May 30, 2016

Dr. Gellner: How many times have you been told, "Don't do that," or your baby will have some horrible problem. We'll tackle a few of those old wives' tales about babies and toddlers in today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kid Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: As a pediatrician, whenever a conversation starts off with, "My grandmother told me," we know there's a good chance that an old wives' tale is the next part of the sentence. Yes, sometimes, we cringe or giggle or roll our eyes. That's because old wives' tales are just that: old. Old knowledge. It's oral tradition dating way back before Dr. Google. But with all our medical knowledge now, why do some people still cling to these stories? Some probably have survived through the ages because they offer comforting advice about the experiences we all share, have little control over and usually worry about, especially when it comes to kids.

The first old wives' tale: wearing shoes will help a baby to walk sooner. Wrong. The opposite is true in this case. Keeping the baby barefoot can actually help to strengthen the foot muscles and help your child learn to walk earlier. For those learning how to be mobile, I like the soft-soled shoes that are kind of like moccasins. They're functional yet fashionable. For those crazy and fast toddlers who are walking and running, they need comfortable shoes that fit well. They shouldn't be too rigid. Don't go out and buy expensive designer shoes either. Your little one will outgrow of those in weeks. Shoes should conform to the shape of the child's feet, but still provide a little extra room for growth.

Next, a walker will help the baby learn to walk sooner. Again, not true. Those babies who are plopped down in a walker actually learn to sit, crawl and walk later than kids who have to learn these skills on their own if they want to get around. More importantly, baby walkers are dangerous. Nearly 14,000 injuries are treated in emergency rooms every year as a result of walkers and 34 children have died since 1973 because of baby walkers. I have seen kids who were in walkers who got too close to the stairs and down will go baby, walker and all. It's usually not a good outcome. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommended a ban on mobile infant walkers in the United States. I tell parents if they want something like this for their baby to keep them entertained and contained, use an ExerSaucer.

Next, "Thumb sucking causes buck teeth." True and false. Thumb sucking often begins before birth and generally continues until age five. If your child stops before the age of four, their teeth should be okay. If they continue after age five, when the gum, jaws and the permanent teeth begin their most significant growth, that's when kids get buck teeth. Usually, elementary school peer pressure helps stop this habit.

Finally, the one I hear most of all, "Teething causes a fever, runny nose and diarrhea." Big false. Teething does not cause any of those. It doesn't cause a fever, sleep problems, diarrhea, diaper rash or lowered resistance to any infection. It probably doesn't cause that much crying either. If your baby develops a fever while teething, the fever is caused by something else. Most likely a virus, as babies who are teething are building up their immune systems and catch any cold that comes their way.

So next time someone tries to offer you some "helpful advice" about your baby, if it seems odd, ask your pediatrician.

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