New Parent Mistakes: How Bad Are They Really?
From letting them sleep with a bottle to use a pacifier, to vaccines and sleeping on her stomach, experts weigh in on your common parenting issues.
Photo courtesy of © istockphoto.com / FamVeld
As a parent, you quickly learn some rules are meant to be broken. Or maybe not broken exactly, but you know, baby needs to sleep, mama needs some quiet. We’re not judging (we’ve all been there), but sometimes you find yourself wondering: How bad is it? We spoke to Watchung-based pediatrician Edward Kulich, MD (celebritypediatrics.com) and Mario Ramos, DMD (pediatricdentistryofmp.com) a Midland Park-based dentist and national spokesperson for the American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD), to find out.
I know vaccinations are important—but how bad is it to put my child on a delayed schedule?
“My feeling is [don’t] do it,” says Dr. Kulich. “There’s just no benefit to being on a delayed schedule. You’re imparting risk for no reward,” citing the fact that vaccinations are proven both safe and effective at preventing disease. Kulich posited this scenario: What if you only put your kids in a car seat a third of the time? If you don’t get into an accident, they’ll be fine, but you’re taking a gamble. You may win, but you may not always be so lucky. Still, something is better than nothing, “I’d rather have a kid partially vaccinated than not at all. But you do impart a higher risk,” says Kulich.
My baby refuses to sleep on her back—but sleeps like, well, a baby on her stomach. Is she in danger?
“It depends on how young [she] is,” says Kulich. “Babies do sleep better on their stomachs, but there’s definitely an increased risk of SIDS.” Sudden infant death syndrome peaks between ages one to seven months, and doesn’t drop to zero until baby is one year old. We know it’s tempting to do whatever works; SIDS can strike silently over the course of four to five minutes, says Kulich. Scary. So always put your baby to bed on her back, but don’t freak if she starts flipping over. Somewhere between four and seven months, she’ll naturally begin choosing her favorite position. “And there’s only so much you can do,” says Kulich.
I’ve read my 12-month-old should be using a sippy cup—but she’s still clinging to her bottle for dear life. How bad is it?
Not very. “We encourage parents to discontinue bottles by 18 months, so 12 months is actually a good time to start the transition. What’s more, “it’s what’s in the bottle” that counts, says Ramos. Water is best, of course, but milk is fine for daytime sipping. Juices and other sugary drinks should be avoided—sippy or no sippy.
She’s three and won’t give up her pacifier. Do I have to make her stop? What about thumb sucking?
Here’s the deal with non-nutritive sucking habits (aka comfort sucking): “We know from studies that prior to age two, kids won’t have major oral issues. But by age three you’ll start to see over jets (bucked teeth) and open bites caused by pacifiers, thumbs and fingers basically acting like orthodontic appliances,” says Ramos. After age four, you may see crooked teeth, speech problems, palate narrowing and other permanent changes requiring serious orthodontic and therapeutic intervention. So yes, it can be bad. What should you do? According to Kulich, going cold turkey is the best way to ditch the pacifier, while a spritz of lemon juice can help thumb and finger suckers quit. Fair warning: neither will be particularly happy about it.
I let him fall asleep with his bottle because he seems so happy. Is this awful?
It’s not great, but, it depends on what’s in the bottle. “Milk is not bad for teeth—what IS bad is when milk pools in the mouth overnight,” says Ramos. Milk has lactose (a natural sugar) that can cause bottle cavities, leading to early extractions and potentially a lifetime of problems fighting decay. “The problem is most kids don’t want to suck on water all night,” says Ramos, and water is the only acceptable sipping drink. Which is just as well, since overnight bottle drinking isn’t a great solution for sleeping soundly, says Kulich, author of The Best Baby Sleep Book. Using bottles to help kids get comfortable in the crib is acceptable, he says, but there should always be an end point.
My best friend feeds her baby food made from scratch (organic, natch). Mine lives on jarred purees and baby mum mums. What’s the damage?
“Either way is fine,” says Kulich. “If it makes you feel better, do it. But there’s no proven health advantage.” Common sense may tell you whole and homemade are better than processed anything, but there aren’t studies that validate any real health benefits. Of course, we’re talking about homemade versus jarred peas—not organic pureed chicken versus mashed McNuggets.
I swore we’d never let our toddler near a screen. Now, she knows her way around my iPhone better than I do. Can’t fight the future, right?
How bad is a tech-savvy toddler? “I’ll tell you in 20 years when the studies come out,” quips Kulich, pointing out the long-term implications are unknown since this is the first generation that’s truly digitally native. Unlike television, touchscreen tech is interactive and theoretically has the potential to both educate and enhance eye-hand coordination. But don’t order that Harvard onesie just yet. “We’ll probably have issues we didn’t anticipate that we’re going to have to address. But I don’t think it’ll add any benefits,” says Kulich.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests limiting TV time for children older than 15 to 18 months since kids need real-world interaction and exploration for proper social, motor and cognitive development—something you just can’t get from a show or app. And be honest: How many times have you checked your phone since you started reading this article? Uh huh. Pretty bad.