Having a baby really makes you appreciate your own mother, doesn’t it? For the first time you can really comprehend all that she has done for you. The support and assistance from those who mothered you as a child is invaluable. At least it is most of the time.
There are some practices that have been followed by previous generations that is at best unnecessary, and at worse, downright dangerous. Most new mothers will experience some confusion and frustration when they are pressured by those around them to do something that doesn’t seem to be what is taught anymore.
Below we look at five practices that should definitely be banned from the books. You’ve probably heard them before!
Cleaning baby’s mouth with glycerine
Glycerine is a colourless syrup with a sweet taste. It’s used to sweeten certain medications and toothpastes, and is added as a moisturising ingredient in some skincare products. Somewhere along the line, moms started using glycerine to clean their babies’ mouths, probably due to the sweet taste. Although it’s unlikely to cause serious harm, it can lead to tummy upsets if too much is used.
However, it serves no purpose at all and is unnecessary.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends cleaning baby’s mouth with a cotton swab and cooled down boiled water. Remember that breast milk is antiseptic, and unless baby has a lot of milk residue in her mouth and a white-coated tongue, you don’t necessarily need to clean her mouth until she’s a few weeks older. If your baby is formula-fed you should clean her mouth.
Some paediatric dentists recommend using xylitol gel, which is antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial. These are supplied to baby clinics so do ask your clinic sister for more information.
Pulling back a boy’s foreskin
The foreskin is the loose skin that covers and protects the end of the penis. In baby boys it’s stuck to the head of the penis by a thin membrane that will disappear on its own as he grows older. Eventually the foreskin will be able to pull back from the head of the penis as it does in an adult. This is not a process that should be hurried – it can happen anytime between the ages of 3 and 17 years, so quite a time span! Until it has loosened there is also no need to clean under it.
Pulling the foreskin back before it’s ready to happen spontaneously can cause injury and infections. It can also cause non-stretchable scar tissue and narrowing, which may need surgery to correct it. If the foreskin is forced back before it’s ready it can also get ‘stuck’ behind the head of the penis, which is considered a medical emergency.
Using a walking ring
Mothers are often told to give baby a walking ring to teach them to walk. And nothing can be further from the truth. Walking rings are at the top of all occupational therapists’ no-no list. Babies love them, but for all the wrong reasons.
When using a walking ring a baby practises his walking muscles before his crawling muscles. This can result in some babies skipping crawling altogether. And crawling is a crucial milestone as it develops midline crossing in the brain – a cornerstone of many future milestones.
Walking rings also keep your baby upright without them needing to balance on their own. And they will definitely need balance when they have to really start walking.
Apart from the harmful effects on their development, walking rings are amongst the most common causes of injuries in children. If you do use one, make sure it’s under supervision and not for more than 5-10 minutes a day.
Adding brown sugar to baby’s milk to treat constipation
This horrible habit is not only taught by grannies, but by multiple blogs and websites. Moms are advised to give baby ½ a teaspoon of brown sugar to a bit of water, 3 times a day. This works well for constipation as it draws more fluid into the gut and softens the stools. However, that is where the goodness ends.
Giving baby sugar so early will not only lead to excessive weight gain, but it has the potential to contribute to obesity in the long run. A baby’s metabolism is not meant to deal with this amount of sugar in the early years when it’s developing at such a rapid rate. Think about it this way – your baby’s body weight is far less than an older child’s or a grown up’s. If a baby weighing 5kg is consuming 1,5 teaspoons of sugar in a day, it’s as good as a grown up of 60kg consuming 18 teaspoons of sugar a day! So, this practice deserves a definite no.
Adding cereal to baby’s bottle
This is a favourite tip offered to help baby sleep longer at night. And although here and there a mother may have success, the general evidence has shown no difference in baby’s sleeping patterns.
The harm lies in the fact that it increases the calorie content of the milk substantially. And babies feed for volume, not calories. So, it can cause excessive weight gain and in the long run, increase the risk of obesity.
Furthermore, cereal given before a baby is ready for solid foods can cause digestive issues and constipation. It can also cause allergic reactions.
A last word
Remember that it’s your baby. We know that it can be difficult to stand up to people who are important to you, against things they really believe in. But your baby’s well-being is far more important than other people’s offense or even hurt feelings. So, man up, mama, inform yourself and follow your heart and your common sense.
Christine Klynhans is a nursing sister and South African Certified Lactation Consultant (SACLC). She currently works at Parentwood Baby and Family Wellness Centre in Pretoria as a well-baby clinic sister and antenatal teacher. She also has a breastfeeding practice and a Breast Pump Demo Centre. She is passionate about supporting parents on the journey of pregnancy, breastfeeding and the early childhood years. Learn more about Christine Klynhans.