The myth: You’re spoiling your baby by holding her too much
The truth: “I don’t believe there is such a thing as spoiling your newborn baby by holding her too much,” says Johannesburg-based midwife and clinic sister, Cavim Knight. So much evidence points to the fact that newborn babies need to be held close and touched as much as possible in the first few months, as this helps them to grow and thrive. “Kangaroo care (also known as skin-to-skin contact), where babies are held on their mother or caregiver’s chest for as long as possible, is incredibly beneficial for newborn babies – especially if they’re premature, says Cavim. “This skin-to-skin contact helps to regulate a baby’s body temperature, breathing and heart rate, plus it’s also very soothing for a new baby who is just getting used to the world around her,” she adds.
You might have also heard the myth that your baby is manipulating you by crying every time you put her down, but this is simply not true when it comes to newborns, says Cavim. Children only really start to grasp the concept of cause and effect at around nine or 10 months of age, when separation anxiety kicks in. But until then, cries are a form of communication and not manipulation.
In fact, Cavim has seen first-hand how babywearing has helped older babies to thrive too. “Little ones need to be close to their mother or caregiver to grow emotionally and physically. While in your arms, babies feel the motion and movement of your body, they listen to your speech, they hear your voice and see how you interact with your environment – so almost all their senses are engaged,” explains Cavim. This kind of interaction helps with language and communication later.
From around six to seven months of age, babies can become accustomed to certain sleep props or habits to help them fall asleep, and one of these can be rocking or holding to sleep. If you want to avoid this and help your baby fall asleep independently, consider using other sleep props such as a dummy or soft toy to help your baby feel comfortable and secure when going to sleep.
The myth: Your baby has colic because she has a gassy tummy
The truth: Symptoms linked to colic, such as crying for long periods, are about more than a gassy tummy. “From the moment of birth, your baby will be faced with sensory input from the world, as well as interception – the internal messages from her tummy and the rest of her body. Because she’s immature, all this stimulation will overwhelm her at times and you may be faced with a colicky baby,” explains Meg Faure in her book, Feeding Sense, which she co-wrote with Katherin Megaw and Dr Simon Strachan.
“Although colic classically means abdominal discomfort, it’s not actually due to abdominal issues, nor is it necessarily hunger. Colic is usually the result of overstimulation, which is why it often happens later in the day. It peaks at six weeks and normally disappears by 12 weeks,” explains Meg.
If you’re concerned with your baby’s crying, see your paediatrician who will be able to assess whether there are any underlying medical issues.
The myth: Newborn babies should be on a regular feeding schedule
The truth: “Although many moms I consult with would love to establish a consistent feeding routine from the get-go, it’s almost impossible in the first 12 weeks, and is not ideal,” says Cavim. This is because your baby’s hunger needs change constantly as her tummy grows and this can alter a routine. Growth spurts also mean that moms can cluster feed almost around the clock for 24-48 hours in the first few months, and this again will upset any kind of routine, she explains.
Some general guidelines stipulate that you should be feeding your baby every three to four hours, but Cavim believes that demand feeding in the early days is the best thing to establish a good milk supply and bond with your baby, as feeding is about more than just feeding… it’s also about connection, closeness and comfort. This applies to bottle feeding too.
However, “From about 12 weeks, your little one will be able to slot into a flexible feeding routine as she’s more aware of day and night and her little tummy is more capable of taking in more milk, so she’ll become more efficient at drinking and feeling fuller for longer,” says Cavim. Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy having a flexible routine where your baby’s needs come first.