The world we live in today is very different than it used to be. These changes have affected everything we do, including how we raise our families. "Back in the day, there were things new parents worried about that we no longer have sanitation issues and disease," says Vicki Panaccione, PhD, the Parenting ProfessorTM at the Better Parenting Institute of Melbourne, FL.

Of course, modern parenting isn't stress-free. There are still lots of health concerns to worry about. But today, rigorously researched information and expert advice helps us raise healthy children. Nonetheless, lots of parenting tips from days long past are still making rounds, and not all of it is useful.

Panaccione shares five common health myths from the past, along with some updated information from parenting experts:

Health Myth #1

Don't bathe while pregnant because the dirty water could seep into the mother and cause illness to the unborn baby.  

Updated Parenting Advice: The mucus plug seals the uterus and protects the baby, so it's safe to enjoy taking lots of baths. Just avoid soaking in water that's too hot, since very hot water can cause your blood pressure to drop and put you and your fetus at risk for serious problems. Avoid using the hot tub and sauna while pregnant for the same reason, since these can also be dangerous.

Health Myth #2

Don't breastfeed a toddler while pregnant; it takes nourishment away from the fetus. 

Updated Parenting Advice: If you're having an uncomplicated pregnancy, it's safe to breastfeed your toddler as long as you're eating and drinking well and there aren't any concerns about going into premature labor. But since breastfeeding can trigger contractions, it's important to rule out any risks first with your doctor. Also know that pregnancy can change the taste and consistency of your milk, so your toddler may decide to wean herself anyway.

Health Myth #3

Feed babies solid food real early to help them sleep better. 

Updated Parenting Advice: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby until he's about six months of age. After that, you should add solid foods slowly while continuing to breastfeed, at least until his first birthday. Since every baby develops at his own pace, though, be on the lookout for signs that your little one is ready to try solid food. These include:

  • Holding his head up, and opening his mouth for food
  • Being able to move food from a spoon to the back of his throat to swallow
  • Doubling his birth weight

Your pediatrician can provide further guidelines based on your child's development.

Health Myth #4

Keep your home as quiet as possible to allow your baby to sleep uninterrupted.

Updated Parenting Advice:  Panaccione says that today we recognize the value in going about your normal activities while your baby sleeps. Allowing regular noise levels is essential to help her learn to sleep through normal household noises right from the start. If you insist on total quiet now, your child may have trouble adapting to and sleeping in your normal environment later.

Health Myth #5

Feed a cold, starve a fever. 

Updated Parenting Advice: Many medical experts say that this old-fashioned advice doesn't have much merit. The truth is that people with a fever or a cold may not have a big appetite, but it's fine to eat if you feel hungry—plus, this can ensure that you get adequate nutrients. It's also important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, as well as thin secretions and help with nasal drainage and coughing.

Looking to the Experts

Keep in mind that if you're a new parent or are expecting a baby, you'll need to check out any advice you get from well-meaning people, many of whom may not be up on the latest research. "My suggestion to pregnant and new mommas is to take things with a grain of salt, and thank folks for their good intentions," Panaccione says.

You should also look to the experts to help you weed out fact from fiction, and don't be afraid to bring anything up: "Feel free to ask these questions of your obstetrician or pediatrician," says Marnie J. Cambria, MD, board certified pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist with Summit Medical Group. "We have heard it all, and are ready to share the latest information."

Vicki Panaccione, PhD, and Marnie Cambria, MD, reviewed this article.


Sources: "Pregnant in a Hot Tub." American Pregnancy Association. Web. Jan. 2013. Web. 14 May 2013.

Bishop, Eric. "Myth or Fact: Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever." Duke Medicine Web. Page updated 22 April 2010. Page accessed 16 July 2013.

Cambria, Marnie J., MD, board certified pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, Summit Medical Group, and member of QualityHealth Medical Advisory Board. Email interview 16 May 2013. "Ages & Stages: Switching to Solid Foods." American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Page updated 28 May 2013. Page accessed 16 July 2013. "Ages & Stages: Movement: 8 to 12 Months." American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Page updated 11 May 2013. Page accessed 16 July 2013.

Panaccione, Vicki PhD. The Parenting ProfessorTM, Better Parenting Institute. Email interview. 13 May 2013.