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Debunking parenting myths Children's Wisconsin

Facts and fictions: Addressing top parenting myths

As a pediatrician and a dad of young kids, I’ve seen and heard a lot of parenting myths. From my practice to out in the community, well-intended parents have heard and believed a few ideas related to parenting that aren’t quite true. All kids are unique and there is not one right way to parent your kids, but let’s take a look at a few common myths and what the truth is. If you have any questions about this or any other parenting related matter, start with your child’s pediatrician. We love navigating these fun years with parents and many of us are facing similar situations with our own kids. 

Myth: You can hold a baby too much

Fact: You cannot hold a baby too much. Some parents fear that holding their baby too much will spoil them or leave them unable to develop independence. This is just not true. Holding your baby begins the bonding process between parent and child, and helps them develop a secure attachment to you. Infants need attention to give them the foundation to grow emotionally, physically and intellectually. 

By holding your baby, a baby will feel your warmth. Closeness through skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding or simply snuggling helps stop crying, and can regulate breathing and heart rates in newborns as well as in older infants, which furthers healthy child development. The security and comfort you give your baby while holding them gives them the confidence to explore and learn as they get older. So, no, you can’t hold your baby too much. But parents and caregivers, make sure you’re also taking care of yourself and asking for help when needed. 

Myth: Babies only cry when they are hungry, tired or need a diaper changed

Fact: Sometimes babies just cry. Being hungry, tired or needing a diaper change are all common, valid reasons why babies cry. So, if you’ve crossed those reasons off the list of possibilities as to why your baby is crying, know that sometimes babies just cry. It’s one way they communicate, especially early on. Babies often will start to cry more at about 2 weeks old, peak around 2 months, then decrease around 3, 4 or 5 months. Some babies cry more, some less — but almost all babies go through this stage. My colleague wrote a more in depth blog about this and you can read it here

When your baby is really fussy, there are a few things you can try to calm them:

  • Swaddle them

  • Gently rock them in a rocking chair

  • Put them in a baby carrier and walk around 

  • Sing or talk to them in a soft voice

  • Burp your baby. They might just be holding on a little gas in their tummy causing some discomfort. 

Myth: Breastfed babies are smarter than formula-fed babies

Fact: Some believe this one is up for debate, but the way I see it, nourished is best. I often hear from moms who are trying so hard to do everything right for their baby, including breastfeeding when they can’t produce enough or it’s costing their peace of mind because they believe they can make their babies smarter through breast milk. There are many studies showing the benefits of breast milk for both moms and their babies, but there isn’t conclusive evidence on breast milk singularly influencing IQ or academic performance. The truth is there are countless factors that can influence a baby’s intelligence and there is not one right way for parents, caregivers and the community to support the growth of a child. Although breast milk is best, if formula is in your plan, talk to your pediatrician about a formula that will suit your baby’s needs. Whether your baby is nourished with breast milk, formula or a combination of both, they will have what they need to grow into a healthy toddler and beyond.

Myth: Introducing solids earlier will get your baby to sleep in longer stretches

Fact: Babies sleep in longer stretches when they are ready. I often hear from new parents that their (well-intended) parents or grandparents said to introduce rice cereal or other solids early on (even as early as 6 weeks) to get longer stretches of sleep. While sleep-deprived parents everywhere would do anything to encourage more than an hour or two of sleep, this is definitely not recommended. My colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend waiting to introduce solids until at least 4 months and encourage waiting until 6 months. Studies show that babies just aren’t ready for solids any earlier than 4-6 months. Introducing solids can produce gas and give your baby a stomach ache. Their bellies are still developing and all their nutritional needs are met by breast milk or formula until they are 6 months old. Discuss with your baby’s pediatrician what is the right time for your baby to start solids

And when will your baby start sleeping in longer stretches? Well, that’s up to your baby. I’ve seen some babies sleep 10-12 hours around 12 weeks and others take a little longer to get there. But the good news is that they will get there! My colleague wrote a blog post about encouraging sleep in infants

Myth: The latest and greatest toys are important to brain development

Fact: Playing is important. While toys are great, you don’t need anything fancy. A few toys to stimulate creativity and imagination will help their brains develop, but simple toys can get the job done. Think books, blocks and balls. Books are great for parent and child bonding, and for helping babies develop speech and language. Blocks, balls and other simple toys like this are great for babies to stretch their imagination, and work on their fine and gross motor development. Just make sure nothing is small enough to fit in their mouths and present a choking hazard. Want to keep it really simple? Have you ever witnessed the power of an empty box? See what your baby can do with that! 

These are just a few myths I’ve heard. There are plenty more out there. Always check with your child’s pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about parenting advice you’re receiving…or anything else regarding your child’s health and well-being.