Women are bombarded with countless representations of pregnancy and parenthood in the media, particularly with the recent popularity of TV series such as Ask the Midwife and In the Club. As a result we see mums and mums-to-be discussing what they have seen on screen in our BabyCentre communities and coming to the site for advice on the reality of labour, post baby bodies and perfect looking newborns.
To help new and expectant mums sort the facts from the fiction, we've picked our top ten 'bad baby habits' and set the record straight.
TV's bad baby habits as seen on screen
1. Seeing the same midwife at every appointment
In an ideal world, every pregnant woman would have a single, dedicated midwife to care for them throughout pregnancy, be there at the birth, and offer support during the early days with their baby. However, in the real world, there simply aren't enough midwives to guarantee that you'll be able to see the same one each time.
You may be more likely to see the same midwife more often if you're giving birth at home or in a birth centre. But if you're giving birth in hospital, you may find that the midwife who delivers your baby is someone you've never met before.
2. Waters breaking as the first sign of labour
A sudden gush of amniotic fluid may make for exciting TV, but it's unlikely to be the first sign that you're going into labour. Most women start having contractions first, and sometimes labour can be quite advanced before the waters break. So you're likely to have reasonable warning.
3. Giving birth lying on your back in bed
Although most people think of this as the standard way to give birth, it's actually one of the least helpful positions for labour. This is because lying on your back puts your pelvis into a position that makes it harder for baby to make his way into the world. Getting up and moving around opens up your pelvis, and also lets gravity help your baby make his way down through the birth canal. This can mean a quicker, less painful labour, and reduces your risk of needing a c-section.
4. Perfect-looking newborns
The "newborn" babies you see on TV are usually a few weeks or even months old in real life. Babies who've just arrived in the world aren't usually the chubby, smooth-skinned cuties we're used to seeing. In fact, some can be downright funny-looking! Many newborns have misshapen heads and wrinkled skin, which can sometimes be covered in hair or a creamy white substance called vernix.
5. Unsafe co-sleeping
Most experts recommend avoiding co-sleeping with your baby when possible, as it can increase the risk of SIDS. In particular, you should never fall asleep in a chair or sofa with your baby on you, as he could overheat or suffocate. And if you do choose to sleep in the same bed as your baby, it's essential to take safety precautions, such as not drinking or smoking before bed, avoiding thick duvets, and keeping pillows away from your baby.
6. Putting toys, pillows or duvets in your baby's cot
For safe sleeping, your baby needs a surface that's firm and flat. Heavy bedding and other loose objects can pose a suffocation or strangulation risk, and also make it easy for your baby to overheat. If your baby has a favourite stuffed toy, don't put it in his cot until he's at least six months old. Pillows and duvets aren't recommended until he's at least a year old.
7. Using cot bumpers
A recent BabyCentre survey found that 29% of parents use cot bumpers, in spite of expert advice that they should never be used, at any age. There's no evidence that cot bumpers help to prevent injury, but they do increase the risk of overheating, strangulation and suffocation. As your baby becomes more mobile, they also make it easier for him to climb out of his cot and injure himself. So it's best to avoid them completely.
8. Regaining your pre-pregnancy figure straight after birth, with no visible post-baby bump
Although your womb begins to shrink just minutes after the birth, it takes weeks to return to its pre-pregnancy size. The extra weight you put on in pregnancy takes time to shed, too - almost as long as it took for you to grow your baby. Breastfeeding, eating healthily and being active are the best ways to get your body back into shape. As a rough guide, you should aim to return to your pre-pregnancy weight by the time your baby is around six months old. However, all women are different, and it may take up to a year to shift those extra pounds.
9. Giving solid food before six months
The NHS and other experts advise that breastmilk or formula is all your baby needs until he's six months old. Before this age, his stomach may not be developed enough to digest solid food. And he needs to be able to sit up well and hold his head steady before he's ready for weaning.
10. Putting baby in his own room before six months
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in your bedroom, until he's at least six months old. Research shows that sleeping in the same room as your baby helps to reduce the risk of SIDS. And it may also be comforting for your baby to know that his parents are nearby.