Myths & Facts of Baby care in India

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Author: Gauri Kshirsagar

Myth & Facts of baby Care

India is a vast country, with a range of customs and beliefs, and no doubt some of them also involve baby care. There are some customs, which have done more harm then good, hence I have jolted down some of the customs followed here in India with their facts.

  Myths Fact
1.       Traditionally, the reason given behind the oil massage is to straightens infants’ bones Massaging doesn’t straighten bones but it does build muscle tone, makes the skin supple and baby warm in colder climates. Should be done gently.
2.       Oil massage by “dais” or “malishwalis” is the best Massage by inexperienced “dais” has led to a lot of adverse effects. For example too much pressure on the bones has led to “green stick fractures” and also massages using rough hands have led to abrasions and injuries over the skin. Though doubt they can handle the baby very well during the bath, and if u do decide to hire one, be always present in person during the massage and bathing.
3.         The body scrub-comprising of either besan (gram flour) or a mix of powdered dal (lentils), turmeric and milk cream-is believed to remove excess body hair and improve complexion. Some hair might well come off while rubbing your baby with the dough. But the facial and body hair you see on your newborn usually falls off on its own as well.

Sometimes, if facial and body hair run in the family, the hair will not fall out on its own. But as your baby grows, you might notice it less. Facial and body hair is determined by your baby’s genes. If your baby has the genes that give body or facial hair, rubbing atta will not reduce or permanently remove the hair. In such a case, even if hair falls out with the atta massage, it will grow back i

4.         Often after a bath, oil is put in the ears, nose and navel of a baby. It is believed to be healthy. Some mothers even place a coin on the baby’s stump in the hope that the stump will go inside quickly. Putting anything in your baby’s ears is not advisable as it can lead to an ear infection. Similarly applying oil or a coin on your baby’s navel could cause an infection especially if your baby’s umbilical stump hasn’t dried out yet. Also, there is no scientific evidence to prove that a coin will help in how your baby’s belly button heals.
5.         Swaddling or tying too tight. It is often believed that a baby’s legs need to be held together and kept straight for them to develop properly. So the baby is wrapped up tight with his legs kept straight. If you swaddle your baby in this way, with his legs pressed together and straight down, he is more likely to develop problems with his hips. Also the baby needs to move its arms and legs for motor development
6.         It’s good for the babies to cry while bathing. The only reason a baby cries is if the bathing or oiling is very harsh. This will only make the baby too tired and will put it to sleep (which is considered a must). Be very gentle with the baby; try massaging the baby on your own. The baby should love and look forward to the bath time.
7.         A common practice while bathing a baby is to use a clean cotton cloth or sometimes even just a fingernail to rub the baby’s tongue if it is white with milk residue. Avoid doing this because a baby is most prone to infections during his first six months when his immune system is not very strong. It is quite normal for your baby’s tongue to be white from milk residue. In some cases, a white tongue can be a sign of a thrush infection, which should be brought to the notice of the paediatrician to recognise if your baby has thrush or just milk residue.
8.         In some areas, after a bath, a baby is slowly moved back and forth over aromatic smoke coming from incense sambrani on coal that is burnt in a clay pot on the floor. This is done to dry any damp parts on the baby’s body and keep him smelling fragrant. It is also believed that this helps the baby sleep better. It has no scientific reason and should be avoided. The fumes from the coal are hot and could burn your baby. Also be careful to keep any smoke away from your baby’s face. It could sting his eyes and cause coughing.
9.         After giving the baby a bath, it is customary to smoke the baby’s hair to dry it properly. Dhoop (incense) is also used to smoke a bay’s room. In old ages, dhoop (incense smoke)  was used to ward off insects & mosquitoes. smoke therapy have no medical basis and should be avoided. Exposing a baby to smoke is a no-no because it leads to respiratory problems and the possibility of sustaining burns.”
10.     Rigorous rubbing of baby’s nose gives it a perfect shape Shape of the baby’s nose is genetically determined and not based on the massage given to “shape the nose”. During the early months the nose of the baby is made up of delicate underdeveloped cartilage, which on rigorous rubbing can distort its  shape.
11.     Some families apply powdered asafoetida (hing) or carom seeds (ajwain) to a baby’s navel to reduce colic and improve digestion. Sometimes the powdered hing is heated before being applied or it is mixed in a little water. If you apply anything to your baby’s stump area before it is fully healed, there is a risk of causing an infection there. Even after it’s healed there is a chance of the skin getting a rash and later developing an infection. Infant colic is very common in babies. It can be reduced by use of a good teat/nipple for the feeding bottle, burping the baby regularly and use of anti-colic drops.
12.     Some families apply kajal or surma to their baby’s eyes. Some make the kajal themselves every time by burning a wick and collecting the soot on a smooth surface like the back of a spoon or a silver plate. Others use kajal bought from the market. Applying anything directly in your baby’s eyes can introduce dirt or bacteria and cause an infection like conjunctivitis. Even if you make the kajal freshly every day, your hands or fingernails might not be clean enough. Should be avoided
13.     Often a baby has swollen breasts for the first few days after birth. Many elders advise squeezing the breasts during a massage to get the milk-like substance out and reduce the swelling. This swelling is quite normal and caused by your baby’s exposure to your hormones just before birth. It will subside on its own within a few days from birth. : It is best not to squeeze your baby’s breasts because doing so can lead to an infection and cause a cyst to form.
14.     Newborn baby is often fed honey (shahad or madhu) or sugar water. It is believed to be auspicious for the baby. Don’t feed anything to the baby other than Breast milk and in case of twins a combination of breast milk and formula feed. Do not give honey even during weaning. Although honey seems like a wholesome and natural food to give your infant, don’t do it until after she’s at least 12 months old. Honey can contain spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum, which can germinate in a baby’s immature digestive system and cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness. These spores are usually harmless to adults and children over 1 year old, because the microorganisms normally found in the intestine keep the bacteria from growing.
15.     Tying a black thread or nazariya around the neck or wrist. This is done to protect the baby and keep the evil eye (nazar) away. If the thread is tied too tightly it can affect the blood circulation. The dye used on the thread can also irritate your baby’s skin. Try not to use any sort of accessories like bangles, necklace, kajal, threads. A baby will be happy and health with good care and hygiene alone, so spend your time and energy attaining that, rather than finding ways to keep the “evil eye” away
16.     Feeding janam ghutti after a bath. In many families, babies are given a mix of herbs that are crushed and made into a paste with some water. The herb mix or paste can be bought or made at home. The mixture is given to a baby after his bath to improve digestion and for his general well being and growth.  If you are breastfeeding your baby, know that your milk is best suited to your baby and provides all the benefits for his digestion and growth that he needs. If you feed him anything else, you have to be extremely careful not to introduce any germs. Your baby’s immune system is not yet mature at birth and so he is vulnerable to getting infections. It is best that you avoid feeding him the janam ghutti.

*Thanks a lot for visiting my blog. Your comments, suggestions, criticism and all opinions are very much appreciated. Please do write your queries in the Reply/comments section and I will try to get back to you asap.


7 thoughts on “Myths & Facts of Baby care in India

  1. Though advised, but women who have a C-section or babies who straight go to the nursery need not take this too hard. A baby-mother relationship will eventually develop and a few hours or days of separation is not going to hamper it.


  2. Gauri, I commend you on the extensive research you have done. As you do more research you will find out our ancestors knew exactly what they are doing, even Baby Jesus, who was not from India went through some of the rituals we do for the benefit of our infants. read the benefits of lobaan from or listen to Dr Eric Z. in this society more than previous we need everything that can Bring our children up as healthy as can be. Yes rough handling even an adult can course fractures and abrasions, we need to be extra cautious over cleanliness and be thoughtful and gentle with a new born.
    our traditional anecdotes and remedies are not myth but fact, lots of scientific research in the age of Kali Yuga is being done, proving our ancestors were almost always correct in their lifestyle approach.


  3. Fantastically written. Advice was scientifically sound. New moms are not so difficult to teach. They r vulnerable and very eager to learn and absorb information like sponges. It’s the grand moms and other know-it-alls that are difficult to ward off. And if I show this article to one of them, they would just screech that the new age knows nothing. I have had this problem and I know other moms also who went through this ordeal. Elders get offended when u don’t practice what has been advised. I think the governement should post some educative tele broadcasts is order to reach them in between their saas bahu serials. Having said all that, I can predict with absolute certainty that my daughter will be frustrated with me when I try to spew my gyaan when she’s grown up with her new baby. 🙂


  4. Hi..Does keeping baby’s head closed all the time either with cloth or a cap will make it round? How much oil to apply on baby’s head, I’ve been said to apply loads of oil on my baby’s head or else he gets headache. Is it true? My baby is 3months old now.


    1. Hi Prameela,
      1) Keeping baby’s head closed all the time will NOT make it round. There’s no need to worry if your newborn’s head is an odd shape. It’s common and should soon even out. Your baby’s head might be cone-shaped if you have had a normal vaginal delivery. This is because newborns spend so long squeezing through the birth canal. Babies born by C-section may not have cone-shaped or pointy heads. But all babies’ heads are relatively soft and you may notice that if your baby always lies in the same position, the head flattens out in that area. Do use a “horseshoe-shaped” baby pillow when the baby is sleeping. This odd shape will even out as the soft spots close, and the bones in her head meet and fuse which usually happens by 6 months.

      2) Appropriate amount of oil should be applied as to cover the area and scalp, preferably 1-2 hours before bath. Too much oil application over scalp may lead to seborrhiec dermatitis (dandruff) and when applied over the skin it may block the pores of the skin leading to Miliaria (like prickly heat)

      3) Scented oils may inturn lead to irritation of the baby

      Hope you are satisfied with the answer. Do follow my blog for more articles



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