Parenting • Sep 12, 2013

Motherhood myths that are bringing you down

1)      Taking my baby outside will make her sick.



–          This is a theory that goes back many generations and is a frequent topic of conversation when talking to new moms in our nursery. Fortunately, for new moms who often have “cabin fever” or just feel trapped, this is not true. Sick people make babies sick, fresh air does not. Fresh air and a bit of sunshine do wonderful things for a new mother’s mood and sense of well-being. You can take your baby outside immediately.

–          A few cautions:

  • Avoid direct sunlight. Infant skin is thin, burns easily and they can’t wear sunscreen until 6 months.
  • Pay attention to the temperature. Babies don’t regulate their temperatures quite as well as we do. Adjust your baby’s dress and the amount of time you spend in the extreme heat or cold.
  • Avoid areas with mosquitos, tics etc. Infants are more susceptible to all infections, including those transmitted by insects. Repellants are not tested or approved for children less than 2 months old.

2)      I can train my new baby to sleep at night.

–          The idea that babies have their days and nights confused is a common one.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it isn’t quite that simple. Infant brains do not produce melatonin and other sleep-related chemicals in the same pattern that older child and adult brains do.  This is a pattern you can’t force, but it will happen with time. It is not a war worth fighting for a few months. Every infant is different, but in general, children who sleep more and better, will continue sleep more and better. So, trying to wake a baby from a nap, or place them in a loud or brightly lit room may not get you the result you were looking for.

3)      Babies are cold.

–          As, mentioned above babies don’t regulate their temperature as well as adults, but this is true at both extremes. They can get too hot, or too cold, and the bigger issue is that they can’t easily tell you that is what their problem is. Avoid the need to bundle the baby at all times.  A general rule of thumb is to dress the infant in something very similar to what you are wearing and then add one light layer such as a simple receiving blanket. If you are holding them or have them in an infant carrier against your body they are also getting your heat so keep that in mind as well.

4)      I can spoil my baby.

–          Nope. You really can’t. Most of the time this statement is in regard to constant or frequent holding or immediate response to crying. In the first 3+ months, your newborn is still adjusting to the outside world. Their brains are still developing. They aren’t actually smart enough to be spoiled in the sense that a toddler or older child can be. They simply need frequent reassurance that they are cared for and are comforted by the presence of an adult, especially mom. Being held, hearing heart beats and breathing, and feeling your warmth is all they knew during those first 9 months and it will take a while for them to be able to learn to manage on their own.  You don’t have to force it right away.

5)      Crying is bad for babies.

–          This may seem to contradict #4, but crying does not hurt a baby. In some cases, babies with colic will cry for hours no matter what you do and eventually will grow out of it. My point is, if you know your baby is safe and well and all their needs are met (fed, dry, comfortable, no fevers/illness etc.), it is ok to walk away for a minute. It is even ok to walk away and shut the door if you are losing your emotional grip on the world (which happens to new moms periodically). If you are in the shower with a head full of shampoo it is ok to rinse it off before bolting from the bathroom to your little one’s aid. A few delayed responses are not going to undo all the love and attention your infant is getting at every other moment of the day.

I hope these tips help a bit. For more advice, check out Dr. Lenhardt’s column, “10 Tips For New Moms.”