Parental Urban Legends- Early Care Edition

Parental Urban Legends- Early Care Edition
by Denise Stern

One of my favorite phrases PWC Moms has coined is “Varsity Moms,” which pretty much describes this audience. These are the moms with 2 or more kids who can tell you at the drop of a hat which pediatrician has the best waiting room times, which restaurants offer kids-eat-free-nights and just when exactly you might expect to reach the finish line of Sleeping Through the Night.

Varsity Moms, I ask you— please help first time parents by squashing the Top 3 myths of infant care that have permeated the parenting landscape, but are just plain wrong.

Photo credit, Micaela Williamson

Myth #1 – Putting rice cereal in baby’s bottle will help baby sleep longer

There is absolutely no evidence that shows that thickening milk or formula with cereal will make baby sleep longer at night. In fact, the most cited study on this topic, (Infant Sleep and bedtime cereal) heartily disproves this parental urban legend.

In our desperation to “tank baby up” and buy an extra hour of rest, we often think that a fuller stomach = sleep. This is true when we give baby milk before bed to ensure that s/he doesn’t wake unnecessarily from hunger but the addition of rice cereal does not help baby sleep longer.

Why People Swear it Works:

When parents introduce rice cereal in baby’s bottle, it is typically at the 8-12 week mark, when parents have about had it with getting up 3-4 times overnight. The fact is, baby is naturally sleeping longer stretches at this time anyway. Thickening formula receives the credit for what baby is doing naturally.

Myth #2 – Mylicon will Eliminate Gas and Soothe your Baby

This myth is near and dear to my heart because I desperately believed it myself with my own 3 kids. Study  after study definitively demonstrates that Simethicone (the generic name for gas drops) is no more or less effective as a placebo. In a nutshell? Gas drops don’t work.

Why People Swear it Works:

EVERYONE recommends Simethicone drops. No one does not recommend them. Once again parents of newborns just want to soothe their babies and I know you will be shocked to hear this, but marketing companies love to capitalize on that so they sell, sell, sell a harmless but useless product.

And once again, it is caregiver and baby who should be given the credit for getting that uncomfortable gas out of baby’s tummy. Slow feeds, lots of burping and gently switching position or massaging baby to get gas out after feeding are the real reasons baby is comforted.

Myth #3 – Putting baby to sleep later at night will make them sleep later in the morning

We’ve all done this one. According to pediatric sleep specialist, Dr. Lisa Meltzer,  “the internal clock is a powerful force that typically wakes young children up around the same time every morning, no matter what time they go to sleep at night.” This means that putting baby to sleep later only robs them of sleep they should be getting. This then contributes to the overtired cycle the next day, making it more difficult for baby to settle and rest again.

Why People Swear it Works:

Because it would work for adults and seems correct. And again, we just want to figure out how to help that baby sleep. When we do wear out our little ones and they sleep for long stretches out of sheer exhaustion, we receive another “false positive.” Keeping baby awake longer than their bodies need may work for one night or one nap, but baby just can’t sustain fighting against their natural rhythms.

What Parental Urban legends can you add? And which do you see as baby gets older?

Denise Stern is the President & CEO of Let Mommy Sleep, DC’s first and only baby nurse agency. Denise and her team of nurses & speech pathologists offer sleep consultations and overnight care to families of newborns and infants.