Will You Bathe Your Newborn in Guinness?
Superstitions and traditional old wives' tales commonly surround new babies. Are you following these baby myths or refuse to believe these superstitions?
Right from your pregnancy days you have had everyone from your grandmother, to your husband’s aunt, to your friendly neighbour offer you advice on your soon-to-be mum status – do this, don’t do that, etc, etc.
Now that you’ve welcomed your newborn home, that chipping in with the friendly advice does not seem to have stopped, right?
We are sure you are completely overwhelmed by the advice about newborns being directed at you – ranging from regulating feeding and sleeping to diaper choices, how to make sure the baby has great skin to keep her nightmares at bay.
Almost all new mums seem to not be quite sure what to make of most of this advice, but especially the one that sounds more like an old wives tale – do any of them have any merit or are they all pure myth and superstition.
To help you out, we spoke to parents who have been bombarded with such theories by well-meaning folks. What is truth and what is fiction we asked them. Here is what they shared with us.
1. Bathe your baby in Guinness Stout so she has smooth skin
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. One of them is Jujube Yip, who 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. 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.
We unearthed an article published in 1957 by the Straits Times, which addresses this particularly curious bathing theory. According to the article, this was a common practice among Cantonese as “it is believed that the baby’s skin absorbs the stout and thus it becomes strong.” The belief continues till day.
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
Yes, you read it right. We were shocked to learn this one too. However, apparently the baby’s urine is said to cleanse 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 mum 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.”
Praise should also be supposedly 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…
…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 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.
Of 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 service for this, too!
These days, shaving baby’s head is linked to having a head full of hair, as it is thought that the new hair will grow back thicker and darker.
Jessica Tan takes all of this in stride: “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?
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!”
This notion might have stemmed from olden days when people had large broods and were not able to afford new clothes for every new child.
We say: Many Singaporeans do practice getting hand-me-downs from friends because they believe a little of this and also because it’s simply practical and economical, given how fast babies outgrow their clothes.
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 we know that 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!
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 baby is developmentally ready for solids at around 6 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 3-year old daughter!
How she managed to skilfully trim those lashes is a mystery and marvel.
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. Even if both parents do not have long lashes, your child might still be endowed with them, because of your predecessors.
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 baby’s clothes because baby 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? Well, monkeying around is not welcomed, so anything to keep baby still gets a thumbs up from us!
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. Truth be told, her fingernails seemed so tiny, I lacked the courage to even trim them. Honest. So what’s next? Her dad became the appointed manicurist in the family from then.
For Regina Posadas, she 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.”
Some of us were told that cutting of nails must never be done at night.
Michelle Desiree Lim rationalises what she was advised, “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, be very very careful!
11. Your next child will be a boy if you…
Spot 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?
Parents, what do you think of these traditional old wives’ tales and superstitions that have been passed across generations? Did you follow any of them for your newborn or brushed them aside?