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15 Parenting Old Wives' Tales Debunked

The expression on my face must have been priceless. I still remember my late grandmother wagging her finger at me and telling me to never, ever take a hot shower when I was menstruating or I’d bleed to death in the bathroom. “It’s true,” she insisted. “Everyone knows it.” It mattered little that I had done this time and time again and was still alive and well. What my grandmother was telling me is what we refer to as an old wives’ tale. It can be described as a type of urban legend, said to be passed down by older women to a younger generation.

Between parents, friends and other well-intentioned people in your life, you’ve probably had your fill of old wives’ tales when it comes to raising your child. Some of these “life lessons” have some value but the key is to extract the element of truth from the tale before applying it to real life. I’m sure you’ll find lots of familiar ones in this list, and it may even make a great conversation piece for your next visit to your in-laws’ house.

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15 The Myth: Babies Get Sick From Teething

The truth: How many times have you heard parents fervently claim that teething causes anything from diaper rash to fever? How true is it? Not very true at all. Babies are often protected for the first six months of life by maternal antibodies. This is referred to as passive immunity. By the time the baby reaches the middle of the first year of life, this protection has started to wear off and little colds and other ailments start to creep up. Coincidentally, this is also the age that many babies begin to cut their first teeth. Germs cause illness and it’s important to remember this.

14 The Myth: Babies Only Sleep Well on a Full Tummy

The truth: Stuffing a baby with too much to eat before bed may actually result in the opposite effect. You may find yourself changing a poopy diaper even sooner than you’d hoped. If you want to feed your little one before his/her nighttime sleep, that’s okay. Just don’t overfeed and give solids that are difficult to digest or it can result in cramps and bloating during the night. That will make for a no-win situation all the way around.

13 The Myth: Too Much Gas? Time to Change the Formula

The truth: Gas causes misery in anyone--babies, children, and adults alike. Before immediately blaming the formula you are using, wait it out. Discuss the problem with your pediatrician and get a professional opinion. Playing the “change the formula game” can be more difficult on a baby’s system.

12 The Myth: Sleep During the Day Means No Sleep at Night

The truth: This is a common mistake many parents tend to make. If a baby is not sleeping well at night, a natural inclination would be to cut daytime naps in the hopes that baby would be good and tired at night. The opposite holds true in this case. Withholding a baby’s sleep during the day will only lead to exhaustion and crankiness: a recipe for disaster come nightfall. The truth of the matter is sleep begets sleep. If you want your baby to sleep well at night, interrupting the daytime sleep rhythm will only aggravate the situation.

Instead, keep with the baby’s regular nap times. Babies go through patterns of good and bad sleep – especially when they are less than a year old. Discuss some ways to go about it with your pediatrician as well for some good tips.

11 The Myth: Tummy Ache = Appendicitis

The truth: Yes, it very well could be appendicitis. But not every bad stomach ailment is the result of something as severe as this. Acute abdominal pain could be a number of things, including stomach viruses, bacterial infections, trapped gas, and constipation. Before hitting the panic button, ask yourself a few things:

  • Is the pain worsening and steady?
  • Is the pain primarily on the right side of the abdomen?
  • Is the pain severe enough that walking is difficult?
  • Is the pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting?

If you’re still unsure, it doesn’t hurt to see the doctor for a CT scan. Rest assured that appendicitis is relatively rare, though.

10 The Myth: Stiff Neck = Meningitis

The truth: A stiff neck is guaranteed to result in a panicked trip to the doctor’s office. It’s been ingrained in us to believe this is a big warning sign of meningitis. Factually, children with meningitis can barely hold their heads up from being gravely ill, let alone complain of a stiff and sore neck. They are typically listless and pretty unresponsive. Plus, a stiff neck is also a less common symptom in children.

Viral symptoms of illnesses like the flu can also cause joint pain and body aches and is much more common, especially in the fall and winter seasons. Feverish children often complain of pain near the neck and shoulder area when suffering the effects of a virus. As always, if you are deeply concerned, see your child’s pediatrician to rule out meningitis if your gut tells you it’s beyond the flu.

9 The Myth: If He’s Hungry Enough, He’ll Eat It

The truth: If it’s one thing that can drive us nuts as parents, it’s worrying about our children’s diets. If your little tyke is refusing to eat his spinach, the old “he’ll eat when he’s hungry” routine may or may not work. Some children have what’s referred to as a severe food aversion, where complete hunger strikes and putting the brakes on any new foods (and sometimes beloved foods) is not uncommon. Kids with a severe food aversion simply won’t give in.

Letting your child “wait it out” to see if he/she will give in to eating those green veggies is okay once and while, but don’t make it a regular thing (especially if your child has no troubles skipping meals). You may have a bigger problem on your hands than just a picky eater.

8 The Myth: Kids Can’t Get High Cholesterol

The truth: Feeding your child fatty, artery-clogging foods at a young age will do more than make them overweight. Children can indeed develop cholesterol problems and that’s the last thing you want your child to experience so early in life. Instead, offer your child healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. If you have a picky eater on your hands, work within the confines of what he or she will eat.

7 The Myth: Too Much Sugar = Hyperactivity

The truth: Your child may indeed be hyperactive but is sugar the sole culprit? This is a controversial topic. We love to blame sugar on everything, from a child bouncing off the walls to obesity and rotted teeth. Truth be known that the connection between sugar and hyperactivity is not clearly known and has not been well proven. Sugar, like any treat, can have a healthful place in a child’s diet if it’s given in moderation. A single lollipop is likely not going to cause your child to run amok at the next birthday party. If your child is indeed deemed excessively hyper, it’s important to look at other options, including behavioral triggers, and to bring it up to your pediatrician.

6 The Myth: No Hat on a Cold Day = Ear Infection

The truth: This is a popular one and I know I’ve heard it at least a hundred times over the course of my lifetime. Truth be known, cold weather won’t cause ear infections. The middle ear is well-protected from the environment by the ear drum. Ear infections, simply put, are an inside job. Germs invade the middle ear only when mucus and swollen adenoids block the Eustachian tube. This happens when you have a cold or allergies, and not from exposure to the elements.

This is not to say you want your child to go hatless in the cold. The real reason you don’t want your child’s ears to be exposed to the harsh temperatures is that heat is lost first through the extremities. Plus, you risk frostbite on the tips of the ears, which can be dangerous if frostbite reaches advanced stages. So, do send your child out with a hat but know why you’re doing it.

5 The Myth: Keep Newborns Inside for the First Two Weeks

The truth: While there’s no determined “exit” time for babies to leave the house, it’s certainly not going to cause them harm to go for a visit to grandma’s house or for a short stroller ride. Just be sure to dress the baby appropriately, paying attention to the weather. Also, avoid sick adults and kids. If anything, getting out of the house will do you and the baby some good.

4 The Myth: Rub Alcohol on the Baby’s Gums When Teething

The truth: Seriously, don’t do this. Despite the age-old practice of rubbing alcohol on a baby’s sore gums to soothe them, no amount of alcohol is deemed safe for a baby to consume. Yes, your great-grandfather may have done it and it’s been in the family for generations, but there are other great remedies to try if a baby appears to be in distress. Instead, offer a cold washcloth or a clean and cold teething ring.

3 The Myth: Early Bedtime = Early Riser

The truth: Repeat after me: sleep begets sleep. Putting a child to bed at 10 p.m. and hoping he/she will wake up at 10 a.m. the next morning is wishful thinking. As painful as it is to accept, waking up at 6 a.m. may be part of your child’s natural rhythm pattern. Intentionally keeping a child up late will only result in overtiredness, which is a sure-fire way to guarantee a restless sleep.

2 The Myth: Wait 30 Minutes to Swim After Eating or You’ll Drown

The truth: My cousins and I grew up with this myth. I can’t recall the number of times we’d have to sit around and kill time after eating because our parents were convinced we’d develop horrible cramps and sink to the bottom of the lake.

The tale is based on the mistaken idea that the stomach will take away some of the oxygen needed by our muscles during swimming. In reality, people have more than enough oxygen to supply both the stomach and their skeletal muscles. The average meal will have no impact on your ability to swim or wade in the water.

1 The Myth: Going Outside With Wet Hair Will Make You Sick

The truth: For centuries we’ve lived with the belief that leaving the house on a cold day with damp or wet hair will result in catching a cold. The common cold is a virus caused by germs. So, although we talk about catching a “chill,” what is really happening is our body temperatures get lower when we are cold and could, therefore, lower our overall immunity. If you get sick after going outside with wet hair, chances are you already had the germs lurking in the background to begin with--an unfortunate coincidence.

Resources: CPS, Pregnancy and Baby, Parenting

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