Throughout history, moms and dads have relied on advice from their doctors, family and friends about all things parenting. They’re learned tips and tricks along the way that have helped to keep their little ones happy and healthy. Yet some of these hand-me-down remedies and how-to’s just might be harmful.
It can be difficult to tell a well-meaning mom or dad that they’re doing something wrong. Often, it spurs an argument or a knock down, drag out battle that never needed to happen. A little bit of kindness surely goes a long way, but parents also need to understand that sometimes they might mess up, and that’s okay.
What is important to learning from our mistakes and moving forward, is knowing we are always doing the best that we can do.
In some cases, harmful things parents do are so mainstream and a part of our everyday lives that we simply don’t think to question them. Medicine is an important part of this, because medicine is always changing. If parents don’t stay up-to-date on medical changes, then they can't possibly know if something that was once deemed safe is now not as safe as we once believed it to be.
Likewise, sometimes there is evidence on both sides of an issue that makes it very hard for parents to form a solid opinion on which side they belong. Sometimes, it comes down to analyzing the research or studies and noting which may have conflicts of interest or biased outcomes.
The decision to medicate a child, what to feed a baby and when, which car seat to use and more are not decisions most parents make lightly. However, many make them based on faulty or outdated information. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Armed with relevant and current data, parents can make choices that they feel confident enough to stand behind.
15 Cleaning With Q-Tips
Parents who are still cleaning their own ears out may want to take a step back. No offence against the cotton swab. It has many uses and there’s virtually no other tool that could get into the tight spaces a Q-tip manages to reach. That being said, some spaces weren’t meant to be reached. The baby’s inner ear and yours is one of those places.
Ear wax is produced for a reason. It lubricates the outer part of the ear canal and protects it from infection and conditions lie swimmer’s ear. While it might look and smell unpleasant, ear wax generally works its way out of the ear all on its own. No poking and prodding with sticks necessary.
Parents who just have to clean their child’s ears are encouraged to do so in safer ways. Ear candling is one way if your child is old enough. Otherwise, stick to cleaning only the outside part of the ear that is visible with a wet washcloth. If a child is rubbing at their ears or scratching, it can actually be because of over-cleaning and a lack of lubrication from the ear wax they’re missing.
Rubbing of the ears is also a frequent symptom of teething, and sometimes, of ear infections. It is not a reason to explore the depths of a child’s ear wax with cotton swabs.
14 Crying It Out
This one is a bit of a hot button. For years, the idea that babies need to be left alone to cry so that they learn to soothe themselves has been continually perpetuated as the truth. Most of the time, it causes no direct and immediate harm. So, parents have assumed it’s harmless. Today, we know that this isn’t exactly the truth.
Studies have shown babies who are left to cry it out and soothe themselves don’t really learn to do this at all. Infants aren’t stupid, they learn lessons much the way an adult would, or even an animal. What they learn when they aren’t tended to when upset is that no one is going to come meet their needs. They don't learn how to meet their needs for themselves because of it.
Per the research on this topic, neurological damage occurs in babies who are left to cry it out, and it can impact them in many ways throughout their lives. Contrary to the popular belief that picking up a crying baby will spoil it or make the child too dependent on their caregiver, research shows the opposite is actually true, babies who are tended to when crying are more likely to be independent later on.
13 Medicating After Vaccines
Vaccines are a debate all their own. Parents on both sides of it still end up disagreeing whether the planet is safe from deadly diseases or not. Regardless, both sides of the research tend to agree on one thing now: children should not be given acetaminophen following vaccinations.
Acetaminophen actually causes the harm in this circumstance. Vaccines contain adjuvants like aluminum and polysorbate 80. A healthy and functioning body will know how to detoxify the body of these substances. However, it needs glutathione — a natural antioxidant — to do so. So, why shouldn’t parents give acetaminophen to reduce that post-shot fever and discomfort? It depletes the glutathione in the baby’s body.
This leaves them at a greater risk for vaccine injury. It also decreases the efficacy of the vaccine. The fever is a natural side effect that says the body is having an immune response. If you are vaccinating with the intent of protecting the child from further infection, then you want that fever. Let it be!
12 Early Introduction To Solids
Up until the last decade, most parents were encouraged to start feeding their babies as early as two or three months of age. They were told to by both grandma and their pediatricians.
Unfortunately, many doctors and well-meaning grandparents are still pushing this advice, but research has now proven that babies should never be eating solid foods before they are at least six months old. Emphasis on at least.
This is because the gut is still open in babies until at least that time, and it may remain open until the ninth month of life. Babies who start eating solids early are more likely to fall victim to gut injury where intestinal bacteria can fester and grow. This can lead to many different kinds of infections, as well the development of learning and behavioral disorders, autoimmune problems and developmental delays.
Around 40 percent of parents in one study were found to be feeding their infants solids too early, despite the FDA warning.
11 Using Infant Rice Cereal To Help Babies Sleep
Often, when parents are told to start introducing solid foods, they’re told to begin with infant cereals. Specifically, infant rice cereal is the most widely recommended. It’s almost ironic because the rice cereal is now known to be the most problematic. For starters, it is known to contain arsenic.
In a study published in JAMA, arsenic levels were more than three times higher in infants who consumed infant rice cereal than those who did not eat rice or rice products. In addition, these fortified cereals have very little nutrition. They are entirely synthetic and very poorly absorbed by the baby’s body.
Many parents are encouraged to start feeding infant cereal to their babies to help them sleep longer. The reason this works is not because they are fuller. Rather, it’s because their body cannot effectively break down and digest grains. So, it takes them much longer to do so. This might help mom and dad get some shut eye, but it’s terrible for the baby’s intestinal tract and immune system.
At six months old, babies have just 1.6 percent of an enzyme known as pancreatic amylase that adults do. This enzyme is critical for the digestion of grains. Babies do not have an equal amount of this that adults do until they are roughly two to three years old when their molars are in. For this reason, many parents avoid non-sprouted grains until such a time.
10 Automatic Circumcision
Circumcision has been long touted to be a medicinal benefit that decreases the risk of urinary tract infections and STDs. However, there is research that now rebukes those claims, too. While the studies on circumcision aren’t yet thorough enough to claim circumcision immediately harms all babies who undergo it, it is vast enough for the American Academy of Pediatrics to no longer recommend the routine performance of it on infants.
Still, there is a bulk of evidence that shows circumcision not only comes with serious direct risks, but that it can lead to issues throughout the male infant’s life, too.
The early exposure to trauma has been shown to affect neurological processes and even cause permanent adverse brain damage. This goes for any kind of trauma that occurs in the first two years of life. Thus, circumcision has not been ruled out. Aside from long-term risks, circumcision can also cause more direct and immediate issues, too.
Other risks of circumcision include meatitis, meatal stenosis, infection, redundant foreskin, hemorrhage, penile adhesions, buried penis, phimosis, urethrocutaneous fistulae, glandular amputation, iatrogenic hypospadias, glandular necrosis, chordee, and even death. Roughly 117 male infants die every year in the United States as a result of circumcision, per the Journal of Boyhood Studies.
9 Hats For Newborn Babies
At some point in time, people decided babies needed hats in order to keep them from losing body heat. However, just like the rest of human civilization, babies are able to regulate the temperatures of their bodies. While this isn’t untrue, full term, healthy babies who are placed in a warm room temperature should not have trouble regulating their body temperature.
Still, the hospital places that sweet and uniform little knit cap on your baby’s head. Why? Part of this may merely be tradition and routine. Today, more parents are opting out of this standard of care, because they know it can actually interfere with skin to skin contact between mom and baby.
Exposure to mom or dad and direct contact with them will actually help to regulate the baby’s body temperature. Connecting with mom on this level also helps to bring in mom’s milk. No hats necessary.
8 Medicating A Fever
Just as it isn’t necessary to medicate a fever after vaccines, it’s not routinely necessary to medicate one at times of illness, either. Fevers are responses to the immune system. They are a sign that the body is functioning and doing its job. Often, they are aiming to kill bacteria or infections that are plaguing the body. The body does this on purpose by raising its temperature to where the bacteria die off.
While fevers can be uncomfortable, they are not dangerous. Many parents worry that a high fever could cause febrile seizures. In fact, it could, but these seizures are not typically harmful, either. Medicating a fever, however, can be. It robs the body of boosting the immune system and can actually mask symptoms of what is going on.
Those symptoms are telltale of certain illnesses. In short, you want to be aware of what symptoms your child is presenting. Masking them with acetaminophen, ibuprofen and the like won’t help you do that. Fever in babies under three months old always warrants a trip to the doctor, because there is concern of infection when they are that young.
7 Formula Feeding In Lieu Of Breastfeeding Support
There are certainly reasons to use formula and it’s a wonderful advancement in the world that we once didn’t have. That being said, it has become so mainstream and acceptable to use formula in lieu of breastmilk that women are often encouraged to use it any time breastfeeding isn’t going along swimmingly.
There is no shortage of formula in the world. What there is a shortage of are people who are willing to provide support for breastfeeding.
Moms with low milk supplies are encouraged to top up with formula. This sets them up for failure though by making sure the baby will be full of formula. Therefore, they won’t nurse to stimulate more milk production. Mothers who experience pain are often told to just quit and bottle feed rather than assessing the baby’s latch and looking for tongue and lip ties, which affect 10 percent of babies.
Instead of recommending women see a lactation counselor for help with nursing, they are told they can’t breastfeed and should go buy some formula.
Formula is great for the 2 percent of mothers who truly cannot breastfeed, but for those who desperately want to and are discouraged from it, formula is the bane of their existence. In addition, we cannot argue that more harm comes from formula than breastmilk. They are not equivalent. It isn’t a battle of which kind of mother is better.
It’s simple science. Breastmilk is nutritionally superior. So, if breastmilk is an option, mothers ought to be encouraged to capitalize on it than give up just because it isn’t as easy initially as mixing powder and water.
6 Unnecessary Antibiotics For Ear Infections
This is touchy. Antibiotics have a critical place in our world. Once upon a time, we didn’t have them and infections of the past could easily claim someone’s life. Today, we are grateful and privileged to live in a time where those things are no longer a concern. Still, sometimes parents are told their baby needs antibiotics when they don’t.
This often happens with recurrent ear infections in the first few years of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that doctors push pause on the antibiotics if an ear infection isn’t severe and try other methods of treatment first.
Doctors who aren’t up to speed may still prescribe one antibiotic after another. Repeated exposure to these drugs can easily hinder the baby’s developing immune system. It does so by wiping out the healthy gut bacteria in the baby’s body. In lieu of antibiotics, parents can discuss treatments with homeopaths.
For instance, ear infections can often be treated with garlic mullein oil and chiropractic adjustments. The more you know, the more options you have.
5 Cow’s Milk
Years ago, most people would never have imagined that cow’s milk would be on anyone’s chopping block. Dairy was supposed to be great. Who doesn’t love cheese? Plus, the food pyramid was insisting we have a few servings a day. Our babies drank milk from their mothers. For some reason, most of us never questioned why or how cow’s milk would be any different.
Well, plenty of parents are asking this question today, and for good reason.
Cow’s milk contains bovine growth hormones. These are known endocrine disruptors linked to cancer, specifically of the breast. It is also harder for the digestive system to break down. In fact, of all animal milks, goat’s milk is the closest to breastmilk in terms of how the human body digests it.
For that reason, many parents are now opting to forego the cow’s milk at one year old in favor of goat’s, almond, hemp, cashew, or soy milk.
4 Car Seat Safety
Car seat safety just might be the new vaccine debate. It’s just that hot of a topic. It takes a simple selfie of a one-year old facing forward in the back seat on a Facebook page for people to go postal. In the past, parents have been encouraged to keep their babies in infant carriers until their first year, at which point they were told to put them in traditional car seats and turn them around to forward-facing.
Today, we know that is it actually safest for our little ones to remain in the rear-facing position as long as possible. Sweden is often the gold standard when it comes to car seat research. Being a country where they have encouraged rear-facing until at least age 4 for decades, they’ve yet to encounter a case of a child being seriously injured from a frontal collision while rear-facing.
Parents who lack knowledge of this development may still turn their babies around and think they’re doing what’s best for them when they’re actually doing the worst thing they could in terms of car seats. Other things parents often screw up when it comes to car seats include bundling the baby in blankets before buckling them in and not securing the chest clip up high enough in the right position.
3 Fluoride Dental Treatments
Fluoride has been given the green light across most of the United States as a safe compound to add to city water supplies. Despite that, the science says this heavy metal is anything but safe. One Harvard University study has linked the substance with lower IQs among children who live in heavily fluoridated areas.
A study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research also posits strong evidence that fluoride exposure leads to decreased bone density and may make individuals more susceptible to fractures.
In light of this, many parents are not opting out of toothpastes that contain fluoride and dental supplements for their children. Instead, they use coconut oil or fluoride-free brands like Jack N Jill to brush those tiny baby teeth.
Still, the biggest source of fluoride for most people is their water supply. Thus, many families have taken to special filtration systems that remove it from their water, such as Berkey filters.
2 Bumbos And Exersaucers
Walkers, exersaucers, Bumbo seats and many others are fan-favorites. Parents everywhere are thankful for the devices and toys that allow them to sit their baby down long enough to prepare lunch or sweep the floor. As it turns out, very little testing was done on these products in the way of their safety when it comes to the joints in the baby’s body.
Sure, they verified that no imminent danger was posed to the baby who used them, but what about long-term damage from their use?
Many physical therapists have taken to the Internet in light of the popularity of these seats and toys to explain how harmful they can be to the baby’s body. This is because the position these toys and seats place babies in is actually bad for their postural alignment and can interfere with their development.
We get it, though, moms and dads need two free hands at times. A great solution to this predicament for most parents has been babywearing, which frees up the hands and is also beneficial to the baby’s development and vestibular system.
1 Sleeping In Their Own Room
Last but not least, if your mother-in-law has already taken to telling you how important it is for the baby to sleep in their own room when the baby isn’t even here yet, rest assured you’re not the first and you won’t be the last to endure this lecture.
Some people feel very strongly that babies can be spoiled and that co-sleeping or room-sharing is quite dangerous both to the baby’s health and their development. But what does the science say?
Long believed to be dangerous, more science is coming out in support of co-sleeping with children. There are safe and unsafe ways to do this. When adhered to in the safest manner, co-sleeping actually decreases the risk of SIDS. Sleeping in the same room as a parent has been shown to help the baby regulate their breathing with their parent’s.
In addition, increased contact with a breastfeeding mother throughout the night can boost the infant’s immune system. Worldwide, the countries that bed share the most are the same countries where SIDS is the lowest.
Contrary to misconceptions that have been perpetuated in the media for years due to parents who didn’t adhere to co-sleeping safety rules, the AAP now recommends room-sharing with babies for at least the first six months of life if not the first full year.