The Introduction to Dr. William Sears’ and Martha Sears’ 2003 edition of The Baby Book warns mothers, “Beware of Baby Trainers.”  They do not warn “Beware of Parenting Books” (because if they did their massive book would become obsolete).  Should we be wary of parenting books?  I’m not the one to ask; I read entirely too many.  Perhaps, instead of avoiding these manuals, we should put them in context.

I look at Christina Hardyment’s book Dream Babies to give us some perspective on parenting throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.  What did the experts say?  Have the manuals changed?  What were their goals?  These are large questions and I can’t fully answer them, but I try to summarize Hardyment’s findings anyhow.

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