Mums, these 8 traditional Indian practices could be harmful for your newborn!

Mums, these 8 traditional Indian practices could be harmful for your newborn!

Here are 8 traditional practices that could harm your baby's health in more ways than you can imagine

Indian mothers get a lot of advice. From the aunty in the building to the older house help who frequents the house and other casual women who, for once it makes you feel, have nothing else to do, but give you advice.

While some of these pearls of wisdom might actually help you and your baby, some traditional practices have no scientific significance and are purely based on hearsay. However, in India we rely more on the midwives than on doctors, especially when it comes to a newborn.

But, did you know, some of these practices could be harmful for your baby’s health? We talk about 8 traditional practices that are doing more harm to your baby than good.

#1 Giving cow’s milk to baby below 6 months

When my daughter was 3 months old, I had low breastmilk supply and someone suggested that I give her cow’s milk along with breast milk. Though I was skeptical at first I thought it would be okay if I give her once a day. However, my daughter developed an intestinal infection and the doctor asked me to give her formula, but not cow’s milk!

A baby’s digestive system is designed to digest breastmilk, which is lighter and easy-to-digest. Science says cow’s milk is heavily loaded with protein and hard-to-digest minerals that can impact your baby’s developing digestive system or intestines and lead to an infection, which could be hazardous. Besides, it does not contain the right amount of iron, vitamin C and other nutrients for infants.

#2 Dabbing a lot of powder


[Image courtesy: fast to create]

This is a practice that is way too common in India. While it is okay for you to apply powder sometimes, you should not be dabbing your baby with a lot of talcum powder. There are studies that link the excessive usage of talcum powder to cancer as talcum powder contains minerals such as magnesium, silicon and asbestos, which are known carcinogens.

Besides, using large amounts of talcum powder might also increase the chances of powder inhalation. As a result fine powder particles may settle in the baby’s lungs and cause lung damage, breathing hazards or other respiratory infections. However, if you really like to use powder for your baby, go for organic powders that contain cornstarch and other harmless substances.

#3 Giving the baby a vigorous massage

Massage holds a very sacred position in traditional Indian families, but some mothers go overboard with it. Others hire massage aunties or dais who would rub the baby’s body with oil for an hour or more and the poor baby would be crying in pain all the while. For God’s sake, do you want to make him a wrestler?


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There is no doubt that massage benefits the baby, but it is more to do with the mother’s touch than the oil itself. A soft, gentle massage is enough for you and your baby to strengthen the bond.

Continue reading to know more about other harmful traditional practices

#4 Giving solid food before three months

While you might think that your three-month-old baby is ready to have solid food, the truth is a baby’s digestive system can only handle it when they complete six months as it could increase their risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, coeliac disease and even allergies and eczema. Besides, solid food is hard-to-digest and could also trigger an intestinal inflammation.

#5 Using besan and other ubtan to remove body hair and skin colour

Before I write anything, let me tell you that I have also fallen prey to this practice and my daughter got a terrible skin rash after that.

This is when I learned that a baby’s skin is extremely fragile and sensitive, especially for the first six months and using besan and ubtan would harm his sensitive skin. If your baby has a lot of body hair, don’t worry as it will fall off when he grows up. Ubtan might help remove hair for some days but let me tell you that there are chances that it will grow back. Always check with your doctor before using any such product.

6. Giving gripe water/ ghutti to an infant

Another common practice is to give gripe water quite frequently, so much so that whenever a baby cries your aunty or mid-wive would ask you to give the baby gripe water.

gripe water babies

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While it might work for older babies who are more than a year old, giving your newborn anything other than breastmilk is a no-no, say doctors. Anything other than that may increase the risk of introducing bacteria, causing allergies and irritating the baby’s intestines. WHO recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health.

Besides, some of these may contain sodium bicarbonate, dill seed oil, alcohol and other substances that could be harmful for your baby.

Continue reading to know more about other harmful traditional practices

#7 Applying mustard oil on nostrils/ear

I can easily say that mustard oil is the most trusted massage oil for babies in India. While it has a lot of benefits for the baby, using it for other things besides massage could harm the baby, especially if you put it in the babies ears or nostrils. What’s worse, it could also lead to an ear infection.

mustard oil cropped

[Image courtesy: Youtube]

So, even though your maalish waali would advice you to put a few drops of mustard oil in your baby’s nose and ears, this is one practice that is a strict no-no.

#8 Cleaning umbilical stump with mustard oil

The umbilical stump of your baby should be only cleaned with plain water as it is prone to infections. While the stump usually dries off in a week to 20 days, it leaves behind an open skin which takes time to heal. However, it is highly susceptible to infections and germs. There are times that you notice a yellowish discharge from it, which is quite normal.

However, you should never use soap, mustard oil or other such ingredients to clean the umbilical cord as it can lead to an infection. While infections are rare, consult a doctor if you see that the navel area is inflamed or if you notice an unusual discharge or bleeding from it.

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