The 'Head Shaving Ritual' or better known as a baby's first haircut involves shaving a baby's head completely. While some communities perform this in the first or the third year of the child's life (or Mundan), some households do this when the child is just an infant. According to traditional beliefs, this ritual is performed in order to help the child get rid of his/her past life sins and negativities. It purifies their souls. Not just this, performing this ritual is also believed to bestow long life, prosperous future, and protection from any negativity and evil eye. Some also believe that the reason is scientific as shaving the birth hair helps in improving the child's hair growth and keep their heads cool during summers.
Well, the truth is that a haircut, when done on a newborn's delicate scalp, can cause serious discomfort and pain to babies. In fact, there is limited scientific backing to the theory that the baby’s hair grows thicker and better after a haircut. In many cases, people prefer getting this ritual performed by barbers who use traditional knives to shave. This has serious risk of infections and cuts! What's worse, if the cuts on the scalp are left open, they can cause blood clotting and gather further infections.
Swati, a mom from Pune, shared with us her experience of the head-shaving ritual for her baby girl. This incident left a deep mark on her memory and to this day, she cannot forget it. It also compelled her to make a very important decision: NEVER let anyone else's pressure or opinion override what YOU, the MOM, think is best for your baby.
When my daughter was born, we (my husband and I) were the happiest. But I couldn't see that happiness on some of our loved ones faces. It was as if they were expecting something else. My daughter has a birthmark on her forehead, a big one. I hardly notice it, but some of our well wishers said, 'As if it wasn't enough that it's a girl, she has a mark on her face as well.'
We had their unwanted sympathy.
Then our so called loved ones decided that the one-month-old baby girl should have her head shaving ceremony in my husband's absence, against his wishes. Being the youngest I was scared to say no, scared to rebel because I was thinking more like somebody's daughter rather than somebody's mother. I agreed for the ceremony; more than a ceremony, it felt like a crime. My one-month-old daughter was taken to an old temple; horrible crowd was there. Nothing against temples - I am a sincere believer of the supreme power but the place was not safe. Numerous stray dogs, piles of iron bars and untidy barbers... I wanted to run away with my daughter but I could not. The daughter in me had overpowered the mother in me. I had just become a mother, and I failed.
As the loved ones held my daughter to get her head shaved, she cried. She cried looking here and there searching for me. I failed horribly when I turned away. I can't forgive myself ever for turning away. It was done. The loved ones handed her in my arms; she was crying with fear and pain. I sat in a dingy corner and started feeding her, brushing away the flies around her. I finally gathered some courage to look at her head. It had a turmeric patch. It was to cover a cut. There was clotted blood on her face as well!
That was the limit. I cried. I cried sitting there holding her in my arms, cursing myself. It was nobody's fault, it was my fault. Our loved ones sat with the lunch boxes; they ate as my daughter cried. They gorged on sweets when my daughter cried; they clicked pictures when my daughter cried. Finally our loved ones took her to get Devi Maa's blessings.
With her head bowed down, they said, "Bless me that I bring a brother next time."
All this happened in the month of April, in the scorching heat and the loo. While we were coming out of the temple, the dogs barked loudly. One of my "loved ones" screamed and accidentally gave me a backward push. I fell down on thick, hot iron bars, holding my daughter as tight as I could to save her. She was safe but I was injured. I was shattered with this incident.
On our way back, the loved ones said, "We could have done this at home; a barber could have come home. But I thought it's better to come to the temple. One of our relatives did not to this for their son and the boy now has some problems because of it."
I felt cheated. Betrayed beyond limits. When this could have been done at home, why did they take us to a place with stray dogs, monkeys, heat, loo? Why didn't they tell me that my husband had refused the head shaving? This incident left a scar on our lives. No matter how hard I try to forget it, I can't. My daughter is all well now, a healthy and amazingly naughty child. I will never be weak again. I will never think of our "loved ones'" happiness at my baby's expense.
Read the complete story here.
What happened to this mom and her baby girl is a reminder of the pressure all of us live in. In our endeavour to make everyone happy, we often end up sacrificing our owns wishes as a mother - and sometimes, even going against what we feel is right for the baby. This mom had a gut feeling against the ritualistic head-shave for a newborn. But familial pressure forced her to take a decision she didn't want to.
Yes, we must respect religions, customs and traditions. But it is also important to evaluate how much is TOO MUCH. Rituals and customs should never have an edge over a mother's instincts and decisions. If you feel certain rituals are harming your baby, you should feel free and not hesitate in refusing to perform them. Also, if you do feel comfortable performing a certain ritual, such as a head-shave or a mundan, keep in mind the essential precautions for the procedure.
Important Do's And Don'ts When Shaving Your Baby's Head
1. Choose The Time Of The Ceremony Wisely
It is ideal to carry out the ceremony in the day-time as babies are less cranky and irritable during this time of the day. A more active and happier baby will also be more patient and less likely to break out into a crying spell!
2. Keep Distractions Ready
It is very important to keep the child distracted during the entire process. When children get uncomfortable and irritable, they start crying. Always hold the child close to you and keep his/her favourite toys nearby.
3. Ensure Hygiene
This is extremely crucial. Always ensure your child is sitting on a clean cloth and lather his/her head with soap well before shaving. Also make sure the knife/ trimmer you use is sterilized to avoid the risk of infections. Keep cleaning the razor with clean water or disinfectant. At the same time, keep cleaning your baby's head with warm water.
4. Shave Small Areas
It is always a good idea to shave small patches first and thoroughly completing them before moving forward. This will also help in maintaining uniformity. If you are trimming the hair, ensure you use a clipper.
5. Post Ceremony Care
Once the ceremony is over, give your child a good warm water bath in order to remove any residual hair from the scalp or shoulders. Also apply a good baby-safe disinfectant and moisturiser on your baby's head. This will help in lessening the itchiness and dryness on the scalp.Traditions and rituals are intended to keep our baby safe and bless them with good health. If they pose risks for the baby, what is the point? Let's take a lesson from this mom's experience and be very careful with the babycare rituals we follow/perform for our little darlings.