Debunking the Top 10 Myths About Newborns

As Filipinos, we tend to value our culture and tradition. As much as possible we try to preserve and carry these out until we have our own families. Part of our culture is our strong superstitious beliefs and pregnancy is not exempted from these. Below are the top 10 superstitious beliefs many Filipino moms still practice today. Let’s now separate facts from myths.

1. A gust of wind can make facial expressions permanent (Nahipan ng Hangin)

Some mothers are wary of letting their kids pout or make faces because some midwives believe that a sudden gust of wind can make the facial expressions permanent. Wind might not be the one to blame though. There is a condition called Bell’s Palsy wherein a person’s nerves might be inflamed after a viral infection like influenza. When this happens, parts of your face might freeze to a certain state. Some people experience having a side of their face staying completely still due to brain waves not being able to reach your nerves. This can happen to anyone no matter how young or old they are. This is not just for kids and experiencing Bell’s Palsy once does not mean it won’t happen again as it may recur without proper rest and healthy diet. Ask your doctor about Bell’s Palsy for more info on this condition. 

2. Trimming the baby’s lashes will make it thicker and longer

Old midwives had a belief that a newborn baby’s lashes should be trimmed so that it can grow full and thick. Do think you’ll be doing the same? Before trying it, know that doctors do not recommend it. The length of eye lashes is predetermined by genetics. Eyelashes were meant to protect the eyes so trimming them can leave the eyes vulnerable to infection like conjunctivitis or more commonly known as sore eyes.

3. Babies should only be bathed during mornings

Some people believe that babies should only bathe in the morning to avoid them getting sick from the cold air of the afternoon and night. Truth is, the time really doesn’t make a difference. The important thing is that the parents know to give their baby’s a proper bath without rushing it. It is best that you ask your doctors or pediatricians the proper way to give your baby a bath. 

4. The use of a baby belly binder or ‘bigkis

There is a popular tradition that babies should wear a girdle or a baby belly binder called a “bigkis” so that he will grow up with a sexier figure or a flat abdomen. The “bigkis” or baby belly binder is meant to give the baby a good figure when they grow up but the fact is it can disturb the normal breathing pattern of the baby. And essentially, there is no scientific finding to prove its benefits. With proper exercise, diet, and a balanced lifestyle, your baby can grow up healthy and fit.

5. Pagkaka-usog

There is also a popular idea that a baby can get sick when a stranger greets them and it is called “usog.” To counter this, the stranger can say “pwera-usog” or leave a little saliva on the baby’s foot.  The baby can also wear a tiny red bracelet to protect himself/herself from “usog.” There are no scientific references to prove this myth. More than the “usog”, doctors advise parents to be more cautious on the possibility that a baby might have a viral infection due to contact from strangers. The skin of a newborn baby is so thin that bacteria can easily be absorbed by the baby’s body and get him or her sick. If you want more information on how to protect your baby from viral infections, consult your pediatrician.

6. Babies need to be exposed to the early morning sun

Most parents have heard that babies need sunlight early in the morning for proper growth. There might be some truth to this myth but not for the purpose we all know. Our bodies need Vitamin D for a proper immune system and bone health and Vitamin D is produced by the body when the skin gets exposed to sunlight or by taking vitamins. Having the baby exposed to sunlight in the proper times of the day, between early morning to 9:00 am can be good for him. The sunlight is not yet too harsh during this time of the day as well. 

7. Shaving or cutting off the hair of a newborn baby will make it grow thicker

This is an interesting myth from old midwives. They say that when you shave the head of a new born baby, it can result to fuller hair for the baby when he grows up. When the baby grows up and develops disorders like a scalp infection, alopecia or thyroid problems, hair loss may be a side effect. Shaving the baby’s hair won’t have anything to do with it. It might even be bad for the baby, causing infection or rashes from the shaving.

8. Babies shouldn’t travel before they are baptized (Christian belief)

Some religious moms believe they can’t travel with their baby until their baby has been baptized. Travelling with a new born baby can be very nerve wrecking but as long as you have the proper safety gears for your baby and you are prepared for the trip, travelling with your baby before baptism should be fine. For tips on how to safely travel with your baby, you can read our article Summer Trips and Safety Measures for New Moms.

9. Massaging the baby’s legs will lessen the chances of him/her being bow-legged

Old midwives used to have an old massage technique they apply on new born babies so they will not be bow-legged. They believe massaging the legs of the baby straight can change the form of the bones of the baby early on. In reality, it is normal for babies to appear bow-legged in his or her first days. Doctors call it physiologic genu varum but the baby’s legs will slowly straighten up come his 18th month onwards. There is nothing wrong with massaging your baby. It can even strengthen the bond between mother and child but make sure to be gentle because your baby’s bones are still weak at this stage.

10. Allowing babies to cry-out strengthens their lungs

There is a belief that children should be allowed to cry out while their young to strengthen their lungs. Though crying can be normal for babies, it is also their way of communicating their needs. This can mean different things such as hunger, discomfort, or even pain. It is still best to check and help them feel better. If it seems like it is something you could not address, feel free to contact your doctor for extra help.

Myths are part of our culture as Filipinos. They can be very interesting and sometimes may have a good reason behind them. But for anything involving your precious baby, it is still best to separate facts from myths.  

Sources:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/bells_palsy.html
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bells-palsy/DS00168
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/conjunctivitis/hic_conjunctivitis.aspx
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00041
http://www.aor.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/The-Role-of-Vitamin-D-in-Immunity.pdf
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/12/infants-need-their-d/
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hair-loss/DS00278/DSECTION=causes
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00230
http://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/baby-massage
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00037