"Early care of the newbornze"
Indian culture attaches great
importance to the birth of a child into a
family. A child lights up the life of his
parents and relatives. The desired end result
of a 40 weeks pregnancy is a fully and normally
developed baby. This fact needs to be understood
well by prospective parents and all those
involved with the care of the pregnant woman.
All good care that a pregnant woman receives
is directed towards a favourable end result.
Good care during pregnancy includes regular
checks with the obstetrician, necessary immunisation,
a balanced diet, adequate rest, and consultations
with a paediatrician. Involvement of a paediatrician
even before the baby is born helps the parents
in planning their child's future medical care,
in addition to offsetting any unexpected emergency
that may arise during labour. It would be
a good idea to deliver your baby in a 'baby-friendly'
hospital, which essentially means that the
hospital supports and promotes breastfeeding.
A baby is very alert and responsive in the
first hour or half after birth, which is the
best period to put him to his mother's breast.
This ensures warmth for the baby and closeness
to his mother that causes a life long bonding.
This also ensures an early 'letdown' of mother's
'Colostrum' which is the earliest secretion
from a breast provides the newborn with calories,
disease fighting immunoglobulins and cells,
and vitamins A and E. The newborn must not
be given anything except mother's milk, to
prevent infections of the gut. The practice
of giving water, honey, glucose and animal
or powder milk is dangerous and avoidable.
Once breastfeeding is established it should
be given as
often as, and for as long as desired by the
baby. The mother - infant pair may be discharged
from the maternity facility in case of an
uncomplicated delivery on the third day if
all is well. The parents, the obstetrician
and the paediatrician can take this decision
a baby goes home, his essential needs are adequate
nutrition, good hygiene, timely healthcare, tender
and loving care, and emotional stimulation. For
the first six months a baby's nutritional needs
are entirely met with by breast milk. Supplements
are needed only after the baby is six months old.
Working mothers may however have to start supplements
early. Supplements should be of semi-liquid consistency,
nutritious, easy to prepare, easily available
Home-based foods should be preferred over commercial
formulae. Mashed raw fruit, boiled and mashed
vegetables, thin rice/wheat/nachni/rawa/oats porridge,
moong/tur dal and rice khichdi, egg, meat, and
fish should be introduced at appropriate ages.
Introduction of eggs and non-vegetarian food could
be delayed to nine months of age to offset the
risk of allergies. Soups and juices are low in
calories and fiber, and their preparation consumes
valuable time. A year old infant should be eating
half of what his parent eats during the day.
By good hygiene is meant that a baby should be
kept 'clean' at all times. He should be immediately
changed after he soils his clothes to prevent
nappy rash. Talcum powder is unnecessary and may
actually be harmful. When dusting, the powder
particles enter the baby's nostrils and mouth
and cause allergies and respiratory infections.
Powder that remains in folds of the skin gets
moist, cakes, and irritates the tender skin leading
to bacterial and fungal infections. A baby should
be bathed at least once every day with a low alkali
soap and warm water. Massage offers benefits due
to the physical stimulation (touch) and possibly
by absorption of fats through the skin. It benefits
underweight babies to a greater extent. However
massage with gram dal powder, wheat flour and
cream may cause skin allergies and boils.
Oil must not be instilled into the ears and
nostrils. Ear infection and oil pneumonia
could result from these practices. A newborn's
breast must not be squeezed to extract the
so called 'witch's milk'. This can cause pus
collection (abscess) in the breast that may
need surgery. It can also permanently damage
breast tissue, which will make a girl child
incapable of producing milk in adulthood.
Kohl (kajal/soorma) particles can block the
duct (tube) that carries tears from the eyes
into the nostrils, causing watering from eyes.
Thus kohl is best avoided.
Tender, loving care and emotional stimulation
are essential to normal physical, mental and
emotional growth of the baby. Both parents
must participate in bringing up the baby.
A baby should be 'talked to' and 'listened
to'. He should be prevented from getting into
accidents especially when he begins to explore
Sharp toys and small sized objects like marbles;
tablets, buttons, dice, peanuts and gram should
be kept out of his reach. Soft toys, light
wooden blocks, rounded plastic and rubber
toys, household utensils like a glass or wati
are stimulating objects. An older sibling
may innocently and inadvertently cause injury
to an infant and therefore should be allowed
to handle an infant only under an adult's
A paediatrician should attend to an infant
regularly for assessment of weight and milestones,
immunisation as per schedule, and any health
problems. It would be a good idea for parents
to learn about home-treatment for minor problems
from their doctor, while at the same time
not allowing matters to get out of hand, by
being vigilant. Vitamin drops are unnecessary
for a healthy infant.
However calcium and iron supplements should
be started after four months of age to prevent
rickets and anaemia. Various digestive preparations
(ayurvedic and allopathic) available in the
market are unnecessary and avoidable. Homoeopathicpills
for 'teething troubles' are of doubtful value.
The great many tonics, appetite stimulants
and growth stimulants available in drug stores
are again of little
value. Vitamins and protein preparations are
useful during convalescence from illness.
The best way to rear an infant is to use a
mix of intuition (gut feeling), logic and
acquired knowledge. Newborns and infants require
huge amounts of unconditional love, a little
time, and adequate attention, which all parents