Eating a peanut can be life-threatening for some people. But this year doctors are saying that babies should try out the legumes early to avoid allergies, after a new scientific study showed that babies who get their first taste of peanuts before or around their half-birthday could be allergy-free. It's controversial and maybe even unbelievable for some parents who have been told to wait until their kid is 2 or 3 because of the severe risk.
The latest recommendations are just one of many controversial pieces of advice that moms and dads receive from all walks of life. From grandmothers who raised babies before car seats were mandatory to celebrities to doctors, not every piece of advice will pass without judgment, and some are incredibly worrisome.
From ideas about how not to spoil a baby to how to get them to sleep through the night, some of the advice has been passed down for generations while others are new trends. Some are based on research, while others have been totally contradicted. It can be hard for a new parent to make his or her way through the minefield of controversial pieces of advice. No matter how well-meaning the giver is, it could be a huge, even deadly, mistake.
Here are 15 controversial pieces of advice for babies.
15 Feed The Baby Peanuts
A severe allergic reaction can be a parent's worst nightmare, especially if they have experienced severe allergies in their families in the past. In recent years, that has lead to many parents — and even doctors — to avoid any foods that can cause severe reactions until a baby is well into toddlerhood, about 2 or 3 years old.
Earlier this year, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology issues new guidelines requesting that parents introduce peanuts — one of the most severe culprits — as early as 4 to 6 months. While the guidelines suggest that children who are at a high risk to reactions should consult with a doctor and possibly have a skin test, recent studies showed that the later introduction of peanuts into the diet was hurting the cause. In fact, babies — even high risk ones — who were introduced to peanuts early in their life were 80 percent less likely to avoid an allergy.
Some parents are skeptical of the controversial advice, but it may be worth testing the food in the doctor's office to avoid one of the most severe allergies out there.
14 "Sleeping With The Baby Is Dangerous"
Some mothers swear by co-sleeping with their babies, especially if they are breastfeeding. The practice, they say, allows the mother to respond to her baby's needs right away while giving both the mother and the baby more sleep.
But doctors are not so enamored with the idea. The American Academy of Pediatrics frowns on co-sleeping as a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome because of the possibility of suffocation, which could happen if a parent rolls onto a baby. Also, many parents sleep with blankets and pillows, which are could also provide suffocation risks. To co-sleep safely, a parent would need to go without.
This year, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its advice on sleeping with babies, recommending room-sharing but not bed-sharing as a safe way to get more sleep but respond more quickly to a baby. Some parents don't sleep well with a baby in the room, so families should consider the best for their babies.
13 "Don't Spoil The Baby"
Many women, especially grandmothers of a certain generation, can give advice about holding the baby too much. Don't spoil him, they will say, probably starting from a newborn's first week, a time when a new mother is rightly responding to every whimper and cry. It sometimes makes you wonder how the human species didn't die out or at least become terribly co-dependent, if an entire generation of mothers didn't respond when their babies cried.
We are convinced that didn't happen. Their mothers told them the same thing, and they ignored the advice as well, but they don't remember the sleep-deprived first few months, just the advice, right?
According to good old Dr. Sears, who helped form that generation's parenting skills, you can't spoil a baby. It's impossible in the first few months of life. At some point a baby does learn how to manipulate his parents to get what he wants, but it doesn't happen right away. Instead, parents are better off responding quickly to a baby's cries in the newborn stage to build an amazing bond.
12 "Don't Give Your Milk To Other Babies"
In a time when many people think breastfeeding is not only the best for their baby but that formula isn't a worthy option, some women are relying on others to provide the milk that their baby needs.
Some go through milk banks or volunteer services, but others just allow their friends to feed their babies their own breastmilk. While some healthcare providers think it is a safe option, others say that milk sharing is risking.
Some of the new milk banks have extensive screening processes that ensure that diseases aren't passed along through the milk, but there are no restrictions for the more casual relationships and that could led to a baby getting something in its milk that could harm him.
Also, one of the benefits of breastfeeding is that it passes on the mother's immunity to germs that she encounters. Sharing milk doesn't have the same benefit because the provider may not be experiencing the same germs.
11 "Hold Out For Natural Childbirth"
For more than a decade now, a big portion of women have been concerned that childbirth has become a business. It's lead to more pressure for vaginal, unmedicated deliveries and has left some women worried that they will be pressured into a C-section.
Home births have been on the rise, and while they can be perfectly safe for many low-risk deliveries, some women have lost babies because of delayed medical interventions.
The controversial advice has also lead some women to feel birth regret. They think that they weren't strong enough if they decided to have an epidural or that their body failed them if they ended up with a C-section. Birth regret can be tied to postpartum depression, so we don't want any woman to feel badly for taking advantage of safe medical procedures. The decisions depend on the circumstances, and the end goal should be the safe delivery of a healthy baby.
10 "Formula Is The Devil"
Another dangerous debate lately is the breast vs. bottle feeding debate. The intensity has lead some to take on an at-all-costs attitude toward breastfeeding that can sometimes be very dangerous.
We do believe that there are benefits to breastfeeding that make it a great option for families to try, and moms should realize that it takes a great commitment to make it work. But formula-feeding is always a healthy way to give a baby the nutrients she needs.
Some women struggle with their milk supply, especially at the beginning of their pregnancy. While it is true that the more a mom breastfeeds the more her supply will increase, a woman should listen to her doctor if her baby is having trouble gaining weight. A baby with jaundice, especially, needs to eat and there could be disastrous results if they don't, from brain damage to death.
Supplementing with formula can be life-saving, and it can be temporary if a mother commits to increasing her supply through other means such as pumping and trying lactation-friendly foods and supplements.
9 "Vaccine Your Kid/Don't Vaccine Your Kid"
For some, they are a medical marvel; for others, they are an unnecessary, possibly harmful, establishment farce. Vaccines have been one of the most highly controversial parenting topics of the last couple of decades. We understand that no mom wants to harm her child, which leaves the vaccine debate as one of the scariest decisions possible. Is it right to inject a baby with substances that we do not fully understand the long-term impacts of? Most in the medical community agree emphatically that vaccines are one of the wisest decisions that a parent can make. They have increased the mortality rate of babies dramatically over the decades, but some parents worry that there are too many on the schedule.
The vaccine debate peaked because of a scare over autism, although the case study that introduced the link between the two has been entirely debunked. Some people, though, continue to be convinced that too many vaccines could harm a baby. Doctors, though, point out, that babies could become dramatically ill or even die, and recent measles outbreaks have caused catastrophic results for babies who have not yet received the full course of immunization. The debate affects entire communities and remains controversial even with the medical community backing them up.
8 "Just Shake It Off"
We want women to understand that postpartum depression is real, and it can be very serious. When Tom Cruise made splashy headlines when he criticized Brooke Shields' use of antidepressants after she had her baby, he brought a firestorm of controversy, and rightly so. It's not right to tell a mom she should shake off postpartum depression as if she just struck out in a baseball game. There is a lot more to the problem, and many women are already feeling ashamed about admitting that they aren't ecstatic about their new life as a parent.
Women need to feel like they are heard when they are struggling with postpartum depression, and they need to feel comfortable talking to a doctor. The best thing she can do is get some help. Sometimes it takes some medication or therapy and sometimes it just takes time and acceptance, but a new mom needs support in her postpartum days, and we hope no one makes her feel bad for seeking help.
7 "Working Mothers Should Be Ashamed Of Themselves"
Since the 1960s, more women have been in the work place, and there may be more working moms than stay-at-home moms these days. But that doesn't mean that everyone has joined the 21st century way of thinking about parenthood. Some people believe that working moms are making a mistake by returning to work, and their children will suffer as latchkey kids. Research has disproven this, with studies showing that kids born to working moms are just as successful as those whose moms stay home.
It's really not useful to give advice on staying home vs. working, as most of the time the issue comes down to finances, personal goals and preferences. A great aunt's old-fashioned ideas aren't likely to change anyone's mind, but they could hurt feelings. And the same can be said for people who judge stay-at-home moms — they aren't going to cause a woman to rush back to work when she wants to be home with her little one. It's best to keep the advice to yourself.
6 "Just Let The Baby Cry"
We aren't bagging on the cry-it-out method of sleep training; it does work for some families. But it doesn't work for all babies, and it certainly shouldn't be attempted until the baby is older. At a few months old, a baby has needs that can only be communicated by crying. He needs to eat often — every two to three hours around the clock for the first couple of months of life — and he is probably filling his diaper just as often. It is not realistic to expect the baby to sleep through the night at this point.
There are certainly times to let the baby cry, especially when a parent is so frustrated that there is the possibility that he or she could hurt the baby in a moment of frustration, but a parent who is struggling through the worst part of sleep deprivation who is doing her best to get through the first few months does not need to hear the advice of letting the baby cry it out. When it becomes clear that the baby is old enough and the parents are willing, they will know it. Parents shouldn't feel like they have to compete for their baby to sleep through the night first. It will happen some day, and they have the right to decide how to get there.
5 "Sleep When The Baby Sleeps"
Here's another baby advice tip about sleep that is common, but not exactly helpful. Anyone who welcomes a new baby will get the word to sleep when the baby sleeps, and in theory, it's a good idea. But it isn't always practical.
Newborn sleep cycles are interesting, but they aren't exactly mature. The baby sleeps for short segments — anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and a half or so — in the first week or two. And then mom has to get up and have everything ready for a diaper change, a feeding and a few minutes of play time before the baby goes back to sleep. No matter how tired a new mom is, she can't match that sleep schedule because her body won't let her.
Of course, she also has things to do during those naps as well, from getting herself from food to washing all of those baby clothes and blankets or taking a shower. But the sentiment behind the controversial advice is good — a new mom should be sure to rest and she shouldn't feel guilty about cat-napping in the middle of the day when she can.
4 "Spank Your Kid/Spanking Is Abuse"
Different generations definitely have different ideas about how to raise babies, and that always comes up alongside the congratulations with a baby's birth. Discipline is no different. As we already mentioned, many people can be concerned about the baby getting spoiled long before it is even possible to do so — and with that concern comes advice for how to discipline.
Spanking has been linked to aggression and lower thinking skills in toddler years. It may be tempting to give the baby a swat when he won't leave the things on the coffee table alone, but it might also be a bad idea for his long-term mental and behavioral health.
Other discipline methods also have their own drawbacks, and it can be hard to figure out what works, as sometimes one method will work for one child but won't work for his sibling. Giving controversial advice isn't going to help the situation.
3 "Put Some Rice Cereal In His Formula"
Let's face it, people have tried everything to get their baby to sleep through the night. And they aren't afraid to let people know their magical solution to the problem. Thus, the controversial advice of adding rice cereal to formula to get baby extra full and sleeping through the night has been shared over and over again.
But doctors very rarely advise that, and they never do so to help baby get through the night. Instead, rice cereal in formula may be advised for babies with such severe reflex that they are not gaining adequate weight.
Babies stomachs are very premature at birth, and for most, the safest bet is to wait until four to six months, and many pediatricians recommend skipping the rice cereal then for more nutritional foods. Rice cereal can increase the calories without a baby knowing when she is full, which can lead to overfeeding and the baby becoming overweight.
2 "Keep That Baby At Home"
Newborns are fragile, but that doesn't mean that they will break. Some moms — and, yes, some doctors — believe that children should be kept in the home all the time for the first two or three months of life because of the fear of germs. Other than a trip to the doctor's office, with no stops in between, they will coop themselves and the baby indoors and won't even venture out for take out.
While it is true that parents should be careful to restrict some interactions with their newborn, especially during flu and RSV outbreaks, it is often not feasible and even just a bad idea to keep everyone cooped up. Vitamin D, which comes from the sun, is good for babies and helps them get over jaundice, and it helps moms as well.
Sometimes the cabin fever associated with bringing a baby home — and staying home — can lead to postpartum depression and isolation, and that isn't a good idea either. Once a mother feels up to it, she should feel free to take her baby out to the store or for a walk in the park. It might be a good idea to wear the baby to avoid strangers touching or getting too close, but newborns do receive some immunities from their mother, so they don't have to be kept in an incubator. It's OK to get out at times and new moms shouldn't be frightened off by controversial advice.
1 "You Can't Or Have To Stop Breastfeeding By The Time The Baby Has Teeth"
Moms are judged from the beginning as to whether they choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed. They get it again if they do it in public. And the debate starts all over again when the baby reaches a certain age — or several times depending on how long things go.
Some advisors think the baby needs to be weaned as soon as she has teeth for fear that the mom will get bitten. Some say that once she starts walking she should be done at the breast. Or when she can ask for it. They believe that the longer a baby breastfeeds the more spoiled she is and the harder it will be to stop. Some come right out and call a mom who breastfeeds a toddler selfish and say that she is only doing it for herself.
Others swear that the baby doesn't have to wean until he is ready — sometime before college, probably, but not necessarily before kindergarten. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2 and longer if the mom and child would like to, but few people can get past their own judgments and let a family decide how and when to wean.
The baby advice — as controversial as it can be — will probably continue until a child moves out of the house and has his own children to give advice about. We hope that you can wade your way through it and find the roses among the thorns.