When I was pregnant with my first baby, my mother gave me a brilliant piece of parenting advice. Standing with her hands resting over my rounded belly she said: “Everyone will want to give you advice, from the lady standing next to you in the shopping queue to your best friends, and even your good old mom. Listen to it all, but take from it what you want, what works for you.”
And she was right. New parents are bombarded with information, but sometimes those tips can cause more harm than good.
Myth #1: Teething causes a fever
It is commonly believed that teething is accompanied by a fever. However, research published in the journal Pediatrics has found that high-grade fevers are not a sign of teething and something else may be wrong. If your baby has a high fever, is experiencing significant discomfort, or won’t eat or drink for days, it’s best to take your child to the doctor.
Myth #2: You are spoiling your newborn if you keep picking him up
The simple fact is that it’s impossible to spoil a newborn. Research shows that your newborn cries as a way of communicating with you – asking to be fed, held, comforted and loved. Holding your baby close to you, in a baby sling or in your arms, is helping meet his needs, which in turn is teaching him to feel secure and confident. Babies who feel this security, grow to develop a stronger sense of self as they get older.
Myth #3: Newborns need water when it’s hot
Babies do need to stay hydrated, but breast milk or formula are 80% water. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that babies do not need water before the age of six months old –even in a hot climates like South Africa. Giving water to your newborn may result in her drinking less breast milk. Since your young baby doesn’t have fully functioning kidneys, her body isn’t able to excrete water, which may result in an imbalance of electrolytes and sodium.
Myth #4 Feeding your baby cereal will help her sleep through the night
As a sleep-deprived parent of a small baby, you may be hoping this particular myth has some truth to it. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that this will help. Studies indicate that adding solids to your baby’s diet will not help him sleep longer. The studies found no difference in the sleep patterns of those who had solids before bedtime and those who were were not given solids. Many babies are simply developmentally ready to sleep through the night between four and six months, around the same time solids are introduced.
Myth #5: Your baby is constipated if he has not had a bowel movement in a few days
Here’s the good news. Your newborn pooping machine does slow down. Babies over eight weeks of age can often go four to five days without pooping, and it doesn’t mean they are constipated. According to the experts, breastfed babies, particularly those who have not started solid foods, can go up to two weeks without a bowel movement. Exclusively breastfed babies are rarely constipated, but if your baby is in discomfort or the stool looks like hard, little pellets, then these are symptoms of constipation and you should seek help from your paediatrician.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.