New parents face many challenges from the moment the baby arrives. Indian parents in particular, face a peculiar situation whether to follow traditional or modern science based baby caring techniques. This can leave them confused as to which practices to follow and which can be best avoided.
At Easy Mommy Life I’m focussed on bringing unbiased, evidence-based information to new parents. I am therefore trying to bring experts who can provide mothers with information which they seek. Today I bring one such expert Dr. Arva M. Bhavnagarwala. Dr. Arva is a pediatrician and has agreed to do this interview with me. Our discussion revolves around queries every new mother has when she first brings her baby home from the hospital. Initial days of an infant’s life are the most crucial. A calm and self assured mother can make a huge impact in this period.
Let’s get started with the interview.
Question: Massage is great for bonding with babies, are the traditional malishwaali’s needed? Should parents be encouraged to massage baby on their own instead?
Answer: It depends on how comfortable you are with massaging and then bathing the baby. Usually younger babies upto 3 months of age do not hold their necks properly. So it can be difficult bathing them. Traditional maalishwalis are trained to do massage and bathe the newborn. So, until the parents get a hang of it, traditional malishwaali’s may be needed. For the massage, use any oil of your choice. No other substance like besan or anything else (dhoop) should be used. The massage should be with firm yet gentle strokes to relax baby.
Question: Some Indian families practice applying kajal to baby’s eyes. Can you explain to our readers why parents should refrain from applying kajal to baby’s eyes?
Answer: The kajal available in the market contain different types of chemicals, which can be harmful for the eyes. So, if you want to put kajal on the baby’s body for whatever reason, you can apply it anywhere you want except the eyes!
Question: What constitutes “sleeping through the night”? What can be done to promote good sleep in infants?
Answer: Sleeping through the night means sleeping at a stretch for 6-8 hours. This is difficult to achieve in babies younger than six months as they are still breastfeeding and get startled easily. In infants above six months, you can establish a routine for their sleeping depending on the situation at your home. Keeping a fixed time, a pre-sleep ritual like massaging or bathing can help. Keeping the room dim and quiet is also important. Make sure they do not sleep hungry. At the same time remember, each baby is different. Some may sleep through the night easily, some may not. Patience is the key. Do not give up!
Question: What should new parents look for when choosing baby care products?
Answer: They should be hypoallergenic, fragrance free or a mild fragrance, organic if possible and pH of 4.5 to 5. Before using any new product liberally, do a patch test. That is, apply a little product on a small patch of skin and observe for any adverse reaction for 24 to 48 hours. This is especially useful if there’s a family history of allergies.
Question: What is colic and how to prevent it?
Answer: Colic is continuous bouts of crying at a predictable time and usually occurs in babies upto 6-8 months of age. What exactly causes colic is not known. There is no specific way to prevent colic as such. Some babies do not get it at all, while some are extremely colicky. In breastfeeding mothers, if they make some changes in their diet, it can reduce the episodes to some extent. Like avoiding gas causing foods, and caffeine.
Question: Many new parents are confused about vaccinations. With controversy created by media and a divide in parenting groups on pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine, what do you have to say to Indian parents about vaccinations?
Answer: The vaccinations that are compulsory and recommended by the Government of India have to be given. There’s no doubt about it. Regarding the other vaccines, you can discuss with your pediatrician and choose whether you want to give or no and whether you can afford it or not.
Question: Should parents give honey to babies below 1 year of age?
Answer: No. Honey contains spores of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which can be harmful to the immature digestive system of the baby. Above 1 year of age, these bacteria start growing in the intestines. Then it is safe to give honey.
Question: Some parents are also advised to give ayurvedic kadas to infants, Yes/No?
Answer: No kadas before six months of age.
Question: Mother’s tend to worry about child’s weight, what tips can you give them about growth and development in infants?
Answer: Every child is different. They have different rates of weight gain depending on their metabolism. Some do not gain easily even if they eat properly, whereas others gain weight even with little food. What matters more is their immunity and a balanced intake of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and very importantly, water. A growth chart of the child should be maintained and any fall in the graph should be intervened and the necessary action should be taken.
Question: For new mother’s the first concern is, how do they know baby is getting enough milk? Can you shed some light on what signs to look for in a well-fed baby?
Answer: Proper milk starts flowing by 3rd or 4th day after the baby is born. While feeding the baby, if the mother feels her opposite breast leaking that means she is producing enough milk. If the baby sleeps comfortably between feeds, passes urine atleast 6 to 8 times a day, and is active and gaining weight; all these indicate that the baby is getting enough milk.
Question: How many layers of clothing should a baby wear at home and outside? Should over heating be a concern?
Answer: Layers of clothing depend on which part of the country you are in and the average ambient temperature. A very useful guide is to see how comfortable the mother is at a particular temperature. For example, if you are at home and the AC is on, but set on 27 or 28 degrees and the mother is sweating and uncomfortable; chances are that the baby will be too. So the temperature can be lowered a bit. Similarly, when outside over heating is an issue. It is sometimes mistaken as high fever. Simply removing the excess clothing will bring the baby’s temperature back to normal. And also, if the baby’s hands and legs become too cold, it means the baby is under dressed and you need to add more layers.
Question: Lastly there are many practitioners of baby led weaning now in India. There is an Internet debate on baby led weaning v/s traditional weaning. Questions like do infants get enough nutrition on baby-led weaning crop up from time to time. As a doctor what guidance would you give new moms starting with weaning?
Answer: Your aim should be to give all the nutrients to your child in appropriate quantities. So if the child is eating well, gaining weight and is active and healthy, then whether you practice baby led weaning or traditional weaning; there should be no problem.
I want to thank Dr Arva, for taking time out from her busy schedule and doing this interview with me. I am sure it will help clear any doubts new parents have about baby care practices.
Dr. Arva Bhavnagarwala is a Pediatrician who has done her Masters from a reputed institute in South Mumbai. She currently has her private practice in the same area. She also loves writing in her free time and she is a blogger at mycity4kids.com You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org