Traditional Practices and Falicies

There are certain practices traditional to India, which may not be good for the infant in terms of safety and health. If you are indulging or contemplating any of these practices (under force of custom), consider these facts: –

Prelactal feeds : –

Traditionally a new born is given prelactal feeds like honey, water, glucose water or top milk, before the mother’s milk comes in. These feeds are not only inessential, but also unhygienic and can cause infection. Giving prelactal feeds also delays the initiation of breast-feeding causing delayed or insufficient production of milk.
During the first few days breast milk output is traditionally considered to be “poor”. However, Colostrum or the milk that comes initially, is the only feed a newborn requires.


Colostrum is rich in proteins and fats and contains essential antibodies which protect the baby from allergic disorders later in life.

Giving Honey –
In many families there is a practice of giving honey to the baby or of making an Aum on the tongue of the newborn, with honey.

  • Honey is thick and viscous, thereby constituting a choking hazard.
  • It is unsterilized and therefore unhygienic.

Use of Ghuttis and Gripe Water –

These are popular with all strata of society. Unfortunately :-

  • Their digestive benefits are by and largely unsupported by hard medical evidence.
  • The preparation is not standardized and therefore could be unhygienic.
  • Some ghuttis contain opium and could cause opium poisoning.

Use of Kajal and Surma –
Kajal is supposed to protect the child from evil, and is also supposed to make the baby’s eyes look large and beautiful.

  • Kajal causes eye allergies and infection.
  • Surma has a high content of lead sulphide, and can cause lead poisoning.

Nose and Ear piercing.

  • Piercing in a newborn may result in bacterial infection, especially if done by traditional pincers.
  • The baby may inadvertently pull the silver, gold or thread put in her ear

As far as possible the piercing should be postponed to later childhood or at least till primary immunisation has been completed. Preferably use the gunshot method with sterilized studs.

To prevent infection, place a small twig of Neem in the pierced ear hole.

Black thread or bangles : –
Most Indian babies wear black threads or bangles to ward off evil spirits.
– These gather dust , grime and bacteria. If the baby puts them into his mouth, they can cause infection.
– They may collect sweat and cause chafing and rash on the skin.
– If they are too tight, circulation can be cut off.
– The clasp on the black bangles can hurt the new-born
A good rule of thumb when you are faced with conflicting advice, or when your own instincts advise against some custom, is to ask your paediatrician. Therefore it is very important that you choose a paediatrician that you have confidence in.

Related Links

Infant Care Myths
Breastfeeding
Daily care

Choosing a Paediatrician
An Infant’s Point of view
Choosing a Doctor & Hospital