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Top 11 Old Wives' Tales: Pregnant Women and New Moms

As if you’re not bombarded with enough information and facts while you’re pregnant or in the throes of new motherhood, there are the good old wives' tales that strangers (and perhaps friends and family too) feel compelled to tell you. People just can’t help guess the sex of the baby (you’re carrying low – it’s a boy for sure!) or offer unsolicited advice about why cats should never be left near your newborn child (read on to find out why). 

Well, now it’s time to confirm the facts and dispel the fiction. And to help us set the record straight, we’ve asked our Parents Ask experts, obstetrician Dr. Jason Rothbart and pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson, author of the best-seller, Dangerous or Safe, to weigh in.

The top 10 old wives' tales told to pregnant women and new mothers (please feel free to comment or add your own!)

1. If you have heartburn, your baby will have a lot of hair
Jason: While this has no basis in medical fact, many women will stand strongly by this one. The problem is, MOST pregnant women have some level of heartburn, so when their baby is born with a lot of hair, it is very satisfying to say "See, told you!!"

2. If the head of your bed points north, it will be a boy, and if it points south, it will be a girl (or vice versa...can't remember).
Jason: Again, this is not based in medical fact. In any event, who is to say what position the couple in question were facing during the baby making?? This, along with all the other theories on determining a baby’s sex (the ring test, fast heartbeat = girl, etc.) are all nonsense. BUT If someone can tell me how having a penis will change the way a baby lies in the uterus, or how a vagina can make a heartbeat change its rhythm, well, then I'd be onto something!

3. If there's a lunar eclipse during your pregnancy, make sure to safety pin a key to your clothes over your belly or your baby will have a cleft lip.
Jason: Silliness!

4. Don't kneel down while pregnant, or the umbilical cord will kink, or wrap around the baby, or whatever
Many women are afraid of this one. Luckily, Mother Nature has outsmarted us all and surrounded the baby with amniotic fluid, so that he or she floats in there just fine in any position the mommy gets in. The umbilical cord is always free to wrap around body parts and often does, but overwhelmingly to no consequence. And if there is a problem with the cord wrapped around something, most often the baby's neck, we can see signs of that during labor, and can make sure that the baby is OK. 


5. If you want to get rid of your "baby belly" quickly after delivery, don't shower for 3 days after the baby's born.
Jason: Silliness!

6.  If you have any of the following:  1) sex  2) exercise 3) a bikini wax 4) eat a certain salad dressing at an LA restaurant, you will go into labor.
JasonNo doubt, many women swear by one or all of these.  And because there’s no harm in any of them, I always say “go for it!”

7.  A fat baby is a healthy baby.
Cara: At birth, most babies look scrawny. Through the first several months of life, they fill out and become downright cherubic. But babies should be growing long as well as round, and their growth charts help parents to see when the trend is normal and when it is not. There are also very healthy, very slim babies out there. And toddlers should slim down because they move so much of the time. This thinning down is expected and shouldn’t be a source of worry.

8.  Babies are more sensitive to cold temperatures than adults, so bundle them up.
Cara: Newborns do get cooler than adults, but they get hotter too.  Their difficulty is with temperature regulation. So if you bundle your baby in 4 blankets in the middle of the summer, she will overheat. Most doctors use the general rule: put one more layer on your baby than you are wearing. Overheating has been associated with SIDS, so parents should be cautious not to over do it here.

8. Cats can steal breath from the mouths of babies.
Cara: Crazy!

Found on the web: Cats can be attracted to a baby's body warmth and the smell of milk. It is sometimes observed that cats try to sit on babies. In some SIDS deaths cat fur has been found in the trachea, or the windpipe.

9. Be quiet, or you'll wake the baby!

Cara: Actually, babies love noise! The uterus is loud and fetuses get used to it; as a result, babies are calmed by the sound of commotion. This is why there are so many white noise machines and soundtracks of recorded vacuums marketed to new parents. When a baby is under 4 months, chances are he will sleep soundly in a crowded restaurant or at a concert (though I don’t necessarily endorse taking your little baby to big public gatherings!). All of that changes around 4-6 months.

10. Don't let babies brace their legs to "stand" on your laps, or they will become bow-legged.
Cara: Wrong. Most babies will pass through a normal stage where their legs look bowed. It has to do with the shape of the bones but also with their wide-based stance. As they are trying to learn to balance, they keep their feet far apart and many place their weight on the outer edges of their feet. Babies often love to bounce in the “standing” position, but they love it when they are held firmly under their arm pits or along the abdomen—they shouldn’t really be bearing their own weight. And they tire quickly too—after a few squats, most babies are ready to sit back down. Some babies do develop true bow legs but this is independent of bouncing on the lap.

11. "Outie" belly buttons occur when the doctor cuts or ties the cord incorrectly. 

 Cara: “Outies” (technically called umbilical hernias) are very common and they make good sense. When a baby is growing inside the womb, the only source of oxygen and nutrition is through the umbilical cord. When the baby is born, the cord is cut and the baby has to eat and breathe on her own. Meanwhile, that open passageway between the baby’s umbilical cord and the rest of her body won’t necessarily close instantly. The outside of the cord (what you can see when you look at the baby’s tummy) will shrivel up and fall off over several days. Beneath it, inside the abdomen, the area must close as well. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes days or weeks for the tissues under the belly button to “zip” closed. Sometimes they never do and a child has an outie indefinitely.

What's the best or worst old wives' tale YOU'VE ever heard? TELL US HERE!


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