As adult children start their own families, their parents — the new grandparents — may want to lend a helping hand.
As veteran moms or dads, they may remember those sleepless nights all too well. So, who better to provide a tip or two?
But conventional wisdom on baby care has changed, so grandparents, you may want to brush up on the facts. Here, pediatrician Harvey Karp, the bestselling author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, spells out the latest thinking and busts some old child care myths.
Myth 1: Babies who sleep on their backs can choke on their spit-up.
In the 1990s, stomach sleeping was discovered to triple the risk of crib death, also called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
We immediately advised parents to let babies sleep only on the back. The result: SIDS deaths dropped 50 percent.
It turns out babies are smarter than we thought. They naturally turn their head to the side when vomiting.
Myth 2: Never wake a sleeping baby.
Slightly jostling a baby when he or she is placed down is called the wake-and-sleep technique. It is the first step in helping babies develop the ability to drift back into sleep when a noise or hiccup accidentally rouses them in the middle of the night.
So, it's actually good to wake sleeping babies when you place them down to sleep. If the baby fusses when aroused, it's usually easy to soothe the infant with swaddling, a bit of jiggling of the crib or some white noise.
Myth 3: Sleeping babies need complete quiet.
"Shhh … the baby is sleeping!” But, think about it … did you ever see a baby fall into a deep sleep at a noisy party or sporting event?
The womb is loud, as loud as a vacuum cleaner, 24 hours a day. Many adults also sleep better with sound.
We now know that a quiet room is weird to babies. The environment is too still, a bit like putting you in a silent, dark closet.
Myth 4: Babies should not sleep in the parents’ room.
Actually, having a newborn baby sleep in the parents’ room is the way to go.
Room sharing, for the first 6 months, is more convenient for feedings and lets you hear when your baby is uncomfortable in any way. And even more important, we've discovered that babies who sleep in the parents’ room — but I must emphasize not in their bed — have a much lower risk of SIDS.
Myth 5: It’s best to avoid high allergy foods until the first birthday when the baby’s body can handle them better.
For a few decades, we recommended avoidance of allergenic foods such as eggs, peanuts or dairy for the first year. We even told nursing moms to avoid them to keep the foods from entering their breast milk.
Now we know the opposite is true: Early introduction of these foods reduces the risk of serious allergy and delay actually increases the risk.
Myth 6: Babies hate being swaddled — they need their hands out to explore and self-soothe.
You might think it looks odd to see a newborn all swaddled up, but for centuries parents have wrapped up their babies. In fact, many studies show that snug-wrapping keeps babies happier and safer — preventing rolling to the risky stomach position.