By Ankita A Talwar
Winters can be tough on babies. Getting changed from a wet diaper into a new one brings fears of exposure to the cold, with moms fussing to keep them wrapped up in layers of warm clothing and resorting to health tonics to banish ailments. Winters are also tough on a baby’s skin, which loses moisture faster than you can replenish it, with the dryness leaving the baby itchy and uncomfortable.
And here is where a mom’s dilemma starts. In an attempt to keep our babies happy and protected, we sometimes resort to old-wives tales or radical new fads which may or may not be effective. Here, our experts (Dr Rajiv Chabbra, consultant peadiatrician and Dr Seema Oberoi Lall, senior dermatologist, Gurgaon) take on some of these theories and scrutinise them to make a mom and baby’s lives easier.
Myth: Thick oil or greasy desi ghee is best for a baby’s skin
It really isn’t! The main function of any oil or moisturiser is to build a protective sheath on the top layer of the skin which will not allow natural oils (from the inner layers of the skin) to escape. And most oils-branded packaged oils and light oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, etc., are good at that. But something as heavy as ghee may actually clog the pores of the skin and lead to allergies or skin reactions, besides being too thick to spread (not to mention, your baby can end up smelling a wee bit distasteful too).
Myth: Babies should be given a bath with milk to keep the skin supple
A bath is meant to clean off any residue from sweat, grime or dirt from the skin. Milk will leave a greasy coating, which will require soap to be washed off and this in turn will leave the skin dry. And giving a last rinse with milk, or diluted milk, will leave an organic residue on the skin inviting trouble. So both ways, it’s a no-no! Ideally, after a bath, pat the baby dry, and give him a good massage with a light oil to keep the skin oils trapped in.
Myth: Thick woollen sweaters are best to keep the baby cosy
Babies need layering of cotton and light garments than an offloading of thick, stuffy woollen sweaters. Layering works on the principle of insulation and traps the warm body air close to the skin. Also, layering with cotton garments ensures that even if the baby is sweating, the sweat gets absorbed, versus wool which will leave the sweat close on the skin. In fact, if the baby remains covered in sweat for too long, she can catch a cold or develop skin issues. Not to mention, that most wool has fibre which babies can ingest, given that they can suck on the sleeves or the collar. Therefore, ideally, fleece or lined-cotton garments are best at keeping the baby cosy.
Myth: Babies need several layers of clothing in winter
However helpless the little one looks, remember she is a resilient human being and does not need five or six layers of woollen clothing to keep her warm. If the cold is extreme (snowing, for example), invest in clothes that are meant for the weather (windcheaters made from synthetic fabric, fleece, and merino thermals); else for winter in the plains, just one extra layer of clothes than what the mom is wearing suffices. Also, keep all clothing lightweight so that baby does not feel weighed down to move her arms and fling her legs. Keep hands, feet and head covered, choose cotton caps over woollen ones to let the scalp breathe and prevent itching and your baby should be good to go!
Myth: Babies need to be indoors all the time as the weather outside is too cold
Try doing that and you will have an uber cranky baby on your hands to deal with! Babies love the outdoors and it does wonders for their physical and cognitive development. Instead of restricting their outdoors, work around it:
1. Clad the baby well-layering is best (the sun can make the baby warm and it is easy to take off layers) and tuck her in a warm soft blanket to ward off the wind.
2. Steer away from cold winds; it’s not the cold temperature, but a draft of cold wind that can definitely make her sick. Therefore, when outdoors, choose a spot which does not get drafts.
3. Once back indoors, do not immediately start taking off the baby’s layers of clothes. The instant change in temperature can leave her sick. Instead let her acclimatise to the indoor temperature for a few minutes.
Winter can be fun for the baby and you, with a few smart moves. Don’t get stuck indoors just because it is cold. Enjoy yourself and let your little one too soak in some wintry pleasures.