From drinking water to spoiling your baby by holding her too often – you’ve likely heard all this before from well-meaning friends and relatives. Before you heed their advice, be sure they’re not hazardous to your baby’s health.
WORDS CHIA YING MEI
From the plausible to the ludicrous, all sorts of baby care myths have been passed down from generation to generation. Current medical recommendations, however, have shown that some of these can be hazardous to your baby’s health. Here are five of the most common recommendations we’ve heard bandied about, and the truth behind them:
You will spoil your baby by holding her every time she cries. How will she ever learn to be independent?
Truth Newborn babies (defined as babies from birth up to three months old) are completely spoil-proof. In fact, they need all the attention and care you can give them when they cry. Spoilt children use negative behaviour to manipulate you; babies simply aren’t capable of this because they are not neurologically developed enough to engage in such sophisticated behaviour.
By responding to their cries quickly, you are developing their sense of
self-worth and laying the foundation for a strong bond. This will
eventually form the basis of your child’s self-confidence, which will in
turn lead to their developing independence.
Besides, think about it. Your baby has spent 40 weeks growing inside you, warm and protected from the world outside. They’ve suddenly been thrust into a cold and foreign environment while being so small and helpless. Their instinct and lifeline is to reach out to you, their mother, the only person they’ve ever known. They aren’t giving you a hard time when they cry; they’re having a hard time and need you to soothe and assure them that you’re there to take care of them. Go ahead, listen to your instincts and cuddle your baby as much as you want.
A caveat: If you feel like you’re going crazy with a high-needs baby, don’t feel like you need to stop everything to attend to your baby at the drop of a hat. Taking a couple of minutes break from a screaming baby to compose yourself is necessary self-care to be the best mother you can be, so don’t feel guilty about it (though we know that’s easier said than done!).
The weather is so hot! Feed your baby water so that they don’t get dehydrated.
Truth If your baby is exclusively breastfed, there is no need for additional water at all. Breast milk contains everything your baby needs, including water. If your baby is sweating more than usual, simply give them a little more breast milk.
If your baby is formula-fed, you’ll probably hear even more people telling you your baby needs water to prevent constipation. However, your baby gets all the fluids they need from formula too. In fact, giving them water can cause water intoxication. The excess water dilutes sodium levels in their blood, which leads to an electrolyte imbalance that causes tissue swelling or even a seizure.
Once your baby starts solids, however, water is a-okay. While they should be drinking sufficient amounts to prevent constipation, start off slow.
Your breast milk doesn’t have enough nutrients, that’s why your baby keeps crying.
Truth Breast milk is the ideal food for babies, and it contains everything your baby needs at different stages of life. The breast milk you produce for your newborn will differ from the breast milk you produce for your six-month-old. It will always have the ideal nutritional composition for your baby as your body will tailor the breast milk to what your baby needs. If your baby falls sick, your body will ramp up the antibody count in the breast milk to help your baby battle their illness!
The reason why exclusively breastfed babies seem to cry for feeds more often than formula-fed babies is because breast milk is far more easily digestible. This means it passes through the digestive system more quickly than formula and places less stress on the gut.
Don’t worry about the nutritional content of your breast milk.
As long as your baby is fed on demand, they will get all the
nutrients they need. Just keep an eye on your baby’s weight gain and
diaper output or see a good lactation consultant or a
breastfeeding-friendly paediatrician if you’re worried.
Put cereal in your baby’s bottle to make them sleep through the night.
Truth While we sympathise and understand that those newborn night wakings are dreadful, unfortunately, this just does not work. It is also downright dangerous for your baby. The advice tends to ask parents to put cereal in the bedtime bottle of infants as young as two months old. Such young babies are not ready to swallow anything other than breast milk or formula and gulping down cereal in a bottle could lead to gagging or inhaling the cereal into their lungs. Furthermore, their digestive systems are still immature and not ready for the introduction of cereal. Feeding them cereal could play havoc with their developing gut and possibly even activate allergies. The risks just aren’t worth it – you’ll just have to use other strategies to catch more sleep.
Using walkers will make your baby start walking independently faster.
Truth Yes, it’s adorable seeing babies zoom around on their walkers, but they are also a leading cause of head injury in the home. They aren’t recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the sale of baby walkers has also been banned in Canada as they can cause babies to trip and fall over, roll down stairs and reach previously inaccessible places.
Studies have also shown that babies who use walkers actually walk later because walkers make babies move their legs in unnatural ways and delays muscle control. Walkers also prevent babies from seeing how their legs move, and this absence of visual cues means they don’t get the information they need about their motor development. It’s best to encourage your baby to walk on their own. They will do it when they’re ready and before you know it, you’ll be running after them and wishing for a break!