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10 Mother Adages: The Truth Behind Common Mom Wisdom

Does mother really know best?

Published on: May 04, 2012

Mother knows bestMom always knows best, right? Or does she?
From her can't-fail recipe for chocolate chip cookies to how best to clean and dress a scraped knee with as few tears as possible, Mom is the family's Oracle of Everything.

But even experts get it wrong sometimes — and commonly passed-on beliefs can be the hardest myths to bust. Ever wondered if chicken soup really does do wonders for colds or if reading in dim light can actually hurt your eyes? In honor of Mother’s Day, we look at some adages from Mother Knows Best? The Truth About Mom’s Well-Meaning (But Not Always Accurate) Advice to shed light on mom’s age-old cautionary tales. It’s time to debunk — or verify — her received wisdom.

Read on for the hairy truth about shaving...

Needs a close shaveShaving makes your hair grow back thicker.
Your mom probably told you to hold off getting that razor out for this very reason, back when you were itching to shave as a preteen. Dermatologists Arnold Klein and James Sternberg (coauthors of The Skin Book) say that this is just a big ol’ myth. Your hair won’t be darker and thicker or grow faster if you shave it. Oh, and that bit about shaving against the grain? Won’t make hair grow back thicker either, but it will prevent those painful ingrown hairs so it’s a good idea. Regardless, shave away!

Verdict: Myth

 Does reading in dim light "ruin" your eyes?

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Don't be left in the darkDon’t read in dim light — you’ll ruin your eyes!
Did Mom ever charge into your room at twilight, insisting you turn on the light before you read another word of Judy Bloom because you were ruining your eyesight? It’s just not true. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that reading in dim light is a lot like taking a photo in dim light: More difficult to see, but will cause no harm. Well, your eyes are safe at least. You may, however, get a headache if you’re straining to see, so use more light if necessary, and take a break every 20 minutes or so. (Warmer weather's coming! Get great summer reading tips for kids!)

Verdict: Myth

 Chicken soup may be good for the soul, but is it the best medicine for a cold?

Chicken soup for the coldChicken soup is the best medicine for a cold.
Moms like to nourish their sick kids with chicken soup, a panacea heralded throughout the ages. If you ever questioned this particular bit of mother wisdom, here’s the deal: Chicken soup may really help colds. No, not because it has magical healing powers. The hot broth, however, hydrates ill children keen on shunning liquids and its delicious taste may lure them to eat, too. That alone should be good enough for keeping it in your cold diet repertoire. Still suspect? Mt. Sinai Medical Center conducted a study indicating hot chicken soup contains a substance that seems to facilitate the process of removing nasal mucus out of your sinuses. This chicken-soup business isn’t fully proven, but the wisdom is pretty solid. Eat up. (Try this kid-friendly recipe for chicken soup!)

Verdict: Truth

Can you really tell if the baby is a boy or girl by how high  the baby is carried?

Boy or girl?If you carry a baby high, it’s a boy. If you carry low, it’s a girl…
It’s loads of fun predicting whether you’re going to have a girl or a boy, and everyone from the Aztecs to modern-day obstetricians have come up with top tips for beating the guessing game. And hey, as a mom, you may feel you “just know!” Truth is, these methods are all faulty. Sonograms and a tech with a practiced eye are the best tools you have for predicting your baby’s gender.

Verdict: Myth

Is it normal for a baby to have a fever when teething?

Teething sweetieWhen a baby is teething, a fever is normal.
Simple answer: A fever is never normal, even in the context of teething. A fever is a sign there’s an infection, plain and simple. Doctors should check out fevers as soon as possible, even more urgently if it’s over 101 degrees. However, drooling, a little appetite loss and sleep problems can be normal symptoms of teething. But don’t worry: Dentists insist teething isn’t as uncomfortable as parents have been led to believe. Use a chilled teething ring to make your baby’s gums feel better, or massage them with a damp gauze pad. Learn more tips for how to soothe your teething baby.

Verdict: Myth

It's good to let a baby "cry it out" sometimes, right?

The crying gameIt’s good for a baby to cry sometimes, so her lungs will get strong and she won’t get spoiled.
1) There are no ulterior motives behind her cries; she just wants some love and care. 2) Her lungs won’t be strengthened from continual wailing, so go ahead, pick her up! You know you want to… According to Mother Knows Best?, some studies have actually shown that by six weeks, babies who were held and cuddled an extra hour or two each day actually cried less than those who weren’t. So, especially during those fussy times of day, make sure to give your newborn the extra TLC she needs. Learn how to decode — and tame — your baby's cries.

Verdict: Myth

Are there really such things as growing pains?

Growing painsDon’t worry. It’s just growing pains!
You may have come to your mom with splintering pains in your legs as a kid or teenager, only to have her reassure you it was “just growing pains.”  And if your child has done the same, you know it’s tough to watch their discomfort. Are these pains a result of a growth spurt, though? Nope. Doctors can’t come to an agreement on this one, but they do debunk the theory that the pains are due to the bones growing. The reason might be as simple as childhood fatigue. If this problem is a common one in your household, have your son or daughter gently massage his or her legs and do light stretching in the morning to ease the pain.

Verdict: Myth

Never take a sick child outside!

Catch your death outsideNever take a sick child outside, or it will get worse.
Many moms balk at the thought of taking a sick little one out of the house to a doctor’s office, even in the summertime! But this common belief is indeed an old wives’ tale. There is no harm in exposing your child (appropriately dressed, of course) to the outside air. Whether it’s an appointment with the pediatrician for treatment, or just to get out of the house, it’s safe to step outdoors. In fact, for one common childhood illness, croup, it is actually a recommended form of home therapy to take the child (again, warmly dressed) outside for 10 minutes to breathe the cool night air.  So sayeth

Verdict: Myth

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Eat your breakfast!Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
“Sit down and eat your breakfast!” You might have heard mom harp on the importance of a good meal to start your day, when you just wanted to grab two store-bought cookies and run out the door. She was right on, though. Besides fueling you to focus during the day, a healthy breakfast may also reduce the risk of heart attack later in life. The American Health Association advises getting one-fourth of your calorie needs at breakfast — and don’t feel it has to be traditional, wake-me-up foods like bacon, eggs or cereal. Grab leftovers, a sandwich or soup, if you like! Slowing down to eat regular meals together is important.

Verdict: Truth

You can't catch up on missed sleep.

Catch those z'sGet some z’s in, because you can’t catch up on sleep.
How many times have you heard you just can’t "catch up" on sleep? Moms have tended to use this line to insist their kiddos don’t stay up until all hours of the evening, and you may have followed this reasoning. But you can stop worrying — for your kids and yourself. Once sleep-deprived, not always sleep-deprived. One good, long snooze in bed will usually do the trick to revive you. So just relax if you’re up all night with the baby; tomorrow you can pass her off to your man, sleep in and get back on track. Read on for more info on healthy sleep strategies for new babies, young children, teens, and the family as a whole.

Verdict: Myth

Mother Knows Best?



Mother Knows Best? The Truth About Mom’s Well-Meaning (But Not Always Accurate) Advice is available for $12.95 through the Skyhorse Publishing website.

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