Three generations of Chicago moms share their best baby advice

Whiskey to soothe teething babies? Teaching a kid not to bite by biting them back? Yep. That’s your great grandma’s generation talking. While some aspects of parenting have changed significantly in recent decades, much of grandma’s-and even great grandma’s-advice still rings very true.

We reached out to three generations of mothers in the same families to hear their best advice for dealing with common parenting dilemmas. These experienced mamas shared their thoughts on everything from soothing a fussy baby to teaching a toddler not to hit.

We reached out to three generations of mothers in the same families to hear their best advice for dealing with common parenting dilemmas.

Meet the Moms

Great Grandma: Evelyn
Basile, mom of two

Grandma: Susan Panfil, mom
of four

Mom: Brooke Ober, mom of

Fussy baby/teething

Great Grandma: We would rub
whiskey on their gums.

Grandma: A lot of holding
and walking and Tylenol, of course.

Mom: I would give them a
dose of Tylenol for the pain and chilled teether toys, but cuddling
helped soothe them the best.

Sleeping through the night

Great Grandma: Both my kids
were colicky for five months. We just suffered through it. Once I
took my baby to my mom’s house for a night to get some sleep (she
had the patience of a saint), but she called after 10 minutes and
she had to give her back!

Grandma: I picked them up
when they cried and nursed. I often brought them into bed with

Mom: After 6 months, I would
start putting the baby down awake, which seems to help them learn
to fall asleep on their own. I did try sleep training, but hearing
them cry for long periods was too heart wrenching.

The Basile/Panfil/Ober family

Potty training

Great Grandma: My daughter
was still in diapers in kindergarten. I tried and tried, I just had
to wait until they were ready do it.

Grandma: I tried diligently
with my first and failed at it. And then the other three kids did
it when they seemed to be ready and interested.

Mom: With my first, we
started at around 2 1/2 and tried and tried and tried. Finally we
gave up for several months. Then a few weeks before his third
birthday we let him run naked for a week. There were lots and lots
of accidents, but by the fourth day, something clicked in him and
that was it.


Great Grandma: Just ignore
them. I remember just stepping over my son on the kitchen

Grandma: Distraction worked
best. Give them a toy, treat or remove them from the

Mom: I would try to give
them all my attention or a hug to calm them down. But as my oldest
has gotten older, that doesn’t work so well, so we typically ignore
the tantrum and he will stop on his own.

Biting or hitting

Great Grandma: I remember
once, my son bit another little girl in the leg. I was so
embarrassed. For punishment, we would spank, as that’s how we were

Grandma: I stopped it right
away and let them know it was NOT tolerated. Worked really

Mom: If my child would bite
me or another kid, I would always take them away from whatever they
were doing or sit them down if I was holding them. But more than
anything, we try to nip it before it happens. Really paying
attention to them keeps the bad behavior from even

The Basile/Panfil/Ober family

Meet the Moms

Great Grandma: Grace Cooning, mom of four

Grandma: Kathy

 mom of two

Mom: Lauren Pero, mom of

Fussy baby/teething

Great Grandma: For teething,
we had a round rubber ring that we put in the refrigerator. We also
used paregoric to rub on their gums to numb them.

Grandma: Keep calm and try
to change the environment. Sometimes just picking the baby up and
walking, rocking or bouncing will help. A little bit of children’s
Tylenol is helpful. Lots of love helps!

Mom: My oldest daughter had
colic, so there was lots of crying. We used a pacifier for
soothing. When she was small we also wore her a lot so the
BabyBjörn was our lifesaver!

Sleeping through the night

Great Grandma: Feed the baby
late and put some cereal in the milk and the bottle to try to fill
their tummies so it would hold them through the night.

Grandma: I think a full
tummy at night will help with sleeping. If your child does wake
during the night and cannot seem to settle, I would go in and pat
and rub their back. If at all possible, don’t take your child out
of the crib.

Mom: Two words: Sleep
training. We used the Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy
Child book by Dr. Weissbluth, and my husband and I
still say it was one of the best parenting decisions we’ve made so
far. I can’t emphasize enough how great it is to have a child who
sleeps from 7-7.

Cooning/Erickson/Pero family

Potty training

Great Grandma: When your
child wakes up dry, put them on the potty. After each meal you
should put them on the potty and before and after naps and bedtime.
I started this as early as eight months.

Grandma: When your child is
able to tell you that they are using the bathroom in their diaper,
that is the appropriate time to introduce toilet training. Once you
start, be consistent. Give your child the opportunity to sit on
their potty first thing in the morning, after each meal, before nap
and bedtime and any other time that you know they normally go

Mom: We’re in the beginning
stages of potty training. My daughter sometimes tells us when she
poops but is oblivious to having a wet diaper. We have potties set
up downstairs and upstairs and let her sit on them and read books
whenever she wants.


Great Grandma: Our children
didn’t have tantrums. I was lucky!

Grandma: The first thing you
do is make sure your child is in a safe place and cannot hurt
himself. Let them throw the tantrum and ignore them. If you are in
public, remove the child.

Mom: Oh boy, my oldest is a
champion tantrum-thrower. What’s seemed to work well for us has
been to remove her from the situation and redirect attention. If
that doesn’t work, I’ll put her in her crib to calm

Cooning/Erickson/Pero family

Meet the Moms

Great Grandma: Vada
Armbrust, mom of seven

Grandma: Carol Doody, mom of

Mom: Rachel Griffith, mom of

Fussy baby/teething

Great Grandma: You just have
to pay more attention to the baby than usual.

Grandma: I think the most
helpful thing was understanding that there would be a period every
day (we called it the bewitching hour) that the baby would be fussy
and hard to comfort and we could try different things, but we’d all
just have to get through it. For some reason, I decided not to rely
on a pacifier. But I have observed many a baby calmed instantly
when given one, so I would definitely add that to my repertoire if
I had it to do over again.

Mom: Patience, pacifiers,
cold teethers and a little Tylenol when teething interrupts

Sleeping through the night

Great Grandma: When the
babies were newborn I slept when they slept and was awake when they
were awake. When they got a little older, I started letting them
cry it out.

Grandma: We always had the
baby in a bassinet in our room for the first couple of months (no
monitors) and I felt like I never got sound sleep.

Mom: Wait until you feel
your baby is ready (doesn’t NEED you) and start letting them try to
cry it out for an amount of time that you are comfortable

The Armbrust/Doody/Griffith family

Potty training

Great Grandma: Let them do
it when they want to.

Grandma: I don’t remember
potty training being traumatic for any of our children. The
guideline at the time was that if the child was not potty trained
by the time they were 3, then you had to do something about

Mom: Start putting them on
the potty once in a while (maybe before getting in the bath) around
a year just to introduce the idea, talk about it a lot, read books
about it, buy the potty seat and then wait until they are ready.
Basically, give them all the tools and information and then wait
until they want to do it. They will let you know.


Great Grandma: Park them on
a chair or in their room.

Grandma: My effectiveness at
handling tantrums directly corresponded to how sleep deprived I
was. On a good day, I would calmly state why they could not have
the toy at the checkout and then leave the store as quickly as
possible. On a not-so-good day, I would try to reason with them and
give them chances or count on more than one hand several times to
no avail.

Mom: Stay calm and first try
ignoring, then leave a public place if it doesn’t stop or put them
in their room if at home to cry/scream it out alone. Once the child
is calm, then have a conversation about why it happened and how to
handle a similar situation in the future.

Biting or hitting

Great Grandma: For biting, I
may bite them back (gently, of course) so that they realize that it

Grandma: This behavior
warranted an immediate removal from the situation. I think the
first time one of my children hit another child was at a playgroup
and I was mortified. I had to learn to be firm, but not treat the
behavior as a federal offense. Most children go through a phase of
expressing frustration inappropriately and need to be shown what’s
OK and what’s not.

Mom: Remove them from the
situation, talk about better ways to solve problems, and help them
understand that if they choose to do that, they should expect the
person to do it back.

The Armbrust/Doody/Griffith family

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