The first time a parent holds their newborn in their arms can be filled with many different emotions. From the amazement of finally holding the person you created to fearing if you have what it takes to care for them, parenthood is a total game-changer.
All parents want to do right by their children, but it can be hard to know what "right" is. While the internet is a wonderful tool for finding information, there is also a lot of bad information out there as well. People without credentials, and without a good understanding of science and medicine are delivering "advice" that isn't just wrong, it can be incredibly dangerous.
Let's look at the evidence and hear what the experts say about some common myths new parents are now being told.
Here is a reality check of 4 facts all new parents should know:
Fact 1: Vaccinations are necessary, safe, and effective.
Because vaccines have been so effective at reducing the rates of infectious diseases, there are some parents who feel like they aren't necessary anymore. Of course, as more parents opt out of vaccinating their children, disease rates are also beginning to climb. This is especially problematic for those with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated (like children fighting cancer) or infants who are too young to receive certain vaccines.
There is a lot of information floating around the internet that is trying to make vaccines sound dangerous and debatable, but they are some of the safest and most effective medical treatments available. Getting vaccinated isn't just good for the person getting the shot, but it's a benefit for everyone around them as well.
Fact 2: Bed sharing is not safe.
There are many times when your baby is asleep in your arms and you feel like you never want to let them go. That longing for closeness is understandable, but it's leading to a dangerous trend: having a baby share a bed with the parents.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that bed sharing is the primary risk factor of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, with nearly 70 percent of all SIDS cases analyzed over an eight-year span associated with co-sleeping. While many people view the biggest risk as parents who might inadvertently roll on top of their children during the night, the pillows, sheets, blankets, and even soft mattress all play a role.
Of course, it's important to keep a baby close and accessible, especially in the first few months when late-night feedings and diaper changes are the most common. But, babies should have their own bed space. The safest way to do this is to have the baby in a bassinet or crib in the parents' room where the adults can keep a watchful eye, but also protect them from getting tangled in sheets or blankets.
Fact 3: Newborns should receive the vitamin K shot.
The anti-vaccination crowd has recently added the vitamin K shot for newborns to its repertoire of things they oppose, despite the evidence (and despite the fact that it's not a vaccine).
Babies are born with low levels of vitamin K, so doctors have regularly been giving injections of the vitamin to newborns for more than 50 years. Vitamin K deficiencies in newborns can lead to internal bleeding of the intestines and brain. Even if an infant is able to survive the ordeal, there could be many long-term consequences from the trauma.
So why are some people against it? A study performed about 25 years ago found a link between the vitamin K shot and leukemia, though no studies have ever been able to replicate those findings. While many people are ignoring the scientific evidence and making up lies that the shot is harmful, the vitamin K shot is staunchly recommended by the CDC, WHO, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Fact 4: Postpartum depression does not make someone a bad parent.
Though we all hope that parenthood will be as wonderful and magical as Hallmark cards make it sound, reality can be much different. Many parents can have the "baby blues" and feel a bit down after having a new baby, but there are some people who experience something much more demanding.
Whether it's because of the changes in hormones, stress from exhaustion, anxiety about being a good parent, or another related cause, postpartum depression (PPD) affects 1 in 7 women. On top of having a lot of negative feelings, those with PPD may even feel the desire to harm themselves or their babies.
Babies can be demanding and yes, it can get really hard. It's OK that you don't view every moment as a Facebook post-worthy miracle. PPD can be incredibly scary, but it's important to remember that help is available and it absolutely does not make someone a bad parent for experiencing it. There's no reason to pretend it doesn't exist or use unproven treatment methods when real help is out there.
If you or someone you know has postpartum depression and is thinking or hurting themselves or the baby, please contact Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773.
The Final Word:
Because we are inundated with advice and anecdotal stories on social media about how to do what's best for our children, it can get really confusing. The truth is, it doesn't have to be. The CDC, WHO, and American Academy of Pediatrics are in agreement on the vast majority of issues concerning the care of infants based on years of scientific evidence, which is a lot more telling than a blog entry written by some random person.
If there are any concerns about what is best for a baby, please contact the child's pediatrician, not Facebook.
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