Anyone who has ever had a baby knows that other people LOVE to give you their opinion on how to raise YOUR child. It can come from anyone—family members, friends, co-workers, and oftentimes, strangers in the store. Of course, if you get ten different opinions, what do you get? Ten different answers! At the end of the day, no one has bad intentions for raising your child, but indirectly, they can lead to confusion, stress, and sometimes can actually cause harm. The statement “we did it when you were little and you are fine” doesn’t cut it. Just because you specifically turned out OK doesn’t mean it was right. Today let’s review some common wives’ tales and how to really address those issues with your child.
The most common confusion is with fever. Fever phobia is perpetuated by old wives’ tales stating that fever will cause brain damage and serious injury to your child. Of course, this is false. Fever is our body’s way of letting us know there is an infection and it actually helps fight off that infection. A true fever is anything equal or greater than 100.4 F. Anything less is NOT fever. There is no such thing as a low grade fever! You either have a temperature of 100.4 F or greater, or not. You cannot tell a child’s temperature by touching their forehead. In addition, never “add a degree” to a temperature if it’s taken under the arm. This myth has been spread by daycares and some healthcare workers and makes no sense. Take the temp and see what you have. Finally, never alternate fever reducing medications to lower the child’s temperature. This can be extremely dangerous. Pick one and use it appropriately. In the end, it does not matter what the actual temperature value is. You either have a fever, or you don’t. What is most important is what other symptoms are going on with the fever.
OK, fever is now clear. So what else is out there? I get asked all the time about frequency of bathing a newborn. For the most part, they only have to be bathed every few days. However, if it’s part of a working nighttime routine, then go for it! No right or wrong here—whatever you want to do. Another is bouncing or standing a baby on their legs that will lead to “bow-leggedness.” This is false, so bounce away! And what about picking up your baby every time they cry? “You will spoil them!” Again, this is false. Babies less than four months of age have limited self-soothing techniques. So, pick them up. It’s OK! Finally, if your child will have more than five minutes of direct sun exposure, then put sun screen on them. It’s better to have a rash from sunscreen than to have a sun burned baby.
Last, but not least is feeding. First of all, we never recommend water for any babies less than six months of age. It can really mess up the electrolytes in an infant’s blood stream and can lead to seizures. Next, if your baby is on formula, it is NOT OK to start trying all the different types because your child was crying, or gassy, or spitting up. Most of these issues can be resolved with other methods. But each time you change a formula, it can take a week to get used to it! So each frequent change will never work. Some babies need different formula types, but these changes should be made by consulting your doctor. Finally, giving rice cereal will not help a baby sleep through the night, and when you give it, never put rice cereal in a bottle.
So what do you do when someone gives you advice? Smile, be polite and say thank you, and then call your doctor. Most times, it’s a simple yes or no and that can make all the difference!