pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

Parenting Advice to Ignore, Things to Remember and Stuff Not To Stress About – Part 1

Parenting advice, it comes from everywhere. If you listened to everyone and tried to follow everything you could well be institutionalized within the week.

Relatives are hard to ignore – but may be misinformed or out of date; so-called “free” samples aren’t really free if they come with self-serving advice; and,Parenting advice from “mom.” pretty much EVERYTHING on the internet comes with an “agenda” which is RARELY (Ok, pretty much never) totally in your best interest.

I spend a fair amount of time perusing the web for images to accompany articles and to read on-line medical journals (that’s what we have to do these days as more and more companies boost their profits by abandoning print media – of course in the name of trees.)

I never come away from a session without discovering at least one article in which I’d like to have a real “heart-to-heart” with it’s writer/publisher. So, I began collecting a few of these disturbing issues on a piece of paper thinking that some day I’d be in a position to set the record straight.

Frankly, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be elected “boss of the world,” or would even like to be, but here are a few of the things I’ve collected so far: Advice you can ignore, things you should remember, and the stuff that you shouldn’t stress about.

Parenting Advice To Ignore

Internet Advice

I’ve already alluded to one of the most important items on the list of parenting advice to ignore. In fact, this one might ought to be classified under “things to BEWARE of” – and that is: the internet.

ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING on the internet has an AGENDA, and nearly all of it is hidden. If you’re searching for how to take an infant’s temperature, it should be a “no-brainer” to realize that you can pretty much count on being told to go out and buy some gadget – or why what you already have is inadequate – or why you should be ashamed of who you are, what you are doing or how you are doing it.

If you start reading about some “conspiracy” when you’re looking for children’s immunization schedules – you absolutely know for certain that you’ve fallen off the “rails” of truth and are down bouncing on the “ties” of someone’s, at best, uninformed paranoia; or, at worse, deliberate scheme.

On the other hand, the internet does contain the “good information” too. The trick is knowing how to stay out of the slime — and that largely depends on being able to discern correctly just WHY the author is writing the article.

Parenting: Knowing When To Be Worried About Agenda'sParenting: knowing when to be worried about hidden agenda's“Mommy Blogs” are notoriously inaccurate and contain specious information that must be taken with a great deal of caution. If it’s truly a “mommy blog” and not a disguised advertising or proselyting scheme, then it is good for information about how one woman/family is effected by going through a particular illness or trauma; but anything else must be recognized as merely being an opinion.

Blogs by physicians (or at least their hired employees or agencies) have agendas as well. What is it? Usually to bring you to their office and to advertise an image of someone/somewhere you’d like to obtain medical care. Not necessarily a bad thing. Occasionally, you find one which is an “avocation” for a “retired” physician without any agenda besides having something worthwhile to do – like this one.

You must remember that even Wikipedia is only as good as the skill-level/expertise of whoever took the time to write the article, for “free.” It does, however, have a “review board” of sorts and in my experience does a fair job of providing mostly accurate information… much of the time.

The most accurate, unbiased and scientific information comes from the blogs/web sites of larger, public non-profit organizations and medical journals – such as the CDC, AMA, NIH, AAP, JAMA, J of Pediatrics etc. – some being free and others by paid subscription.

Everything else… well, seek out better sources to spend your time looking at; or, if not, just watch out.

Newborn Daily Bath

What newborns REALLY need is to be kept clean and dry and fed and rested. Advice that a full bath every day is mandatory is just plain inaccurate. Area cleansing is perfectly adequate.

It’s also fallacious to think that there should be some kind of “additive” or “coloring” (non-toxic or otherwise) or “strictly organic content” or “pleasing shape” or “kills 99% on contact” or … (on and on and on). Simple, plain, generic, cheap baby soap is just great or even plain rag and water.

For most (if not nearly all) babies, a daily bath in their “routine” causes no ill effect. However, IF, you or your pediatrician begin noticing that there seems to be more than the normal amount of baby skin peeling it is probably more wise to cut back on the bathing times, amounts, scrubbing or soaps than it is to begin slathering with more oils and lotions.

Face, neck and diaper area are already being cleansed frequently. An infant can’t sweat and doesn’t have the exocrine system to produce the odor you’ll be all too aware of in 10 years; so, bibs and normal clothing can be relied on to keep the rest of the skin clean for several days.

Normal skin does grow and slough off and bacteria do grow; but, as long as you have a plan for routine bathing, there is no necessity for penance if you skip one or two days.

Let Babies Sleep On Their Stomach

Back to Sleep Program Saves Infant's LivesBack to Sleep Program Saves LivesThis used to be true – or at least most everyone’s best advice; but, now is NOT!

I saw this advice on a “mommy blog” given in the context – and implying – that it was “doctor’s” who incompetently gave the wrong advice and was just one more evidence that you needed to beware of them. The flaming git!

It was everyone back then who believed that the large amount of “wet burping” infants did made it safer for them to not be on their backs where they could choke while they slept. And, it was doctor’s, now being in the computer age, who could meticulously analyze data from thousands of babies to find out just the opposite was true.

And there was none of the “doctor’s don’t want you to know” paranoia crap. As soon as the statistics were known, it was written about and we did such a rapid 180 that you could hear gears stripping all over the city and nurses got so dizzy we broke out the Dramamine. On Tuesday I advised seven new parents to put their babies down on their tummy’s and on Wednesday I called them all and told them otherwise.

Back is best.

Don’t Let The Baby Cry/It’s Good To Let Babies Cry

Huh? The truth is that babies cry, it’s what they do. And it does NOT hurt them to do so. Another truth is that it’s annoying as crap for everyone around them – and they know it! Or, at least they figure it out very quickly.

As in absolutely everything else a parent does, it’s a matter of balance. It’s a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of survival!

Babies under 3 or 4 months of age have very little self-soothing strategies; but, their easy distractibility is an absolute blessing. Sucking on their toes, fingers or other objects may be comforting but, at least at first, they have no clue where they are or how to get them.

Does that mean they need to be picked up? Of course not. Unless you want to. Will it reward them for crying? Of course it will. Pavlov proved animals would learn by being rewarded, should we expect anything less of an infant?

Crying Baby, Do you pick them up or notCrying Baby, do you pick them up or notWill that be a “bad” thing? Not necessarily. At least at first it may be exactly what you want – to give them a method of notifying you of their “troubles.” Parenting means that you are assessing situations, analyzing methods and implementing rules/boundaries/limitations and giving the training/experience necessary to generate independence/self-reliance/success in your offspring.

It’s a rare parent who doesn’t have the loving/nurturing/cuddling down pat; but, the encouraging/teaching self-soothing part sometimes gets lost in the parental glow of feeling needed which is provided by a new infant.

A safe, uninjured crying baby – MUST you pick them up? No.

MUST you let them cry?

SHOULD you pick them up? It depends.

Depend on what? Lot’s of things. What time is it? The middle of the night or after a nap? Are they clean, dry and fed? How many times have you already done it? Can they self-sooth? If so, why aren’t they?

Just always keep in mind, infants can and do learn; and, teaching self-soothing just may be one of the first “win-win” activities you do with your baby. Besides being a whole lot easier on your life, it makes them a lot more comfortable, confident and at ease as well.

So, those are most of the thing’s I’ve been saving to set straight about “Advice to Ignore.” I’m sure that I’ll think of something I’ve left out as soon as this is published; but, the next few items fit better under the title: “Things to Remember” and that’s what we’ll undertake next time.

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3 Posts in This Series