There are so many beliefs passed down from mother to daughter that it’s difficult to know what to follow and what’s pure hogwash.
Show me a first-time-pregnant lady or new mum and there will be 10 well-meaning aunts, neighbours and ancillary old ladies waiting to confuse her with plenty of unsolicited advice on what to eat and feed her baby most of the advance originated at least four generations before ours when our ancestors followed a more agrarian style of living (replete with a couple of cows); verification is always based on the example of a relative of a cousin who listened to the advice and was saved current proponents generally distrust modern medical science and doctors “Who are too young to know what we know!”
Let’s look into a couple of the more common ‘food myths’ to identify whether there is indeed any head to them? In certain cases, the suggestions are actually scientifically backed, in others, the reasoning may be flawed but the food advice in bang on and the remaining cases really are strange old wives tales!
#1 THE MYTH
Drink plain milk hot coffee (or eat white rasgullas) when you are pregnant to ensure your child will be born with a fair complexion; don’t drink tea or coffee lest your baby’s dark!
Skin colouring is genetically driven, not milk driven! Of course, the unnecessary emphasis on fair skin in our country is something that all of us should try a change. The baby’s health is what’s important. And hence, the milk consumption (two-three cups of milk and milk products a day) despite having no effect on the baby’s completion, is actually good advice as it is recommended by doctors to help meet the both the mother and child’s essential calcium and protein requirements.
We recommend a limited (less than 200mg) intake of caffeine (found in tea, coffee and chocolates), but for the mum’s and baby’s health rather than those of skin colour! The American journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology published an article in March last year showing that mums-to-be who consumed 200mg or more of caffeine a day ran double the risk of miscarriage compared to those who had no caffeine. Iron absorption in mums is also restricted because coffee and tea contains compounds called phenols which make it harder for the body to absorb this critical mineral. In addition, babies of coffee-drinking mums are also at risk of slower cell development, lower birth weight and faster heart and breathing rates. Once more, the advice is accurate, but the logic is completely flawed.
#2 THE MYTH
Drinking pure ghee mixed in warm milk at night can help you achieve an easier normal delivery.
The Ghee will not lubricate your birth canal and help the baby simply slip out without any pains no matter how much you pray “There is no medical basis to support this idea”. How will the ghee possibly travel from your stomach to your cervix Indeed, the only thing the ghee will help you do to pile on the pounds, making it that much tougher to regain your pr-pregnancy shape!
#3 THE MYTH
Drinking milk helps mother lactate.
#3 THE TRUTH
Drinking cow’s milk does not help humans produce any milk.“Breastmilk occurs primarily with the help of two hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. The Actual volume of milk secreted is adjusted to the requirement of the infant therefore the emptier breast produces milk faster than the fuller one.” Mothers must rest, think positive and consume plenty of fluids to lactate well, but there is no link with consumption of dairy products. “Production is responsive to maternal status of well-being. Thus, stress and fatigue adversely affect a women’s milk supply. Relaxation is key for successful lactation”.
#4 THE MYTH
#4 THE TRUTH
Though it is true that almonds are a good source of Vitamin E, protein and minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc, they should only be given to children who are at least six months, if not a year old. “Babies less than six months should only be on a diet of mother’s milk and nothing else. A three-month-old baby will find it hard to digest the almonds, leading to diarrhoea and related stomach problems. Even at six months, not more than half an almond should be given to the baby. That said, babies who are 10-12 months old will benefit a lot from the ground almond as it will help improve bone density and strength.”
#5 THE MYTH
Feeding your newborn a paste of sweetened ajwain (oregano seeds) and jaiphal (nutmeg) can help cure stomach pains (such as colic and constipation).
This food advice is not really challenged by doctors as there is limited medical research on the subject. “In the case of stomach pains, we can prescribe certain allopathic anti-colic drops, but these home remedies with ajwain and jaiphal, etce can do no harm, and may, in fact, work. For example, gripe water, which we recommend be given daily to all infants, is simple sweetened ajwain paani!”
#6 THE MYTH
A spoonful of honey, the ‘food of the gods’ or ‘amrit’ is good for the baby, especially before breastfeeding and during teething.
#6 THE TRUTH
Honey, in its pure unadulterated form, is full of calcium and beneficial for babies, but should only be given when the baby is at least a year old. Very occasionally it can contain bacteria which can produce toxins in your baby’s intestine, which is known as infant botulism and can even be fatal to a young baby. When your child is a year old, his intestines are mature enough for the bacteria not to grow.