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Baby and Toddler Myths Debunked - Your parenting partner from pregnancy to pre-school

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Baby and Toddler Myths Debunked

Popular and Unusual Baby and Toddler Myths Debunked

Every minute of the day, millions of women all over the world are either pregnant, giving birth or raising babies or toddlers. Despite this, many are overwhelmed with fears that what they are doing for their babies may not be good and healthy.

Parents are bombarded with information about all aspects of having children and most of this information, although well-meaning, is often made up of myths and old wives’ tales which often cause more panic and neuroticism than good. These myths create fanatical behaviour that often has no logical or sound reasoning behind it.

Nestlé Infant Cereals, with the help of other professionals in their field, decided to list a few of the most common myths that mothers are told with regards to their babies and toddlers. We interviewed six professionals – a Medical Doctor, two Dieticians, two Dentists and a Psychologist and asked them to finally lay these myths to rest, once and for all!


Dr Yuen On Wan graduated from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School in 2006. After her internship at Red Cross Children Hospital and Groote Schuur in Cape Town, she went on to do her community service as a Surgical Medical Officer in Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. She is currently working for Morningside Medi-clinic Emergency Unit.

YW: Myth 1: Circling a wedding ring around baby’s head in an anticlockwise direction will clear any sty/eye infection

False: A sty or eye infection can only be cured with antibiotics or drainage in the case of a sty.

YW: Myth 2: One belief that has been around for some time (and even had some acceptance in the medical community at one point) is that the foetal heartbeat differs for boys and girls. If you're having a girl, then the foetal heart rate will be above 140. A boy will have a heart rate below 140.

False: All foetal heartbeat for both boys and girls is between 120 - 160 in utero.

YW: Myth 3: If you hold your hands above your head you'll strangle the baby with the umbilical cord.

False: The umbilical cord is floating in the amniotic fluid in the abdomen, by holding your hands above your head, it has no consequences or relation to the umbilical cord.... if a baby is strangled by the umbilical cord, it is totally by chance.

YW: Myth 4: You need to drink plenty of water or the baby will get dirty in its sac of water.

False: The "dirty sac water" aka Meconium stained liquor only happens perinatally i.e. when baby is under stress and decided to poo in utero or if there's an infection. Drinking plenty of water has nothing to do with the "cleanliness" of the sac water.

YW: Myth 5: Do not give your baby or toddler broken cellphones to play with. It will cause cancer.

False: If there is no battery or the phone is broken no transmission or radiation is possible ....hence no cancer.

YW: Myth 6: Pregnant mothers should not stand in front of a microwave oven when it is on / busy cooking – you could give the baby cancer.

False: Hmm.... in this case, pregnant mothers can get cancer too? No, a microwave oven is designed in such as a way that if a leak occurs, it is minimal, therefore the effect on the baby in utero is probably minimal or non-existent.

YW: Myth 7: Pregnant women should not change cat litter through their pregnancy due to a virus in cat faeces called toxoplasmosis which can be very harmful during pregnancy

Highly unlikely: It is a rare parasitic disease; secondly, you can get it easier by consuming contaminated or uncooked meat. The chance of getting it via cat litter is slim.

YW: Myth 8: If the baby did not drink mother's milk for a few days, the milk becomes sour and breastfeeding must stop

False: Breasts are not bottles that store milk. Milk is produced by the latch and “suckle” effect, so no suckling, no milk production.... it's freshly produced every time.


Two members from the Nestlé Medical and Scientific Affairs department will help debunk our dietary myths.

For the last 13 years, Anne-marié de Beer, Medical and Scientific Advisor has been the first lady of nutrition at Nestlé South Africa. She continues to dedicate herself to carving out new landmarks regarding the training and development of all aspects of infant, young child and adult nutrition.

Naazneen Khan, graduated with a Bachelor of Dietetics with honours from the University of Pretoria in 1998 and has been working at Nestlé Nutrition since 2004.

Myth 1: Adding a little bit of cereal to a bottle of milk helps baby sleep better.

Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone and not a feeding matter. Adding cereal to milk and feeding it from a bottle can lead to overfeeding and result in obesity.

Myth 2: If a mother has a lot of indigestion, the baby will have a lot of hair.

False: Many women experience heartburn for the first time during pregnancy and though it's common and harmless, it can be quite uncomfortable. Heartburn (also called acid indigestion or acid reflux) is a burning sensation that often extends from the bottom of the breastbone to the lower throat. It's caused by both hormonal and physical changes in your body.

Myth 3: Adding glucose to a dummy assists baby with suckling

False: Dummies are associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding, possibly because they interfere with demand feeding and/or because the different sucking technique may make it more difficult for a baby to attach effectively at the breast. Adding glucose to the dummy only serves to encourage a sweet tooth and may contribute to dental caries in children with teeth.

Myth 4: If you eat strawberries during your pregnancy, your baby will be born with very bad birthmarks

False: It is true that eating a balanced diet when you are pregnant will contribute to your baby's health later in life. It is not true that eating strawberries causes birthmarks. These are referred to as "strawberry" birthmarks because of their raised, bright red surface. The unusual thing is that babies aren't actually born with these marks. Instead, they usually show up within the first week to a month following birth. These birthmarks will continue to grow for another 3 - 6 month and will fade with time.

Myth 5: If you don't eat what you crave, your baby will be born with spiky hair.

False: Some of the funniest foods and food combinations are eaten during pregnancy. Your body's dramatically changing hormones are sending you into a crazy world of strange and new sensations, complicated by an altered sense of taste and smell. Most cravings are probably attributable to this phenomenon, but some cravings may be nutritionally based. Cravings aren't necessarily a problem if they don't cause imbalances in your diet, or prevent you from eating other important foods. Be sure to eat a health and balanced breakfast, since skipping that meal can heighten food cravings later in the day.

Myth 6: Every child should take a vitamin-mineral supplement

False: Most children do not need supplemental vitamins or minerals. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, 'a diet based on the Food Guide Pyramid provides adequate amounts of all the vitamins' a child needs. Still, there are situations where children's vitamins are necessary, especially if your child is a very picky eater or has a poor diet. Some vegetarians may also need vitamins to meet all of their nutritional needs. A healthcare professional should always be consulted before giving children supplements. If a mother is worried about deficiencies, she should consider consuming certain foods that have been fortified to correct any imbalances.

Myth 7: Fat kids become fat adults

Obesity in children has reached epidemic levels. Experts estimate that in South Africa, 15% of children are overweight, 4% are obese and 15% are at risk of becoming overweight. Two thirds of these overweight children will become overweight adults. Many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console. And today's busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. From fast food to electronics, quick and easy is the reality for many people in the new millennium. Preventing children from becoming overweight means adapting the way your family eats and exercises and how you spend time together. Helping children, lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example. If you're worried that your child or teen may be overweight, make an appointment with your healthcare professional like a dietician, who can assess eating and activity habits and make suggestions on how to make positive changes.

Myth 8: Eating oranges during pregnancy will cause jaundice at birth
Jaundice is not a disease but rather a sign that can occur in many different diseases. Jaundice is the yellowish staining of the skin and sclerae (the whites of the eyes) that is caused by high levels of the chemical bilirubin in blood. The colour of the skin and sclerae vary depending on the level of bilirubin. When the bilirubin level is mildly elevated, they are yellowish. When the bilirubin level is high, they tend to be brown.

Myth 9: A mother has to express some milk before the actual feed, to get rid of the old milk, otherwise the baby will get sick
The milk that is initially secreted when feeding, is slightly runny and is meant to quench the baby’s thirst. As the baby suckles for longer, the milk that is secreted is creamier and satisfies the baby’s hunger.


The oral and dental team consists of Dr Sidney Bailey and Dr Alan Mizra.

Dr Sidney Bailey has been a dentist in the public service for 26 years. He has a Masters Degree in Community Dentistry and currently heads up the Oral Health Department at Lady Michaelis Community Health Centre in Plumstead.

Dr Alan Mizra qualified as a dentist in 1988 at the University of Western Cape. He currently works in the UK, in both the national health and private dental sectors.

Both responded to the following myths in their personal capacity:

SB: Myth 1: Tooth decay can begin as soon as the first baby tooth appears
True: Depending on the diet to which the baby’s teeth are exposed, the teeth can be vulnerable from the first appearance in the mouth. Manual cleaning e.g. wiping of the teeth by the mother is also advised as early as possible. It would be more important for the mother to get correct information from a dental professional such as dentist or oral hygienist regarding dental care at this stage, as she will be responsible for this task.

SB: Myth 2: Babies should visit a dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts
True: Early loss of baby teeth can lead to insufficient space for the permanent teeth which erupt much later. Often this situation would require orthodontic treatment to correct crowded (crooked) teeth.

SB: Myth 3: It doesn’t matter if baby teeth decay, as they are going to fall out anyway.
False: It does matter if baby teeth decay. Baby teeth play a role in that they act as space maintainers for the permanent teeth so it is essential that children hang on to them for as long as possible. Children do need to eat so again early diet set a precedent for future eating habits. Teeth play a vital role with speech i.e. they play a role in phonetics etc. The list goes on - bad or rotten teeth could also influence a child’s social outcome i.e. aesthetically.

AM: Myth 1: Applying whiskey on baby’s gums is okay for baby when teething as it soothes the gums.

False: Use whiskey and I think that you will have social services on your doorstep before you can say “Bob’s your uncle”. Any form of alcohol should not be used on children this can lead to severe repercussions to the child. There are numerous things that can be used but the best is probably the age old teething ring.

AM: Myth 2: Toddlers never suffer from bad breathe or halitosis and if they do it is not normal
False: Halitosis, the bane of any dentist life, it affects everyone from the young to the aged. What else can one say… that is why we stress a good brushing programme from as early as reasonably possible.

Hugo Meirim is a Clinical Psychologist currently employed at a private school in Johannesburg’s Northern suburbs. He works predominantly with children from Grades 0 -7, as well as with their parents. Prior to working at the school, Hugo worked at the Tara H Moross Centre, as well as in the Child, Adolescent and Family Unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. He obtained his Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Myth 1: Strict discipline, i.e. physical punishment (spanking), should be enforced if your toddler is purposely not cooperating i.e. ignoring

False: Whilst it is important to maintain a sense of discipline and to establish boundaries, this need not be through the use of physical punishment. Research has shown that physical punishment often results in children who may be more aggressive than their peers and who may view physical retaliation as an appropriate manner of addressing conflict. More emphasis should rather be placed on trying to understand the reason for their transgression, thus placing the parent in a better position to intervene appropriately and apply the appropriate consequence.

Myth 2: Little ‘accidents’, such as urinating in the bed, mean your child is a slow learner.

False: One needs to always keep in mind the fact that all children develop, both physically and emotionally, at different rates. Thus “accidents” may not mean that you have taught your child poorly or that they are slow learners, but rather that they may not have attained that particular developmental level or milestone yet. Should you however continue to be concerned, it may be appropriate to seek the opinion of professionals so as to rule out either an emotional or medical reason.

Myth 3: Temper tantrums are “manipulative” and “attention-seeking” behaviours that children use to get “their way”.

False: In most instances before understanding temper tantrums, one needs to understand the context within which they occur. There may at times be a manipulative and attention-seeking quality to a tantrum, however this is usually a non-malicious manipulation used by the child in order to fulfill a need. Thus as a parent it is important to try and ascertain what the child’s need is and then to act in the appropriate manner.

Myth 4: A strong-will and independence are just my baby's personality and not signs of attachment issues.

Attachment is organized into four main categories namely: secure, ambivalent, avoidant and disorganised-insecure. Each attachment style displays different characteristics and children who display an avoidant attachment style may often present as extremely independent and they will seldom actively seek the comfort of their parents. Basic temperament is however also thought to play a role in attachment. Thus it may be if a parent observes inappropriate levels of independence, when compared with a child’s age-related peers, that there may be evidence of attachment problems.

Myth 5: Co-sleeping i.e. when a baby sleeps with his parent/s for over a year hinders a baby’s independence.

The attainment of autonomy is a multifaceted process incorporating many components. These would include aspects such as the attunement of a parent, being properly cared for, having needs met and feeling secure. Co-sleeping would also be but one component impacting on the development of independence. In most instances it is important to note that continued co-sleeping may have an impact on the child’s ability to sleep on their own without difficulty, thus potentially having an impact on their levels of independence.

At the end of the day, a protective mother is a good mother, but a neurotic and illogical one is not, and an ill-informed one is even worse! New moms should welcome advice from other mothers with regards to caring for their babies and toddlers but it is important that they seek out professional advice when in doubt, so that they aren’t held ransom by fears that are based on myths and spend more time parenting and not worrying. Remembering that motherhood is as old as our human existence, we should have faith in the tried and tested. So next time you hear someone tell a pregnant woman that she will strangle her baby via umbilical cord if she lifts her hands above her head, remind yourself how many pregnant women you still see hanging up the washing everyday without any dire consequences!

(Words: 2601)

Distributed by: Sian Bailey
Publicity Diva
Hello World Agency
0861 243 556

On behalf of: Belinda Vernon
Category Marketing Manager
Nestlé Infant Cereals


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