My mother and grandmother were very big in the advice department when it came to the way I took care of my children. I was not quite 20 when I had my first baby, so I was perhaps less self-confident about my abilities regarding raising children than other mothers. I took their advice, then, along with what I had heard and seen on television and in movies about how to care for youngsters. Now, however, I have learned that most of those ideas were old wives tales, some of which did more harm than good.
One of the very first old wives tales about raising children I learned about was taking care of a sick baby. My grandmother was very concerned about my son getting chilled, particularly when he was ill, so I wrapped him warmly in a blanket nearly all the time when he was a newborn. When he got a fever, I wrapped him up in the July heat and headed to the doctor’s office. The doctor immediately unwrapped the baby and explained that using a blanket like that would hold the heat in. Letting his skin breathe assisted in the reduction of the fever. One old wives tale disproven.
The doctor told me to avoid another old wives tale. I was under the impression that the household should be quiet while the baby was sleeping. Loud noises would wake him, of course, so we needed to keep our voices down, try to prevent the phone and the doorbell from ringing, and keep the television or stereo on minimum. The doctor pointed out that if the baby were always sleeping in a quiet house, he would never get used to sleeping through the noise. After that, we kept a normal noise level as our son napped, and he slept very well. (In fact, we may have conditioned him too well; as a teenager, the tornado siren in town couldn’t wake him.) That old wives tale was most definitely not true.
Another pearl of wisdom came from my mother. She strongly suggested I start my son on solid foods as early as possible, telling me that it would help him sleep through the night better. I figured she knew more about raising children than I, so I started him on rice cereal at about 3 months. Little did I know that this was also an old wives tale. Experts today say that feeding babies solid foods, especially grains, at this early age contributes to allergies to such foods later. It is recommended to wait until at least 6 months of age before introducing solids foods. Sure enough, although my son doesn’t have a big problem with allergies, my daughter, who was fed on the same schedule, has to have a very restricted diet due to allergies. Another old wives tale disproven.
As my son grew to a toddler, the old wives tales kept coming. I was led to believe that an afternoon nap was a must for a child at least until he went to kindergarten. Without the nap, toddlers would become overtired, and that was unhealthy. My son disagreed. As soon as he hit 3 years old, he decided he didn’t need a nap, and nothing I did could convince him otherwise. Yet, he seemed to sleep just fine during the night and had no particular difficulties during the afternoon. He has grown to a rather well-adjusted young man, so I think I did alright raising my children with regard to this old wives tale.
Old wives tale are interesting, but parents should remember that such rules are for . . . well, old wives. Raising children can be challenging, and advice from mothers and grandmothers and the like can be just as helpful as that from doctors and other experts, but logic should always prevail.