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Malishwali bai's


Bombay Times
22nd March,20001

It is surprising to learn that masseuses could be directly, or indirectly, responsible for ruining a babies' health.

The issue was highlighted by a group of pediatricians from the Maharashtra branch of the BPNI (breastfeeding Promotion Network of India), based in the north western suburbs. The organization has been involved in programmes - encouraging mothers to breastfeed their newborn infants. Though not directly affiliated to the Indian Paediatric Association, most of the doctors belong to both groups.

Their work with mothers and babies led them towards a solution to the 'maalishwali' problem. "We realized that mothers trust these maalishwalis and sometimes their advice is wrong, " says pediatrician Dr. Renuka Chatterjee.

Some of their advice has to do with basic practices, such as applying kajal to the eyes, in order to ward off evil! In the case of newborns, this is not advisable. More serious practices involve putting oil in the ears, vaginal tracts, and ureters of the babies for 'cleaning', which can lead to serious infections. Even worse is the squeezing of the breast of newborns to extract 'witches' milk' from them. Excess milk in newborn babies is common, but squeezing it out in such a fashion can cause an abscess in the glands.

It is these dangerous home remedies that the doctors of the BPNI are contesting through their new programme which seeks to go to the source - educate the maalishwali on hygiene. Dr. Prashant Gangal heads the program.

"On Jan 18th, the first group of 140 maalishwalis got their certificates," says Dr. Gangal, "and the next batch compromises 200 maalishwalis." The women are trained, not just on the advice they give, but also on personal hygiene, which includes basic information such as washing hands before touching babies.

Seems like mothers can look forward to safer help from the massage sector now.

gauri.sinh@timesgroup .com

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