The old-fashioned baby advice you need to ignore

Babies do not need to be burped.
Babies do not need to be burped. Photo: Shutterstock

New parents need to trust their own intuition when listening to the barrage of bad advice thrown at them after having a baby, says parenting expert Dr Howard Chilton.

Advice like: "Just let them cry it out" or "you have to burp them after every feed" or "you shouldn't eat spicy food when you're breastfeeding".

"Little babies are advice magnets. Everyone has an opinion," Dr Chilton said.

Dr Chilton, who is speaking at the Essential Baby & Toddler Show in Sydney in September, has been a neonatologist for over 35 years. The dad of two girls, and now a grandad, has also written a number of books, including Baby on Board and Your Cherished Baby.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that newborns are in control of their behaviour.

"Parents are lead to believe that they can manipulate their baby's life if they are disciplined enough," he said.

"And if managed in the correct way they don't have to interrupt your lifestyle."

Dr Chilton said this was a "very old-fashioned attitude" which lead to much misguided advice.

"We have to let parents know that how they treat their baby is how they'd treat their foetus - continuous care, continuous food and they cannot manipulate you. They're just trying to survive," he said.

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"Anything implying otherwise, is wrong. It's that simple."

One such piece of advice was for parents to let their newborn "cry it out".

"Don't do it," he said.

"What we have is a baby without an off switch, not enough wired brain cells, who can't understand that he/she is not in enormous danger.

"Leaving babies to cry, in control crying, is graduated neglect.

"Human babies feels like their mother has abandoned them, so if they cry and cry and there's no response, they will silence because that keeps them safe from predators.

"However, during that time they feel abandoned."

He also said there was much confusion about feeding and tummy problems.

"Everyone thinks babies suffer from feeding related problems, wind and tummy issues, but it's very unusual that they have gut problems," he says.

"They're simply making an adjustment to life outside the womb. They really have a lot of work to do to adapt and that takes them a little time and while they're adjusting they can become stressed.

"And when feeling stressed they cry, and look like they have tummy aches. They also suck more to calm themselves and then they may reflux or vomit.

"What they need is to be supported as they adapt to their new environment."

He said babies do not need to be burped.

"Everyone thinks they 'suffer from wind'," he said.

"There's no evidence of that. Babies do not need to be burped – it's all part of the mythology that they have troubles of the gut.

"Hold them close, pat them at your heart rate and replicate life in the womb. It's nothing to do with burping."

And he says women do not have to give up eating spicy food when they're breastfeeding. That's also a myth.

"Breastfeeding mums should eat a normal, healthy, tasty, spicy diet – that's what babies' love.

"The way people learn a good diet is to learn from their mothers' taste preferences.

"The more varied and interesting your diet, the more varied and interesting your child will be with their food."

Dr Chilton said parents should remember that they don't need to be perfect and that while listening to advice can at times be helpful, it can also be confusing. So, the best thing was to trust your own intuition and seek the support of someone you trust.

"Babies are really resilient," he said.

"You can't damage a baby by making mistakes.

"Very quickly you become the expert on your own baby. Do what you feel is right."

Dr Howard Chilton's top tips for babies:

1) There are no rules (but everybody wants you to do it THEIR way)

2) Your baby is different from all other babies. The best tools to use are 'trial and error' and 'common sense'.

3) Your baby is not an independent human. He/she is a foetus on the outside: treat him/her as such.

4) Babies are tough little cookies. (No shaking though).

5) Breastfed babies can't be overfed. Formula fed can be – if you constantly override their natural appetite.

6) Nobody needs burping.

7) Stop worrying, they change frequently. Especially regarding sleep.

8) Dr Google (and some Facebook groups) are dangerous to your peace of mind.

9) Love, food, warmth and protection are all they need. 

10) If you hear something about babies that implies that "if you don't do 'x', terrible things will happen": It's not true.

The Essential Baby & Toddler Show, presented by Blackmores, will be held at the ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour, from Friday, September 22 until Sunday, September 24 2017. Dr Howard Chilton will be on the Bio-Oil Seminar Stage at 11.40am each day.