There are certain Indian practices that I would NEVER do for my child. I’ve listed them out in no particular order. And while our decisions related to our child are ours alone, I'd still urge you to be wary of these!
1) Waiting for an auspicious time after birth to feed the baby:
This practice upsets me, to say the least. Whatever be the religious or cultural significance of this practice, it is unacceptable to leave a newborn hungry. Word got out a few weeks ago that a father of a newborn in Kerala REFUSED to let his infant be fed after delivery citing a religious practice!
This truly baffles me. Doctors recommend that a baby be breastfed within the first hour of birth. The first drops of milk, known as colostrum, are an immunity building dose of goodness for a baby who has just come into the world. No baby should be denied this!
2) Giving water to a baby before 6 months because he is "dehydrated":
As a mother of a newborn, all the elders around will tell you your baby is crying because (among the many other beliefs) they are thirsty and you really should give them water. NO! Just stick to what the doctor tells you to do -- breastmilk is all the hydration a baby needs. Believe it.
3) Squeezing out milk from a baby’s breast:
After a baby is born, some Indian women believe you need to squeeze the baby’s breast nodules. This is supposed to bring out residual milk. Well, turns out this practice is the main cause of breast abscesses (pus) for a newborn. Bad, bad idea. Babies don't need any kind of squeezing unless you mean holding the little cuddly things close to you!
4) Shaving off a newborn’s head so his hair grows thicker and stronger:
This is probably one of the most common rituals practiced in many traditional families. Many of us brush it off saying that only good will come out of this practice - it is believed that the baby’s hair grows thicker and better. But the truth is that there has been no scientific backing to this theory. It may be really bad idea to mess with your newborn’s head, especially since it is so delicate and the skull is so feeble in the early months. It's best to wait until your baby is a bit older before you take him for his first haircut.
5) Finally, feeding honey to a baby so they benefit from its "natural goodness":
We Indians love our honey. There is no denying that honey has a number of benefits for the body, such as detoxifying it and being a healthy sugar substitute. But please DO NOT give it to your baby. It has been proved that honey can be toxic for any baby below 1 year of age. Their tiny livers and digestive systems can’t handle it REGARDLESS of how pure you think the honey is. Just stay away until your infant is older than a year.
India is definitely one of the friendliest countries in the world. We are a people of so much colour, energy and vibrancy, particularly because we have such a rich culture and heritage. But when it comes to babies, it is best to balance heritage and traditional rituals with a founding in science and reason.
Remember this, moms: staying away from unsafe rituals does not take away from our culture. It only makes sure we are careful with anything that deals with our children, and in step with the times. Our babies deserve it.
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