As an expecting mum-to-be, you will receive a lot of advice from your doctor, parents, grandparents, friends, extended family, and sometimes even random people. While we suggest you follow your doctor’s advice for most things related to having a baby, it’s when the family and friends get involved that you have some really weird advice on offer.
This holds true even after the delivery when your newborn is home and apart from the usual sanitisation and diaper check, your grandmother suddenly wants to ward off spirits that could harm the baby. Yes, superstitions are often passed along with every generation. Do any of them have any merit or are they all pure myth and superstition?
Believe us, old wives tale and newborn superstitions are aplenty in Singapore. While some are funny and obnoxious, there are a few which are scary, while the rest are just plain bizarre. And to make sure that you know about them, we spoke to parents who have been bombarded with such theories by “well-meaning” folks.
So, expecting mums or mother to a newborn, get ready to hear these myths or superstitions from at least one person in your social circle.
1. Bathe Your Baby In Guinness Stout So She Has Smooth Skin
Starting this list of newborn superstitions with one of the oldest ones around. This particular piece of advice has been circulating around for quite a bit and some mothers are just stupefied by the thought of bathing their little one in a tub full of frothy black stout. Mother to a newborn, Jujube Yip absolutely refused to try it on her newborn.
Some folks suggest bringing out that can of dark ale for this stout spa bath for babies suffering from eczema or other skin conditions when all those creams and lotions fail to work. But it does not seem to be all that effective. Mummy Valeriebel Alvin heard this tip from her friend whose own baby had been given a beer bath. But Valeriebel’s poor baby reacted negatively to the alcohol and broke out in rashes.
Fancy a stout bath for softer skin, my baby? Source: Pinterest
We unearthed an article published in 1957 by the Straits Times, which addresses this particularly curious bathing theory. The article states that this was a common practice among Cantonese as it was believed that the baby’s skin absorbs the stout and thus it becomes strong. This belief continues to date.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Hakka and Cantonese believe that giving a baby its first bath in stout gives it a good start in life. So should you try it on your baby? We say leave the stout drinking strictly to the adults!
2. Clean Your Baby’s Tongue With… Her Urine
We were shocked to learn this one too. However, apparently, the baby’s urine is said to clean her tongue of those milk remnants, shared a shocked mum Elaine Chua.
This belief has been around for a while, but thankfully mums seem to be rejecting it. Many older folks kept urging new mother Mei Jiao to do the same to her little one. Disgusted by the very idea of it, she put her foot down and refused. And we are glad that she did.
Findings are reinforcing the notion that urine isn’t sterile and that using it as an emergency salve for wounds or animal bites, has become an urban legend. Studies strongly advised against using urine as a salve. Best to leave pee where it belongs – in the toilet!
However, remember, if your new baby has oral thrush, the best way is to treat it accordingly.
3. Praise Your Baby And The Opposite Will Happen
When older folk tell you not to praise your baby, especially in front of him or her, or the opposite will happen, they are talking about the principle of the jinx.
Mummy Yen Ho shares that we are not supposed to say things like “Baby J is so good! Slept throughout the night,” or “Can drink so much milk in less than five mins.”
The superstition also suggests that praise should be spared when it comes to the baby’s health or looks.
Another mum, Deborah Su shares, “Some older generation, when they will visit mum and baby in the hospital, they’ll say that the baby is ugly, etc.”
Logic has no place here, but some people comply with the “non-praising” anyway, if anything, it is safer to err on the side of caution even if it means being “pantang” (superstitious).
4. Never Let Your Baby Look In The Mirror…
“Is that me in the mirror, mama??”
…Or his soul will be stolen away.
This old belief has survived for centuries, often woven into stories of mystical creatures and spirits that are a huge part of antiquated literature and word of mouth traditional tales. But today mirrors are a dime a dozen, so theoretically it is pretty hard to keep your baby from peeking into one.
Mummy Christynn Tan says she continues to let her child look in the mirror even when they’re at home since the baby is happy to look at the full-length mirror that they have. She reasons, “Don’t early developmental toys for babies come with mirrors or reflective surfaces too?”
What do we say? Let your baby discover the mirror and watch as he slowly discovers that his reflection is not another person but him!
5. Shave Your Baby’s Head Exactly When He Turns One Month Old
And not even a day before!
Shaving the hair was traditionally a rite of passage to “celebrate” the birth of an heir in the family, to symbolise new beginnings. The shaven hair is meant to be kept for good luck and protection, by bundling it up with red string.
Off late, service providers get creative and offer new parents the option of turning the shaven hair into the business end of a calligraphy brush or keeping it in an ink seal, which bears your baby’s Chinese name. There are home services for this too.
A modern-day superstition suggests that shaving a baby’s head will lead to the new hair growing back thicker and darker.
Jessica Tan takes all of this in stride and says, “I haven’t touched a hair on my boy’s head until now. His hair is so gloriously soft… I don’t think I can bear to cut it!”
6. No New Clothes For Your New Baby, Or Else…
…she will be a difficult child. Yup, that’s correct. How amazing is that?
Did you keep your newborn’s new threads aside and have him wear hand-me-downs only?
When her little one was born, Stephanie Ruth too was given this piece of advice but did not take heed of it:
“Majority of my baby’s clothes are new because most of my friends/relatives who had babies just before me or at the same time had boys and nobody had much to hand down. My baby is a very high needs baby, in general, but I wouldn’t attribute it to this wear new/old clothes hearsay. If the old folks say it’s because of the new clothes my son had when he was a newborn, I’d be laughing my teeth off!”
These newborn superstitions might have stemmed from the olden days when people had large broods and were not able to afford new clothes for every new child.
Many Singaporean parents do practice getting hand-me-downs from friends because it’s simply practical and economical, considering babies outgrow their clothes quickly. We’d say do it but for the right reasons.
7. Baby Is Frightened, Hence The Green Poop!
Apparently, they say that green poop is a manifestation of fear, more so when the child is young.
But parents are already well versed in the ultimate guide to 50 shades of poop? A newborn’s poop starts black (due to meconium) and transitions to green/yellow/orange/brown subsequently. Talk about a poop spectrum worthy of its own Pantone chart!
50 shades of poop? You bet! Source: parents.com
For Stephanie Ruth, the elders kept beckoning her to feed her new baby with Chinese medicine to help calm the little one. But mummy probably knows better. The green poop is due to the foremilk/hindmilk imbalance – which is pretty common. And of course, nothing else but milk for the newborn, at least until the baby is ready for solids at around six months old.
Or, as Michelle Lim retorts, “Feed her with a scoop of pearl powder. That seems to cure everything!”
8. Trim Your Baby’s Lashes When She Turns One Month, For Longer And Fuller Lashes
One of my friends actually swears by this because it proved to be true for her three-year-old daughter.
How did she manage to skilfully trim those lashes is a mystery and a marvel.
Will trimming those baby lashes make them fuller and longer?
But it’s not like everyone got lucky with this. Hayashi Hakida’s sister reveals that her auntie used to trim her sister’s lashes, but as an adult, her lashes are unfortunately miserably short — so the trimming obviously didn’t work for her.
If you are planning to trim your baby’s lashes, please proceed with caution, caution, caution!
According to the Consumer Health Digest which concludes that “eyelash trimming is merely a myth”, mostly because genetics play a large role. It doesn’t matter if either of the parents did not have long eyelashes, the baby could still be well endowed with them.
9. No Monkey Prints On Your Baby’s Clothes
Your baby is what he wears apparently! Nat Ctf points out that monkeys are a big no-no when it comes to those cute motifs on the baby’s clothes because he will purportedly be imbued with monkeys’ negative traits.
That said, you probably heard that the zoo was a no-go, too, during pregnancy. Oh, and skip the crabs otherwise your baby will want to always be moving around and get out of control.
About those monkeys? Quit monkeying around. Babies will be the naughty ones, you’ve had your chance.
Did you trim your newborn’s nails before she turned one month old or do you believe in newborn superstitions
10. Don’t Cut Your Newborn’s Nails Until She Turns One Month Old
Those were the exact words of our confinement nanny!
And our little baby was donning mittens 24/7 for fear of her scratching herself. In all honesty, her fingernails seemed so tiny that I lacked the courage to even trim them. So what’s next? Her dad became the appointed manicurist in the family from then.
Regina Posadas was told to not cut her daughter’s nails until she turned one.
“I don’t believe that. I cut my daughter’s nails during our first week at home because they were long and I didn’t want her to scratch/hurt herself.”
And let’s not forget the age-old superstition of not cutting nails at night.
Michelle Desiree Lim rationalises the superstition with, “Not cutting nails at night would be because they are afraid we can’t see well and if we accidentally hurt the baby and there are no doctors at night, it would be panic for all.
My mum used to scare me when I was little, that if I cut my nails at night, Pontianak will come and catch me!”
Our take: Speak to your baby’s doc about the right time to cut the nails if you must. But whenever you do decide to trim them, keep the lights on!
11. Your Next Child Will Be A Boy If You…
Compared to other newborn superstitions, this one is just plain bizarre. Spot an odd number of lines at the folds of your newborn’s knees! Even numbers and it’s a girl, odd numbers and it’s a boy!
Better yet, let your baby girl wear boy’s clothes so your next child will be a boy (yes, really!)
Michelle Lim shrugs these bits of advice. According to her, reading the number of lines at the folds has been something familiar across generations but has garnered mixed “results” generally.
Do you think this is true for you? Are you going to be counting the lines at the folds?
Caring for your newborn may be challenging, more so with myths and superstitions abound. Do what you think is right and the best for your baby and enjoy your new chapter!
Parents, what do you think of these traditional old wives’ tales and newborn superstitions that have been passed across generations? Did you follow any of them for your newborn or brushed them aside?
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