Five traditional customs, I refrained from performing on my baby

The world around you changes when you have a baby. And nothing prepares you for that moment. Those late-night movies, pizza parties, hair color, manicured nails, bedroom discussions stop, even if for a short while. So is it a negative feeling then? No. Absolutely not. In most cases, you just come to realize that in spite of those things you still had a void somewhere which is now filled. A new sense of responsibility emerges. You feel protective about this tiny creature that has emerged from you.

The realization happens gradually that you are the center of the baby’s universe. The feeling can be overwhelming at times. But it helps you wade through the emotional turbulence that you go through during those moments. If you are lucky enough you also get a support system around you. Now, a support system is neither something that will do the tasks for you nor will it make you redundant. A good support system will help you deal with your emotions and guide you through their experience, leaving it upon you to take the decision.

Unfortunately, most women are not so lucky. They either have to do all the tasks themselves post delivery or they have to crouch under the multifarious “advice” thrown their way leaving them flustered. For some women, it is both. How sad! The second one is the worst situation to be in. In this situation a woman is not only dealing with her own emotional upheavals, she is also burdened to take care of her child as per one of these “advice”. This is because, the giver of such advice usually wears the hat of having a lot of experience (good or bad experience, we don’t know) in raising a child. The last thing you would want is an argument on this theory.

Many new mothers give in to this undue pressure from their family members. Those who stand up against have to deal with the repercussions. But it is important to stand up for your baby. Your baby will learn from you. And most importantly, some of these decisions could have a lasting impact on your child.

When I had a child, like most new mothers in India, “advice” flew in from all directions. And advice not followed is disobedience of the highest order! But I chose to be “disobedient” for the sake of my child and remained firm in my decision. Some of these I will share here because I feel that these decisions were taken for good which otherwise could have been harmful to the baby.

Tasting honey

Honey tasting is an age-old custom followed in different parts of India. It is believed to ensure the baby’s entry into the world, sweet. It makes the baby sweeter and its voice sweetest. I do not think anything is sweeter than the baby itself. And babies do not need additional sweeteners to make them sweet. So, no, thank you, my baby didn’t taste honey. Honey can contain live spores of bacteria clostridium botulinum which can cause botulism in babies. And in new born babies this could get dangerous.

Hiring a maalishwali

Oil massage done regularly is supposed to enhance blood circulation in babies and make their limbs stronger. Our society is supposed to be abounding in “maalishwali-s”. From where these “professional maalishwali-s” have got their degree, I honestly do not know. How efficient they are in twisting my babies little limbs, how medically proficient, I do not know. So although I’m not averse to the idea of massaging a baby, I’m a strong believer of the fact that for a baby, it’s a mother is the best maalishwali-s (given the mother’s health supports). In fact, the process of massaging your baby can be very soothing for you. There are multiple videos available on YouTube about baby massage. Gently rubbing oil on your baby is also good enough. You don’t need to wrestle with those tiny arms.

Knife under the pillow

It sounds dangerous, isn’t it? Well, it is so, even for adults. Heard of the Moro reflex in babies? Apparently, if a knife or any iron object is kept under the baby’s pillow, the baby’s heart would be stronger and it will no longer get startled. Please understand that Moro reflex is a very natural instinctive response in all new-borns till they attain 3-4 months of age. If their limbs lose contact with the surface, babies feel that they are falling. Although swaddling is outdated today, swaddling can help in keeping the baby snug. But some researchers also believe that the Moro reflex is a natural defense mechanism of a baby to react to stimuli and thus prevent them from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). So the knife remained in the kitchen, at a good distance from my baby.

Kaajal/Kohl

Now Kaajal or Kohl is believed to have the magical property of driving away evil eyes. Haven’t you seen in Bollywood, a teary-eyed mother putting a kaala teeka by drawing a little kaajal from her eyes on her son? I frankly, have nothing against the mother or Bollywood. I also think Kohl rimmed eyes look beautiful but I’m ready to do these “experiments” on a grown-up kid rather than a newborn. One such “experienced” person in my family said that Kaajal prepared by burning lamp is safe on the eyes. As I said, you can’t argue with experience but your scientific knowledge will tell you that soot has a lead which is not good for anyone.

Mundan

I neither support nor defy the belief that tonsuring of the head can lead to a good crop of hair. Honestly, I do not know. There are different schools of thought on this one. Thankfully I have good hair and so does my mother and her mother. My parents used to shave off my head every summer when I was a child. I do not know if my genes alone are responsible for my hair or is it a combination with frequent tonsuring. So, what I’m trying to say is that I was not opposed to the idea of shaving off the head but I refused to get it done in a temple for a baby as young as six months. The gap between the skull bones or the fontanelle do not close for babies till they are about 18 months old. Their head is delicate and so is their skin. To date I have not got this done, much to the dismay of my family members but I will do it when I think the time is right and in a place which is safe, sanitized and hygienic for my little one.

Sometimes, standing up against these customs takes a lot of courage, will power and energy. Be prepared to hear exclusive adjectives that define your role as a “good mother”. But good or bad, remember that your baby is at the mercy of your choice. So choose wisely, choose safe and the best option for your baby.

Reading helps. The information has never done harm. Read about these customs and you may be surprised to find some scientific explanation behind something. Is it good, bad, dangerous, harmful, beneficial for your baby? That’s how you decide and once you decide, let no one sway you. You are the mother, you should be able to choose the best for your little one.

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