Daily care

The first few weeks after the birth are the hardest as a routine has not yet been established and the baby’s needs are unfamiliar to you.

Baby Massage & exercise.

Exercise the baby gently. A little exercise is good as it helps the baby unfurl. He has been so used to being cramped in the womb that it takes time for his limbs to straighten out.
In different parts of the country different oils are used for massage – coconut, ghee, castor, mustard oil and olive oil. No one oil is superior to another. A massage with or without oil is invigorating, improves circulation, tones up the muscles and promotes mother-baby bounding

  • Massage should be gentle and massage by a dai, as per tradition, should be discouraged, since they massage very vigorously and may dislocate a shoulder or so.
  • Oil should not be put into the nose as it can lead to exhalation lipid pneumonia.
  • Massage should be done in sunlight or a warm environment. Cold or draught should be avoided.

Cord Care – The cord normally dies on its own, turning black and falling off towards the end of the first week or a little later. Clean the cord and the area around the navel with spirit or after shave lotion for a few days even after the cord has fallen off. Never use water to wash the cord or oil ghee or powder on the cord as these cause infection.

Do not use any bandages, cloth binders or dressings to cover the stump as Cord stumps require exposure to fresh air to fall off healthily. Bandages or any other covering encourages local colonization of harmful bacteria which leads to umbilical infections.

Umbilical Hernia – This is bulging of the navel and is caused by the weakness of the muscles underneath. It is very common and normally disappears with time. If you are anxious, check with your paediatrician, but never resort to bandaging etc as this is extremely unhealthy for the child.

In the initial days do not put the baby to sleep on his stomach as there is greater likelihood of choking.

  • Bathing the babyMany doctors do not recommend a bath for an infant until the cord has fallen off & the navel is dry. In such cases a sponge bath is ideal. But if your doctor recommends a bath then try these tips:
  • Put the infant on your lap and bathe him. This is safer than putting him in a tub where you may not be able to prevent him from slipping.
  • The room should be warm & without a drought.
  • Test the temperature of the water with the elbow to ensure that it is comfortably luke-warm.
  • Arrange all the clothes, the towel etc before hand and close to you.
  • Initially do not use soap on the face.
  • Clean the soft areas on the head with a gentle massage and soap. Dirt on the hair and scalp can cause irritation and infections.
  • Never try to clean the insides of the ear with cotton or ear buds or anything else.

In general don’t interfere with any part of a new-born that is not visible from the outside

  • Never forcibly pull back the foreskin on the penis of a little boy.
  • Clean the genital area and folds but be sure to dry them thoroughly as dampness there encourages fungal injection.
  • Wipe the baby’s tongue with a soft, clean cloth.
  • Go easy on the powder.
  • Nails – if the nails of a new-born are not too long, leave them be. However if he is continually scratching himself (and you) file them gently using a nail file.
  • Clean both the file and the fingers with spirit before filing.

Never use scissors or a blade to cut the nails of a new-born.

Baby Diapers
If its warm weather you can consider leaving the baby naked. Otherwise, in general, cotton nappies are the best for children, especially in a hot country like India. If the thought of washing endless piles of nappies bothers you, you can consider plastic diapers.

  • Always buy a reputed and reliable brand of diapers.
  • Never leave the diaper on for more than 3-5 hours.
  • Periodically, expose the baby’s skin to the fresh air.
  • Buy only the correct size of the nappy

Baby Teething
A all kinds of illnesses from diarrhoea to vomiting and high fever are attributed to teething. This is by and large a myth.

At the most teething may produce mild fever, irritability and crankiness. All other symptoms are a natural result of childhood infection and should be treated immediately.

  • Babies begin teething from about 6 – 7 months of age. Sometimes itchy gums may cause a child to go off his feed or have difficulty in sleeping. Teething is normally accompanied by excessive salivation and gum rubbing. Or you could be lucky and your baby could teeth without you’re even knowing he had begun.
  • if you buy gum teethers try the water filled variety.
  • Carrots or bread sticks or rusks are also good for children but should be given under supervision as they constitute a choking hazard.
  • Refrigerate the teether or the carrots. The cold is soothing for the gums.
  • Massage the gums with clean hands but avoid using medicated lotions and powders on the gums.
  • Finally remember that babies are much tougher than they look. Countless babies have survived inept handling over the years – yours will too. So relax and enjoy your new arrival.

Related Links

Traditional Practices & Falicies
Infant Care Myths
Common Ailments

Choosing a paediatrician
Helping Hands

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