Moms are inherently paranoid. We stress over stuff that is more often than not completely unwarranted. And in the bigger picture of things, whether or not you sterilise dummies till 6 weeks or 6 months is downright superfluous.
The problem is that we’ve allowed certain myths to form part of our mothering psyche, blurring the lines between common sense, public opinion and scientific reality.
So rather than panic over whether or not sleep training will cause irreparable psychological detachment trauma, or if your baby will break out in hives if you do or don’t pre-wash every item of newborn clothing, rather direct some of your paranoia into the areas where it is actually a matter of life or death.
Myth 1: Babies must sleep on their sides, otherwise they’ll choke on their own vomit
Babies must sleep on their backs. Not their tummies. And not on their sides.
Off all the myths out there, I think this is perhaps the single most widespread misconception amongst new moms. And not only is it factually incorrect, it is also potentially very dangerous.
Babies placed to sleep on their sides or stomachs are at an increased risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Back sleeping is the only position that carries the lowest risk. A healthy baby will instinctively swallow or cough up fluids.
SIDS has decreased by more than 50% since the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending back sleeping over 20 years ago. Always place your baby on his back to sleep Tummy time is still crucial and flat head syndrome is a real thing, so read more safe sleep tips over here.
Myth 2: As soon as my baby is ready for a bigger car seat, we must move to a forward facing position
Considering that car crashes are the leading cause of injury and death among children under the age of five in South Africa, it would be prudent to stay up to date with the latest car seat safety recommendations and regulations. As of 2015, the use of car seats is now a legal requirement in SA. And overseas, it is mandatory for children to remain rear facing for at least 15 months.
In the UK and EU, the absolute minimum age for forward facing is 15 months (regardless of weight or height). You should aim to keep your toddler rear facing until they are as old as four.
Switching to forward facing is not a milestone you should be aiming for. And while it’s easier to reach your baby when they’re front facing, I would think very carefully before moving your child into a forward facing seat. Yes, they won’t be as comfortable and their legs will be more squashed in a rear facing position, but that’s better than a crushed skull.
Myth 3: Vaccines have been linked to autism
The anti-vaccination cult has done more damage than vaccines ever could. Thanks to one fraudulent article, we’re seeing outbreaks of some of the most dangerous previously preventable diseases. The doctor responsible for the autism-vaccine hypothesis has since lost his medical license.
In 1998 a group of researchers led by Dr Wakefield at the Royal Free Hospital in London suggested that the MMR vaccine caused inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which then led to developmental disorders such as autism. But, reviews of hundreds of studies by expert groups around the world, including the World Health Organisation, failed to confirm this finding, and they concluded that there’s no link between measles, the measles vaccine and either Crohn’s Disease or autism.
Several scientific and ethical flaws found in Wakefield’s research resulted in his paper being discredited and his license to practice being revoked. Experts believe that the link between autism and the MMR vaccine is coincidental because parents usually first report concerns about their child’s development between 18 and 19 months, and over 90% of children receive the MMR vaccine just before or around this time.
Let’s make this abundantly clear– the “vaccines cause autism” myth has never been supported by real science. So vaccinate your kids. Vaccinations are the single most important way to protect children against serious diseases.
Dani Silbermann is mom to Jake, and a mommy blogger. Visit www.babyjakesmom.com to read more of her blog posts.