July 31, 2020 11:35:17 am
By Dr Partap Chauhan
The ebb and flow of life has always been closely accompanied by Ayurvedic customs and rituals for millennia. Some of these are seemingly too simple, some unfathomable, but they do exist and all of them have hidden values. The birth of a baby is one of those watershed moments that change the course of our lives, and while celebrations are in order, the emphasis must be on giving the tender newborn its best chance at growing to be a healthy individual.
At the same time, it is equally important to take care of the new mum who has perhaps experienced the joys and sweet toils of motherhood for the first time in her life, and needs all the care and attention from those around her.
The customs and traditions you are about to read here are based on centuries of observations distilled down to easy-to-apply traditions. Here is a deep-dive into the lifestyle recommendations that are intrinsic parts of the Ayurvedic lifestyle. However, this is not a substitute for medical advice.
Soft words, positive music and gentle action
The baby may not have a developed faculty of speech yet, but it experiences fear and anxiety just like adults which it cannot express. Make sure to speak softly to the baby. Do not suddenly jerk the baby awake from sleep, or be very loud near it. Also, the common playful gesture of tossing the baby in the air creates fear in its mind, so it must be avoided. Play gentle Carnatic music or traditional lullabies. Until the first year, do not leave the baby unattended. If the mother is away for a bath, a senior in the household must keep watch. Harsh or loud words must be avoided, instead speak in a soothing, gentle tone. This develops confidence and happiness in the baby’s mind.
Limiting access to the baby
Traditionally, babies were kept inside the nursery in a separate ward within the house and the only people allowed access to the baby were usually the mother, the wet nurse or elderly females within the household. It is important to prevent strangers from touching the baby to reduce the risk of diseases, especially because immunity does not develop until the third or fourth month. Even modern science supports this fact now.
Upward oil massage – Udhwartana
The umbilical cord takes around 15 days to dry and fall off naturally. That’s also your cue to start massaging the baby. Ayurveda recommends the use of ashwagandha, shalparni, root of castor plant, castor oil, sesame oil, goat milk, and turmeric to massage the baby. Process ashwagandha or shalparni in sesame or mustard oil and after it has cooled, apply it on the baby and massage in the reverse or upward direction. This technique is called Udhwartana in Panchakarma therapy.
Fumigating the baby room
Another lesser known tip on ensuring the best environment for the baby is to fumigate the baby room with Ayurvedic resins, leaves and roots which counters negative energies and infuses positivity in the immediate environment of the baby. Jatamansi, Brahmi, Heeng and Gugulu herbs can be used to fumigate the baby room and the baby clothes. This also neutralises germs in the air and apparels.
Keeping indoors until the fourth month
According to Ayurveda, the baby should be kept within the nursery or baby room in a separate ward within the house and access to the baby should be limited. Traditionally speaking, on the first auspicious day of the fourth month, the baby is usually bathed, dressed and brought out from the nursery. There, a senior female of the household, or a wet nurse (dhatri) carries a plate with mustard seeds and honey. The baby’s forehead is then adorned with a little vermillion and elders of the household should bless the baby. Once the ceremony is complete the baby is taken to other parts of the house, or back to the nursery whichever is preferable, as per the prevailing customs.
Moon and sun exposure
Sun and moonlight have several health benefits that the baby needs during the initial months. The only exception to the previous point of keeping the baby indoors until the fourth month is to take the baby outdoors in the early hours of the morning for a few minutes of sunbathing. This is best done within the confines of the nursery, or in a place where no one will disturb the baby and the mother. Similarly, moonlight is beneficial for developing the nervous system in the baby and balancing the gynaecological cycle of the mother.
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Ayurveda is a vast encyclopaedia of knowledge that deals with all aspects of life, including childbirth and pregnancy. To know more how Ayurveda can help you enhance your quality of life after pregnancy, talk to an Ayurveda expert for personalised advice. However, remember to consult a medical practitioner for any health concerns regarding the baby or the new mother.
(Views are personal. Dr Partap Chauhan, Director of Jiva Ayurveda, is an author, public speaker, TV personality and Ayurvedacharya)
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