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When it comes to raising a baby, you can’t believe everything you hear or read. We weigh up five common baby myths to help you sift fact from fiction.

 1. Reading or playing music to your fetus will make your baby smarter – false

This is one of the most popular baby myths; popular, but false.

Prenatal sonic stimulation, the scientific term for playing music to your unborn child, is said to have many benefits. These include improving your baby’s attention span to enhancing cognition and developing sound sleeping patterns. But, says Dr Vas Pillay, a Joburg paediatrician, there’s no physical evidence to support this theory. On the plus side, listening to your favourite classical music will certainly benefit you during your pregnancy. “Music aids relaxation and the production of endorphins. And, relaxed mother means a relaxed baby.”

2. Babies need to be bathed every day – false

Any mom who has picked bits of butternut out of her baby’s hair knows that infants will probably need a wash after eating. But, did you know babies can actually skip a daily bath until they become mobile? “Too frequent washing can cause the skin to become dry. So, rather clean the parts that are likely to become dirty, such as the neck where milk can collect in the folds,” Pillay says.

3. The food you eat while breast-feeding affects your baby – true

This is one of those baby myths that has been perpetuated. For good reason: it is true. Pillay notes that there are three main food substances that breast-feeding mothers should avoid or use in moderation: alcohol, caffeine and fish containing mercury. “It takes two to three hours for your breast-milk to clear of a certain food, so you can always ‘pump and dump’,” she says. When it comes to caffeine, it’s best to limit your intake to two or three cups of coffee or cola per day or you and your baby could become agitated and battle to sleep.

Pillay says seafood contains mercury, and those sources which are known to contain high levels, such as mackerel and swordfish, should not be in your diet. “But don’t cut out fish altogether, as it’s a quality protein that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and therefore ideal for replacing the calcium you lose through nursing and it ensures you produce nutritious milk.” Eat fish with mid-range mercury levels such as tuna, in moderation.

It’s not necessary to give spicy food the cold shoulder. The more flavours you introduce your baby to through your milk, the more easily they will take to eating solids.

4. Excessive use of a dummy will make your baby’s teeth push forward – true

Dummies could be useful when it comes to soothing a fretful infant; however, it is possible to overuse them. “Try to limit the number of hours that your child uses a dummy, and avoid using it past the age of four,” Pillay advises.

5. You will spoil a baby if you pick them up too much – false

There is no evidence to suggest that you can “train” your baby to stop crying by refusing to pick them up, says Pillay, but there is plenty showing that holding a crying baby makes them feel secure and a secure baby grows into a confident child. “The more you interact with your baby, the better their self-esteem,” she states.

Lisa Witepski

Find more debunked common myths here.