Introducing the little bundle of joy to your home is a time of caring, of fun, of great responsibility. Various relatives, friends, and neighbours often give first-time mothers diverse advice on how to care for the baby. Here, our experts have tried to explain what babies need and how to cope with them. The most important piece of advice anyone can give you is to relax and enjoy God’s best gift to mankind!
THE THREE CHALLENGES A BABY FACES
Your baby has come from a sterile environment to one that is full of germs and dangers. (S)he
faces three challenges:
• Body Temperature
Babies are very prone to infection. Do you know that they get it from us – from our hands, our
breath and our skin. To protect your baby, you could ensure that
• Minimum people handle your baby
• No one with a skin or eye infection, cough/cold or diarrhea comes near your baby
• No one kisses your baby
• People wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before touching the baby.
Make sure you give only breastfeeds to your baby. Your family members need to support you in
feeding your baby every 2 hours.
Babies lose heat from their body very easily. Make sure that you nurse the baby on your bed so that (s) he gets the warmth from your body.
SETTING UP THE ROOM FOR THE BABY
The ideal room for the baby is one with adequate light, ventilation, and warmth. Avoid drafts.
• Restrict the number of people entering the room
• The room should be quiet; no loud noises
• Have the room cleaned twice a day, preferably with wet mopping (pocha). Remove the baby from the room during dusting, sweeping (jhadu) or vacuuming
• Keep pets away from the baby’s room
• Do not allow smoking anywhere in the house
• The fan, cooler or air conditioner may be switched on according to the weather, but the temperature of the room should not fall below 26 C; keep the baby out of the direct air current.
• In winter, if you use a hot air blower; make sure you increase the humidity by keeping a wet towel (or drying the baby’s washed nappies) in front of the blower.
ROOMING IN THE BABY
This means the mother and the baby stay in the same room. Ideally, the baby should sleep in the same bed as the mother for the first few weeks of life.
The mattresses for the baby should be firm. Blankets and wraps should not be fluffy or too soft as these may block the baby’s breathing.
Some brightly colored objects in the direct line of the baby’s vision may help in the development of the baby’s brain and eyes.
Do not keep soft toys, polythene bags, medicines, cosmetics and other potentially dangerous items near the baby.
The baby should always be made to lie down on the back or on his/her side, and never be kept on the abdomen, particularly if unattended.
Babies love a gentle massage. Make sure the room is warm before taking of his/her clothes.Take a small quantity of oil in your hands and gently apply it on the baby. Do not rub the baby’s skin or manipulate his/her body vigorously.
Never allow a professional ‘malish-wali’ to massage your baby as they are sometimes rough and can cause injury to the baby’s delicate bones. Do not instill oil in the baby’s nostrils, ears, on the cord or genital area.
The umbilical cord of the baby starts drying soon after birth, shrivels and falls off. Research has shown that applying anything to the cord or its base can interfere with the natural process of healing. Make sure that the cord is left open to the air (you should tie the baby’s nappy/diaper below the navel). When the cord separates, a few drops of blood may ooze out from the base – don’t worry, this is normal.
BATHING AND CLEANING THE BABY
Babies enjoy being bathed. You can make bathing, dressing and be grooming a pleasurable experience for all.
Baby should be bathed after the cord has separated (till then you may sponge him/her with a towel soaked in warm water).
Make sure the room is warm and does not have any drafts of wind. Keep all items ready before starting to bathe the baby:
• Lukewarm water
• Fresh dress
You can bathe the baby in a tub specially manufactured for baby bath. It should have a gentle slope so that the baby’s head can be kept higher than the feet.
Alternately, sit on a low stool with the legs out straight. Place the babies on your thighs, with the head towards you. Bathe the baby by gently pouring lukewarm water. Start from the head, avoiding water splashing on the face, nose, and eyes. Proceed to the trunk and then to the arms and legs. Finally clean the nappy area, being careful to clean from front backward. There is no need to clean your baby girl’s genitals from inside. Similarly, in boys, there is no need to retract the foreskin for cleaning. Do not use soap on the face. A mild soap may be used on the other parts of the body.
As each area is cleaned, pat it dry with a soft towel, before proceeding to the next area. Once the baby has been bathed and dried, put him/her on the bed and gently put on the clothes, starting with then apply. There is no need to use talcum powder, cosmetics, lotions and creams unless prescribed by the baby’s doctor.
Do not use kajal on the baby’s eyes. Do not instill oil in the baby’s nose, ears or navel.
The baby’s clothing should be appropriate for the weather. Put as many layers as you would feel comfortable wearing, and wrap him/her in a sheet over his/her clothing. Make sure to cover the baby’s head with a cap in cool weather.
Clothing should be soft, easy to put on and remove and should not have pins, tight elastic, zippers or sharp hooks.
The baby’s clothing should be washed separately from that of the rest of the family, with a mild detergent. Do not use antiseptics like dettol for your baby’s clothes.
Babies communicate by crying. It is wrong to think that every crying is caused by hunger. Common causes for crying are a wet nappy, uncomfortable or tight clothing, a blocked nose or simply the need for a cuddle. Serious conditions also cause crying – if your baby cries despite attending to his/her needs, or if (s) he cannot be consoled, show him/her to your doctor immediately.
TRADITIONAL PRACTICES TO BE AVOIDED
A number of traditional practices in children have evolved over the years. While most of these are beneficial to the baby, the following practices are harmful and should be avoided:
• Discarding the mother’s first milk or colostrums
• Delaying the first feed
• Feeding the baby water, honey, ghutti, glucose water, cow’s milk, tea, etc.
• Applying kajal to the baby’s eyes
• Using medicines or herbal medicines to quieten a crying baby
• Vigorous massage, especially by professional masseurs (malish-walis)
NEONATAL JAUNDICE – EVERY BABY WITH JAUNDICE SHOULD BE ASSESSED BY A NEONATOLOGIST
Neonatal jaundice (or ‘baby’ jaundice) is a yellowish discoloration of the eyes and skin that happens in almost every baby. It is caused by “bilirubin” that accumulates in the body because of the immaturity of the baby’s liver. It usually starts on the 2nd or 3rd day, reaches its peak by the fifth to seventh day and then gradually subsides. It is generally harmless if bilirubin levels do not rise too high or too early. Your baby will be regularly examined for jaundice, both in the hospital and after discharge.
Babies are very prone to illnesses and can become very sick in a short period of time. It is important that the disease be recognized and treated early so that the baby can have the best chance of survival. If your baby has any of the danger signs given below, show him/her to a doctor immediately.
• Poor sucking or inability to feed
• Sweating or turning blue while feeding
• Breathing too fast or too slow
• Breathing with a grunting sound
• Chest in drawing while breathing
• Weak cry / inconsolable cry
• Blood tinged stool
• Frequent or greenish vomiting
• Bulging soft spot on the head
• Boils over the body
• Abnormal jerky body movements/fits
• Lethargic/difficult to arouse
• Discharge from the eyes or swelling of the eyelids
• Decreased urine output (less than 5 times in 24 hours) or very dark urine
• Discharge or a foul smell from the umbilicus
• Skin color appearing blue or pale or increasing yellowness (jaundice)
• Hands and feet feeling cold and clammy or mottled.