When I announced my first pregnancy, my Godmother gifted me with a stack of baby books she'd read while raising her three children. Although the newest book was at least 15 years old, I figured that not a lot could have possibly changed, and read them anyway. I couldn't have been more wrong. Much of the information in those old books was outdated and even dangerous. The same can be said about some of the parenting advice I was given by older relatives. I learned that there are definitely some old wives' tales about baby care you should definitely ignore.
Parents who have managed to raise healthy kids by following dangerous old wives' tales or outdated advice probably don't realize that they actually got quite lucky. Practices that are now proven to increase a baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) were commonplace as recently as 30 years ago. Because of this, your Nana may cluck when you tell her she can't put your baby to nap on the tummy, or that massaging alcohol onto a baby's gums is not an appropriate treatment for teething.
Here are some more old wives' tales about baby care you should skip for your baby's safety.
Old Wives' Tale 1: Rubbing Alcohol Lowers A Baby's Fever
Not only is this wrong, but it is dangerous. According to Baby Center, using rubbing alcohol on a baby's skin is counterproductive. It does cool a baby's skin quickly, but it also causes the baby to shiver, which makes their body temperature go up again. Also, alcohol is absorbed through your baby's skin when applied and into their lungs when inhaled. This can cause alcohol poisoning and lead to a coma or other serious medical complications.
Old Wives' Tale 2: Babies Should Start Solids At 2 Months
Don't be surprised if your grandma insists that your little one is ready for rice cereal by 8 weeks. According to Slate, in 1962, a Miami pediatrician named Walter W. Sackett, Jr., author of the book Bringing Up Babies, wrote that breast milk and formula were “deficient,” and therefore babies should start cereal at 2 days of age. For some older adults, this advice has stuck. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in fact, recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months, with the earliest introduction to solids no sooner than at 4 months of age.
Old Wives' Tale 3: You Need To Sterilize Bottles After Every Use
According to The Bump, you only need to sterilize your baby bottles and nipples before the first use. After that point, you can wash them with hot soapy water, or put them in the dishwasher. Over-boiling the bottle's nipples can cause them to break down quickly, as well. Broken or compromised nipples and pacifiers are a choking hazard for babies.
Old Wives' Tale 4: Back Sleeping Will Cause A Baby To Choke
Most parents who've had children in the last 20 years were educated on the the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health Human Development's (NIHCD) Safe to Sleep campaign (formerly known as the Back to Sleep campaign). Prior to that, parents regularly put their babies to sleep on their stomachs out of fear of them choking on their spit up. According to the NICHD, babies have a reflex to automatically cough up or swallow fluid that they spit up or vomit and keep their airways clear.
Old Wives' Tale 5: Your Infant Needs To Drink Water Daily
It used to be common to see infants drinking water from their baby bottles. However, pediatrician Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., Ph.D. wrote on Baby Center that your baby shouldn’t drink water until he's about 6 months old. Until then, babies get all the hydration they need from breast milk or formula, even on hot days.
Old Wives' Tale 6: Blowing Cigarette Smoke In A Baby's Ear Will Cure An Ear Infection
In the past, people believed that ear aches were caused by cold air getting into a baby's ear. Blowing cigarette smoke into a baby's ear was thought to warm up the ear canal and cure the ear ache. According to the website for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, blowing smoke into a child’s ear will do nothing to cure an ear infection or ear ache.
Old Wives' Tale 7: Bathe Your Baby In Guinness Stout For Beautiful Skin
If you are of Asian descent, you may have been told by your aunts that a bath in Guinness (yes, the beer) is healthy for a newborn baby's skin. According to the website Hello Grandbaby, this was a practice that was popular in the 1950s by Chinese moms in Singapore and Malaysia. The website The Asian Parent noted that although Cantonese moms once believed that the baby's skin absorbed the stout and became strong, you should actually keep your beer where it belongs, in your pint glass.
Old Wives' Tale 8: You Should Rub Brandy Or Whiskey On A Baby's Sore Gums
The day your little one starts teething, don't be surprised if you hear someone recommend rubbing brandy or whiskey on your baby's sore gums. Past generations have believed that this kind of alcohol alleviates teething pain. However, pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu has warned against this practice, noting on CNN.com that no amount of alcohol is safe for infants.
Old Wives' Tale 9: Spitting Up Is A Sign Of Weight Gain
This is a Latino old wives' tale that many abuelitas (grandmas) believe to this day. My son had a little bit of reflux as an infant, and every time he would spit up, his great-grandma would tell me that it was a sign that he was healthy and gaining weight. I'm not sure what the root of this belief is, but I surmise that it probably had to do with kids who drink more than enough milk and then spit up. Kelly Mom noted that although spitting up isn't always a medical problem, babies who have discomfort when spitting up should be taken to the doctor to be evaluated for conditions such as food sensitivities or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).