Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d have noticed by now that parenting practices have changed drastically in the past 20 years.
While it’s great that so much time has been invested into understanding parenting from conception until your kids leave for university, this also makes it harder for parents to keep up with the ever-changing guidelines.
Incidentally, research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academics Societies meeting in May addressed this very concern. It shed light on certain old-school childcare techniques that grandparents still observe that put young children at risk. Nor does it help when the gramps smugly point out that “we did it to you and you turned out fine!”
Nor are you alone if you’ve wondered if you were doing more harm than good for your baby by listening to such old-school parenting tips. We’ve rounded up eight common recommendations from yesteryear that experts say we should retire ― for good.
Outdated advice #1: “Put baby to sleep on her tummy”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: While sleeping on their tummies encourages babies to sleep longer (hooray!), it comes at a price. Babies who sleep on their tummies are more prone to suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), because they’re unable to turn over when they can’t breathe properly.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Ever since the “Back to Sleep” campaign kicked off in 1994, parents have been educated on the dangers of putting their little ones to sleep on their front. This initiative, which is backed by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the US National Institutes of Health, encourages parents to put babies to sleep on their backs instead. This halved the number of SIDS-related deaths. Plus, it also busted another old-school myth that placing babies on their back could cause them to choke on their spit-up. However, reassuring studies show that babies are able to turn their heads to protect their airways if they spit up in their mouths.
Introducing water too soon to your little one’s system can lead to oral water intoxication, a condition in which sodium in bubba’s bloodstream becomes diluted, leading to low body temperature and even seizures.
Outdated advice #2: “Use crib bumpers, blankets and soft toys to make the crib feel cosier”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: It’s tempting to create the perfect sanctuary for your sweetie to snooze in. However, loose bedding, soft toys and crib bumpers do more harm than help you achieve your goal of extending baby’s sleep. Blankets, pillows, bolsters and stuffed toys can easily cover bub’s face and suffocate him. Junior can also get his hands and legs trapped between the strings used to keep crib bumpers in place.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: There’s good reason why every Finnish baby is given a cardboard box to sleep in right after birth. The tradition, which dates back to the 1930s, has helped the country achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates. Babies don’t really need much to fall sleep. Properly swaddled, your little one will sleep soundly on a bare crib fitted with a firm mattress, nor would you need to worry about their safety.
Outdated advice #3: “It’s so warm, give your baby some water”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: While your tot may sweat and lose fluids when he’s outdoors in our hot tropical weather, this is not good enough a reason to give him any water. Introducing water too soon to your little one’s system can lead to oral water intoxication, a condition in which sodium in bubba’s bloodstream becomes diluted, leading to low body temperature and even seizures. Also, when your baby drinks too much water, it might suppress his appetite and lead to weight loss.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: For the first six months, breastmilk and formula is all your kewpie needs. If he’s thirsty, he will just feed more often. Once he has hit the sixth-month mark and on solids, you can gradually introduce small amounts of water, but speak to your paediatrician first.
Outdated advice #4: “Put cereal in baby’s milk.”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: This advice was intended to keep baby full longer, which means she would sleep more. Sometimes, it’s also used to help babies who have bad reflux keep down their milk. Although it’s widely practised from generation to generation, plenty of babies who are fed this concoction don’t end up sleeping through the night. On the contrary, it can result in some bad outcomes. Babies whose digestive systems are not mature enough to break down solids of any kind will experience tummy discomfort. Plus, some experts also point out that if baby gets used to drinking his solids, he’ll never know how to differentiate solids from liquids later on.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Feed baby normally, either breastmilk or formula, and teach him how to sleep well by maintaining a bedtime routine. When he’s old enough, you might want to consider sleep training.
Outdated advice #5: “Start baby on solids before 4 months.”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: The World Health Orgnaization encourages the introduction of solids at around 6 months of age, while other nutritional committees say it’s okay to start anytime between 4 and 6 months, as long as baby can sit upright and his neck is strong. However, an early introduction to solids means babies will decrease their intake of breastmilk or formula, which should be their main source of nutrition in the first year. So, although the food is giving them more calories, they are still getting fewer nutrients. Plus, babies who start on solids too early are also at risk for allergies and obesity in the future.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: At 3 months, bubba will go through a growth spurt and seem hungrier, which is usually when parents get the old-school advice to start them on solids. It’s medically unnecessary. All you have to do is increase the amount of breastmilk or formula feedings.
Outdated advice #6: “You don’t need car seats”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: If you’re a parent today, you were probably a kid some 30 years ago, which means you have no memory of sitting in a car seat. And for good reason – you never had a child restraint! Thank goodness plenty of research has gone into child car safety over the years and now most countries around the world, including Singapore, require your child to be properly restrained in car seat by law. Parents may think there’s no place safer than in mummy or daddy’s arms, but car seat advocates note that a child held in his mother’s arms may still crash through the windshield even when the car is travelling at just 50 km per hour. Scary, isn’t it?
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Shove this nugget at the next person who tells you car seats are useless and buy your little one a sturdy one. Remember, car seats should be rear-facing from the newborn stage until junior is at least 4 years old, then they can face front. Once junior has outgrown his car seat, prop him on a booster seat until he’s old enough to be securely fitted with a seat belt.
Constant cuddles also release the love hormone oxytocin, which is benefits both mum and baby.
Outdated advice #7: “You’ll spoil your baby if you keep picking him up when he’s crying.”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: Contrary to popular belief, babies do not cry to manipulate you into picking them up. They cry because they are hungry, tired, dirty, or miss their mummies or daddies and crave comfort and warmth ― all of which can be solved with a little cuddle. According to a study conducted by the Center for Perinatal Research at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the more you snuggle with your babies, the more their brains grow. Constant cuddles also release the love hormone oxytocin, which is benefits both mum and baby. This explains why you’re encouraged to make skin-to-skin contact with bubba during the first or “golden hour” to boost the mummy-baby bond.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Carry your baby whenever you want to. You’re his parent and you know best. The first few months in the real world are scary to a baby who has gotten used to the comfort of the womb, so be there for him as much as you want.
Outdated advice #8: “Wake baby up in the middle of the night for a diaper change.”
WHY IT’S OUTDATED: This advice was probably more appropriate during the days when cloth nappies were used. Unlike the super-absorbent disposable diapers our little ones wear today, the cloth nappies of yesteryear weren’t able to hold much wee or poop, so thr little fellas felt uncomfortable almost instantly. Not to mention, leaving him in a dirty nappy wold have resulted in a really bad case of bum rash. In the long run, this could also cause a urinary tract infection or a bladder condition. So, because of this, mums had to get up throughout the night to change their baby’s nappy.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Thanks to today’s diapers, there’s absolutely no need to change them in the middle of the night, unless you think they’ve done a number 2! In fact, experts say that changing them throughout the night will disrupt their sleep. So, unless your baby is using cloth nappies, don’t change him until you reckon that his diaper smells funky.
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