluate if the baby is in distress.

    So I guess if you didn’t find out the sex, but regret it in those last few hours- you can predict it with the heart rate.


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