A home remedy is a natural and trusted cure for an ailment that you can use from home, using ingredients substances and things commonly found at home. Most of the home remedies we know today are old wives' tales passed through generations and one gets to hear them from their mother/grandmother.
Home remedies offer personal touch and care. They are cheap, easy and readily available. However, not all home remedies are safe for babies.
Home Remedies That Backfired on My Baby!
The following home remedies turned out to be quite an unpleasant experience for me and my baby. I have listed them below as a warning for fellow moms – DO NOT try these with your babies!
1) Infant Hiccups
All of us experience hiccups. However, babies are prone to multiple sessions of hiccups daily. Sometimes babies may get hiccups even in the womb, as early as 6th week from conception! As a first time mother, watching my baby hiccup made me very worried and anxious.
My mother suggested giving some water while a distant relative suggested causing a sudden shock. Since the former sounded gentler I agreed to give a sip of water to my 2 days infant.
But such a young baby does not know how to gulp anything without the natural sucking action (which aids in them ingesting milk from the mother or the bottle). As a result, my son started to cough.
This was enough to make me cry. Since I was in the hospital then, the doctor stepped in immediately and clearly said that nothing except mother's milk (even water) should be given to infants less than 6 months of age. Also, giving water or nursing a baby during hiccups will only create more problem than soothing.
Hiccups are caused by feeding quickly or by a sudden drop in temperature in babies. Though hiccups usually bother parents more, they are seldom a sign of any serious medical condition. Babies with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) may hiccup more frequently, accompanied by spitting up, coughing and irritability which need to be treated by a paediatrician.
So the key rule is: do not give water or nurse or feed an infant during hiccups. Avoid feeding during hiccups. This holds true for toddlers too.
I vividly remember this incident as I had just celebrated my baby turning 1 month old with my husband. My baby had gone without pooping for 4 days.
My mother-in-law suggested to insert stem of betel leaf into the rectum. I was convinced that my baby was constipated and somehow felt I was responsible for this condition. As a guilt struck mom, I obliged to the suggested home remedy only to later see reddish rashes on the delicate skin of my baby!
I wonder if it was a result of the harmful pesticides on the betel stem. He still didn't poop and it was on the 7th day that I really panicked and rushed to the clinic.
The doctor reassured that breastfed babies can go without pooping even for 2 weeks! This phase of infants when they go through days without pooping is also known as growth spurt. Growth spurts are common and may occur multiple times between 4 weeks to 6 months after baby's birth.
During a growth spurt the baby will put on weight, grow taller, and their head circumference will also increase more rapidly than usual. They may hit a developmental milestone, or master a new skill. The major worry for many moms is during a growth spurt, the baby will be feeding more but still the diaper would have no sign of poop.
Exclusively breastfed babies are almost never constipated. Breastmilk is a natural laxative. Babies that are exclusively on breastmilk and get to start on solids after 6 months of age almost never need any treatment for constipation. My baby finally pooped after 10 days. Needless to say that I had a diaper with a poop splash!
So the key rule is: Continue to breastfeed your baby. Breastmilk is exactly what the baby needs during a growth spurt, so don't be surprised if he drinks up but doesn't poop! The body ensures there is little waste left after absorption.
3) Sun Exposure for Vitamin D
My son was diagnosed with jaundice on 2nd day after his birth. He was in NICU for phototherapy treatment for 8 days and was brought to me every couple of hours for nursing and some bonding.
After I was home, my mom used to keep the baby's bare body by the window side such that sunlight falls on him for 30-45 minutes. This treatment was strongly recommended to my mother by her friends and relatives as a natural cure of infant jaundice.
They were also very confident that we can go ahead and even stop administering Vitamin D drops as the exposure to sunlight will take care of Vitamin D generation. Since my baby used to sleep peacefully, I didn't worry. A couple of days later I had a follow up appointment with paediatrician and it was then that I told him about the sunlight treatment.
He was clearly upset and admonished me stating sunlight is not a safe way of treating jaundice and newborns will get sunburnt in direct sunlight. Exposing to direct sunlight resulted in burns on my baby's delicate skin and I had a hard time treating them!
So the key rule is: It is better to continue Vitamin D supplement up to 1 year as most babies may not eat good amount of fortified foods up to this age.
4) Heat Burns
The exposure to sunlight activity I described above did not help with my son's Vitamin D levels, but instead gave him heat burns. I was still very reluctant to apply any creams or chemicals to his tender skin.
So I resorted to butter. It was actually suggested by one of my friends as a good remedy for burns. But after a day I almost had a stroke after seeing my baby's skin turning red. His condition had gone from bad to worse.
I rushed to the doctor only to know that butter could contain bacteria and cause infection. Cold water is any day a better home remedy than butter. A raw exposed burn is incredibly painful. It might feel better when the burn is covered with something but it certainly does not aid in healing. The doctor had to clean off all the butter before treating the burn which caused further distress to my baby and me.
So the key rule is: apply cold water in case of heat burns. Remember – all treatments to burns including but not limited to applying aloe vera gel, moisturizers, oil, toothpaste, saliva, cut onions, soy sauce – are all bad and will make the burn worse. NEVER TRY THESE ON YOUR BABY!
5) Bathing Ceremony
Newborns are considered to need special bathing process up to 45 days in many customs.
On my husband's side of family, the tradition is to give a good oil massage before bath and then use gram flour paste instead of baby soap/baby wash during bath.
There is NO scientific data that affirms that massage will improve circulation, build bones or help in changing body shape like making nose sharper or shaping the legs and making head rounder. Massage is a touch therapy that will improve bonding and help baby relax ONLY when done gently without any force by one or both parents and NOT by any maalishwaali or maid or aayahs. These people use a lot of force and leave the baby in pain and crying. They may also carry infections from other babies that they're bathing.
I am relieved that my husband and I stood our ground about not hiring anyone to bathe my baby, though the entire family was against our decision.
However, using massage oil and gram flour on my newborn ended up clogging pored and resulted in infant acne.
I breathed a sigh of relief when my paediatrician informed that no treatment or medication is needed for infant acne and it will disappear automatically after few days. Rightfully, the acnes disappeared on its own after a week, leaving no scar on my baby's skin. But the incident is etched on my memory forever.
So the key rule is: It is better to give babies bath in plain water up to 3 months. Use a baby massage oil and a gentle baby wash after 3 months of age. Use baby products that are approved by paediatricians.
Our country is a land of beliefs and old customs. But most knowledge is lost or misunderstood when passed down the generations. There are millions of people who swear by home remedies and it is likely that some of them may actually work. However, home remedies should not be considered good just because they are natural and do not involve chemicals from a drug store.
Above all, your baby is not an experimenting platform for trying some weird home treatment which you have not tested successfully on yourself.
Next time, before giving your baby castor oil for constipation ask yourself the question - "Can this do any good for my baby? Is it safe for intestine?" Better still, DO NOT administer anything to your baby without the consent of your paediatrician. Be cautious and stay safe!
Are there any home remedies for babies you tried that backfired in a similar fashion? Please comment below.
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