Who Says What About Babies?
Clues about the Origins of some of our Culture's Fearful Beliefs

Joyce Fetteroll posted on Radical Unschoolers Network, April 2009:

Just today I was leafing through an old poetry book to see if it was worth keeping and read the following poem that seemed so radical in its questioning but it was written sometime before 1913 (when the author died). Of course it's traditional thinking questioning a change, but really could have be written by an unschooler ;-)

I'm assuming his reference to the advice not to rock babies is accurate for the time. The thinking on feeding seems similar to today.

(It's interesting the people he chose as admirable. Unless someone's a strategy buff, Napoleon isn't much admired. And Luther is Martin Luther I assume. Not sure who Putnam is. The only one of the right age is William Lowell Putnam but he doesn't seem the same stature as the others.)

by William Croswell Doane

"The hand that rocks the cradle"—but there is no such hand;
It is bad to rock the baby, they would have us understand;
So the cradle's but a relic of the former foolish days
When mothers reared their children in unscientific ways—
When they jounced them and they bounced them, these poor dwarfs of long ago—
The Washingtons and Jeffersons and Adamses, you know.

They warn us that the baby will possess a muddled brain
If we dandle him or rock him - we must carefully refrain.
He must lie in one position, never swayed and never swung,
Or his chance to grow to greatness will be blasted while he's young.
Ah! To think how they were ruined by their mothers long ago—
The Franklins and the Putnams and the Hamiltons, you know.

Then we must feed the baby by the schedule that is made,
And the food that he is given must be measured out or weighed.
He may bellow to inform us that he isn't satisfied,
But he couldn't grow to greatness if his wants were all supplied.
Think how foolish nursing stunted those poor weaklings, long ago—
The Shakespeares and the Luthers and the Buonapartes, you know.

We are given a great mission, we are here today on earth
To bring forth a race of giants, and to guard them from their birth,
To insist upon their freedom from the rocking that was bad
For our parents and their parents, scrambling all the brains they had.
Ah! If they'd been fed by schedule would they have been stunted so?
The Websters and the Lincolns and the Roosevelts, you know.

More by Joyce Fetteroll Infancy in light of unschooling Infants