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What should you believe? We’re separating fact from fiction.
We’ve all heard some of the common folklore surrounding pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. While those “old wives’ tales” are fun to talk about, they are not always based on fact. That’s why we rounded up 10 popular beliefs about new-motherhood and the research-based answers on what’s actually real, what’s not and what you should just plain ignore.
1. Baby’s heart rate during pregnancy indicates its sex.
So many fun old wives’ tales about predicting a baby’s gender! One that seems based on science is the belief that baby girls have faster heart rates than baby boys: that is, a heartbeat over 140 beats per minute (bpm) means you’re having a girl, while under 140 bpm indicates you’re having a boy. (You’re supposed to wait until after the first trimester, as many baby boys will have a higher heart rate early on.) While one 1993 study proved this method could predict the sex accurately for 91 percent of boys and 74 percent of girls, later studies disagree.
2. Heartburn while pregnant? Your baby will have a lot of hair.
Surprisingly, there’s some truth to this old wives’ tale! A small study from Johns Hopkins Medicine found an association between the severity of a mother’s heartburn and the amount of hair her newborn has. Pregnant women who reported moderate or severe heartburn had babies with an average to above-average amount of hair, while those who did not experience heartburn had babies with less than average or no hair. Why would this be? While heartburn itself doesn’t cause a baby to have more hair at birth, increased levels of estrogen and progesterone—the hormones that relax the esophageal sphincter, leading to heartburn—could also contribute to fetal hair growth.
3. A full moon can put you into labor.
We like to blame the moon’s phases for weird happenings, personality and behavior changes, good luck, and even babies deciding to be born. Culturally, many tie the changing phases of the moon to a woman’s menstrual cycle, and anecdotally, doctors and nurses note an uptick in births during a full moon. However, while the moon can affect the ocean’s tide, it doesn’t cause moms to go into labor. What could have an effect? Changing barometric pressure before a storm—though it’s pretty hard to directly track weather-related events, so research here is inconclusive.
4. First babies are usually late.
The answer here is… maybe. Based on the data available, first babies are on average born slightly later than subsequent babies, but only by about 16 hours. There are so many factors that contribute (or possibly contribute) to when a woman gives birth. And while due dates are most accurate when based off of a woman’s last menstrual period and early ultrasound measurements, that date is only an estimate. So, if you’re nearing your due date, know that there’s no way to predict exactly when you’ll go into labor. Your baby’s birthday is coming soon!
5. Every mom poops during delivery.
OK, it doesn’t happen to every mom, but we’ll give it to you straight: there’s a good chance you’ll poop while pushing. Just know it’s no big deal for doctors and nurses—they’ve seen it all and will quickly clean it up—so you’ll likely not even know it happened. Look, it’s totally normal to be a little nervous about delivery. Take it one step at a time, talk through things with your doctor and trust your body. The best part of giving birth? Meeting your baby!
6. Skin-to-skin contact after birth is beneficial for breastfeeding.
Yes! That first hour after birth is often referred to as “the golden hour”—and for good reason. During this time, a mom is encouraged to place her baby unclothed or in only a diaper on her bare chest. Early skin-to-skin contact causes a release of oxytocin and provides unrestricted access to your breasts, which is key for milk stimulation, production and transfer. Skin-to-skin care is one of the most effective methods for promoting exclusive breastfeeding. We can mark this breastfeeding old wives’ tale as true.
7. Breastfeeding comes naturally.
This common misconception can cause a lot of frustration for new moms. While breastfeeding is certainly a natural act, it’s not always easy at the start. From getting a good latch to finding the best position to overcoming challenges, there is a lot to learn! Your best bet is to educate yourself, connect with an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and have confidence that you’ll be able to navigate any ups and downs on your breastfeeding journey.
8. Eating oatmeal will increase your milk supply.
Sorry, there’s no scientific evidence that oatmeal boosts milk production. But some moms swear it helps their milk supply, so it wouldn’t hurt to eat a bowl and see if it makes a difference in the amount you pump. If anything, you’ll have a healthy, comforting breakfast to start your day. Why not throw in some fresh fruit for good measure while you’re at it?
9. Drink beer (or milk) to make more milk.
While a healthy diet and hydration are important for new moms, what you drink doesn’t have much of an effect on your milk production. Despite the old wives’ tale, there’s no research-based connection between drinking cows’ milk and making breast milk. In fact, if your baby has an allergy or intolerance to dairy, drinking milk may cause an uncomfortable reaction. And while a polysaccharide in the barley used to make beer can stimulate prolactin, a hormone that contributes to milk production, the alcohol may have the opposite effect on your supply. If you’re looking to boost your milk supply, the tried-and-true way to do it is to nurse or pump more often.
10. You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding.
Mom, trust us here: this breastfeeding old wives’ tale is not true. Yes, breastfeeding can delay menstruation, and if you’re exclusively breastfeeding around the clock, your baby is under six months old and you haven’t had a period (also known as lactational amenorrhea method), your likelihood of getting pregnant is low. But a lot of factors can affect your fertility, plus you will ovulate before your first postpartum period and it’s hard to know when that’s happening. The bottom line: you can get pregnant while breastfeeding. If you’re not ready for another little one, be sure to talk to your doctor about your options for birth control.
When it comes to pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding old wives’ tales, we can’t always take them as truth. As with anything, be sure to consult credible resources. Turn to the experts, do your research and don’t forget to trust your gut. You know yourself and your baby best. When in doubt, get in touch with our team. We’re here to help you sort out fact from fiction and connect you with trusted, knowledgeable breastfeeding experts.