Six old wives' tales about babycare
When you have a baby, all kinds of people will be offering you all kinds of well-meaning advice. But no matter how positive their intentions, it pays to take care with what you take on board. Click through for six common old wives' tales that may do more harm than good, and what to do instead...
Myth 1: Wearing shoes will help bub walk sooner
Before littlies can walk they need to develop muscle strength and balance through the legs and trunk. This happens with time spent on the floor, not from wearing shoes. Bubs' feet also need room to grow and children need practise gripping with their toes, which makes bare feet a better option in these early stages.
Also, babies' feet are mostly soft cartilage, so ridged or tight-fitting shoes can permanently alter the shape of growing feet (although this flexibility to change shape has an advantage in the case of club foot and other such issues, as orthotists can design shoes to manoeuvre the feet back into the correct position). If pre-walking shoes are worn by your child, they should be lightweight, made of natural fibres to allow her feet to breathe, have a soft sole with fully adjustable straps, and feature an enclosed heel.
You should feed a cold and starve a fever
Eating nutritious foods high in antioxidants, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, supports the body's immune system, but refusing to eat is a natural response that allows the body to focus on healing, not digesting. A littlie's body instinctively knows what it needs, which is one reason why you should never force a child to eat. Fluids are very important for cooling the body and preventing dehydration, though, so bub needs plenty of these when she has a fever. However, when bub has no fever but feels miserable with a cold, eating favourite foods can be a comfort.
Myth 3: Rice cereal in the bottle will help your baby sleep
Adding rice cereal to bub's evening bottle of milk is a common suggestion for helping babies sleep through the night. However, wakeful behaviour from four months of age is generally due to brain development that increases mental alertness, not hunger, and offering solid foods before four months of age, before bub's body is able to handle them, is not recommended. In fact, offering rice cereal in a bottle or on a spoon before four months may increase the risk of allergies, reflux and digestive issues.
Adding rice cereal to milk can also interfere with bub's internal 'volume control switch' that regulates her nutritional needs, and means that she's consuming more kilojoules, which can lead to a life-long struggle with weight issues. If you're using formula, the kilojoules and volume are already regulated according to bub's age, and it's important to maintain the balance of number of scoops to volume water. Human breastmilk regulates naturally.
Myth 4: Dipping a dummy in honey will help bub suck on it
Your baby will probably suck better on a dummy that's dipped in honey, due to her early taste buds' preference for sweet flavours - but this doesn't mean it's good for her. Offering honey to a baby younger than 12 months can be harmful, due to the risk of infant botulism, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. Older children and adults can cope with the bacteria's multiplying toxins, but young babies can't. The natural sugars in honey can also contribute to early gum issues and tooth decay.
Myth 5: A nip of alcohol will help your baby sleep
Alcohol and babies do not mix! The negative effect of alcohol on the developing brain is supported by research, and giving alcohol directly to a baby in her bottle could have significant neurological consequences. As for encouraging sleep, alcohol usually has the opposite effect, causing irritability, restlessness and agitation. Alcohol can also cause constipation because it reduces bowel mobility and it dehydrates. Steer clear! (And this goes for rubbing alcohol on bub's gums to help with teething, too.)
Myth 6: Placing bub on her tummy will help her sleep
The theory here is that by sleeping on her tummy, bub's arms will be secure and unable to flail about, leading to longer sleep. But putting your baby to sleep on her stomach increases the risk of SIDS, suffocation, and the inhaling of vomit. Only ever put your baby to sleep on her back, and never on her tummy or side. Over the last 20 years, thanks to the introduction of 'back to sleep' guidelines, the occurrence of SIDS has significantly reduced. To keep your little one's arms secure while she sleeps on her back, swaddle her or use an appropriate weight infant sleeping bag.