In our parents’ time, breastfeeding was not encouraged. In fact, new moms were given injections to make them lose their milk supply.
While I was pregnant, my mom would repeatedly try to convince me and my husband that I get the same shot because from her experience, when she tried to nurse my younger sister, she found it to be very painful.
The breast pump available at the time was an awfully ineffective torturous bicycle horn-style pump. I remember playing with it as a child; it squeezed my tummy and would make a giant chikinini! There were no lactation consultants or active breastfeeding groups or information. With women still trying to prove themselves in the workplace then, you were deemed a better parent if you could afford the most expensive formula there was.
We now know that breast milk is THE best source of infant nutrition. This is why even if I wasn’t able to nurse Jack for more than three weeks, I persisted to give him breast milk by pumping instead (to this day! Nine months and counting!)
I am glad that we now have more information, support and equipment that can help mothers continue to nourish their babies with breast milk even after returning to work or recuperating from surgery.
My son Jack’s pediatrician, Dr. Jose Enrique Clemente says, “Breastfeeding is the optimal source of nutrients in infants. It is the best source of nutrition, if available. But if the mother is unable to breastfeed, there are plenty of formulas to consider which contain the proper nutrients needed for growth and development. Breastfeeding advocates may fret at this but I’m sure many of the successful and contented individuals we know may have been formula-fed and developed just as well as their breastfed counterparts.”
Alcohol/caffeine during pregnancy/lactation
Believe it or not, not too long ago, smoking and drinking during pregnancy were completely acceptable. Now we know that tobacco and alcohol can cause prematurity, low birth weight and birth defects.
As for caffeine, there is contrasting information on whether or not it should be allowed during pregnancy and lactation; others conservatively shun it altogether, while others take it in moderation.
According to “Carrying a Little Extra: A Guide to Healthy Pregnancy for the Plus-Size Woman” by Bernstein, Clark and Levine, during pregnancy, a good rule of thumb is to have a maximum of 200mg of caffeine a day. A cup (8 oz) of brewed coffee has about 137mg, instant coffee has 75mg, tea has 36-50mg, cola (8 oz) has 30-45mg, hot chocolate or cocoa has 5mg, dark chocolate (1 oz) has 20mg and milk chocolate (1 oz) has 6mg.
Dr. Clemente says, “For breastfeeding moms, it’s okay to [have it] occasionally and in moderation. Best way is to have a glass of wine or alcohol right after breastfeeding or at least two hours before the next feeding so less alcohol will be transferred to the baby. It’s also best to limit caffeine to one serving a day to avoid fussiness and wakefulness in baby.”
Vitamins/supplements/water for baby
Some may tell you that your baby has to drink extra water. Until their sixth month, breastfed babies don’t need added water at all; formula-fed babies don’t need it either unless the doctor says so.
“Baby Facts” author Dr. Andrew Adesman explains, “Breast is best when possible. Unless your baby develops a medical condition in which your pediatrician recommends introducing other fluids, a breastfed baby shouldn’t be drinking water until he is eating solid food. Mothers of formula-fed babies should check with their pediatrician.”
Breastfed babies are also thought to “need” iron supplements or iron-fortified cereal, but this isn’t always necessary; iron supplements for infants are generally given only if symptoms of iron deficiency anemia manifest.
When Jack had the sniffles, my mom told me to double up his vitamin C. I told her he doesn’t take any vitamins. After a recent respiratory infection, though, the first time he ever got sick, the doctor prescribed an iron supplement for Jack.
Dr. Clemente prescribes vitamins and supplements on a case-to-case basis. “Some babies may not need it,” he explains. “Water is best introduced once solids are started and can be given at mealtimes. It is given earlier specially on formula-fed infants with constipation problems.”
Aceite de manzanilla (chamomile oil) is thought to warm the tummy and aid in relieving gas pain or kabag, and was a staple in our house when I was growing up. I don’t really remember if it helped; I’m just very familiar with its unmistakable smell and how the green goo pools in my belly button and then gets stuck on my shirt.
Dr. Clemente is no advocate of it. “It has no proven benefit. It’s also important to note when it is worrisome and when consult is warranted for abdominal pain, such as when it is accompanied by fever, baby refuses to eat or drink, is extremely inconsolable, and if baby is generally not looking well.”
Mindful of the horrors of colic and the nonstop crying that goes with it, we got those Avent bottles which are purportedly anticolic. We had also tried organic gripe water given by a friend, and it helped calm a caterwauling Jack after a while.
But there was one time he was crying for two hours straight. Dr. Clemente prescribed an antiflatulent. Thankfully, Jack settled down almost immediately and it’s never happened again.
It’s been said that if you have food allergies, your baby will, too. But the reality is that the foods that may cause your allergic reactions may not happen to your baby.
Clarifies Dr. Adesman, “Certain kinds of allergies run in families, but it is not necessarily true that if Mom or Dad is—or isn’t—allergic to something, that their child will follow suit. It’s really just a matter of better education and being in tune to potential triggers.”
However, according to Dr. Clemente, “Infants with family histories of food allergy, asthma or atopy are more prone to eventually have food allergies.”
While his father Jason has no allergies, I’m allergic to stuff from the sea. Jack once had a reaction to his fave food, mango. But after reintroducing it weeks later, he no longer got rashes. He also reacted to egg yolk on the second day (following the four-day wait rule), so I’ll have to wait ’til he turns one to try again.
I’ve also met a new mom who was told that her baby’s allergic to her milk. But Dr. Adesman maintains that babies cannot be allergic to their mothers’ milk. “It’s easy to misinterpret signs like spitting up as a signal there is a problem, but the fact is, it is biologically impossible. Some babies can have allergic reactions to the foods Mom is eating during breastfeeding, including cow’s milk, but, in general, women should feel good about nursing,” he says.
Yet another myth is that sugars make kids “hyper.” But it’s actually the environment (such as a party), not the cake, that makes kids bounce off walls.
Dr. Adesman explains, “This is a myth that is especially hard to squash. All the studies on sugar prove time and again that it does not cause hyperactivity in children. There are good grounds to limit sugar, such as dental reasons, but behavior should not be one.”
Adds Dr. Clemente, “Sugar from juices and desserts are best reserved for special occasions. Too much of these may end up as unnecessary excess calories which could manifest as hyperactivity.”
Mobile infant walkers
It was previously thought that the wheeled andador or mobile walker would help your baby learn to walk quicker.
These are not recommended by Dr. Clemente as they do not help your baby learn to walk at all; plus, they can be unsafe if they allow your child to move too fast. Stationary walkers, such as the Babystep 123 which Jack loves, are much safer.
When we were babies, we were just held in an adult’s arms while traveling. Seatbelts were nonexistent. Today, we should take heed of the advances in motoring and child safety. It’s simply not worth the risk, possibly harming your most precious cargo.
Dr. Clemente says, “While you can’t control reckless drivers, you can ensure your infant’s safety by investing in a car seat and getting them used to it early enough to make it a second nature habit for all. The best seat is one that fits the infant’s size, is correctly installed and is used without fail every time.”
As for other popular myths such as cutting baby’s eyelashes to make them grow back longer and thicker, and saying “puwera usog” after complimenting a baby and applying one’s saliva like a cross on the baby’s skin to guard her from high fever, Dr. Clemente deems these practices ridiculous with no proven benefit.
I think the ‘lawayan’ myth can even make the baby sicker if you allow saliva and possibly unclean hands to be absorbed by your baby’s skin.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of differences in parenting beliefs or standards; there would be many more. But these cover most of the sore points for discussion you may have in the future, or may already have had.
To hold your own, educate yourself. There are many parenting philosophies out there, and before you decide what to subscribe to, be open to all possible alternatives so you can choose what’s truly best for your family.
Should these unsolicited advisors persist, state your position peacefully but decisively. You and your partner must also be united in deflecting such misguided opinions. Recognize the value of their concern but be diplomatic, positive and secure.
Keep in mind, this is YOUR baby! Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into submitting to the unprofessional advice of others just to be agreeable. Your baby’s health and safety is on the line.
In last week’s article, the sentence “My mom advised against guava jelly.” should have read “My mom advised guava jelly.”