Being a Mother for the first time is an experience only a woman can feel in a lifetime. I felt it in the year 2006 when my baby Cherry (her nickname) was born. With her, I was reborn into a new world of responsibility wherein I put my baby's needs before anything else. The introduction of Cherry in my home made my home more active than usual with everyone on the run - washing, cooking, cleaning, singing and pampering my little Cherry. With Cherry came the traditional knowledge of baby care taught to me by my mom and my grandmother.
BABIES AND AYURVEDA
Ayurveda depends on five elements named as Vatta (air and space), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (earth) which exists within every life form. It is believed that when all these three forces are balanced, one is healthy. Any imbalance in these forces causes illness. So, Ayurveda aims to restore the lost balance by making all the above three forces equal. Personally, I believe it all depends upon the food we intake (as some foods have high vatta, some has high pitta and so on). So feeding the kids natural and healthy foods becomes crucial for their health. Out of 8 branches in Ayurvedic treatment, the one that is used in pediatrics is known as Kaumarbhritya or Balaroga chikitsa (Bala - Child, Roga - disease). This particular branch deals with the ways of upbringing a healthy baby both mentally and physically. It also stresses the need for breastfeeding the babies, oil massage and medicated bath.
BREAST FEEDING THE BABY
In my home, we were very sure that breast feeding (தாய் பால்) was the only thing that went past my baby's lip at least for the first six months (apart from the emergency medications). The more we breastfeed our child, the more stronger they become. And that's what my mom keeps reminding me whenever I get tried or look for other options to feed Cherry. My mom always stresses on the fact that the goodness of the breast milk that I give my daughter for the first six months or more will help her strengthen her immune system as well as prevents or postpones diseases related to bones and osteoporosis in the future.
BABY OIL MASSAGE
According to our Indian tradition, oil massage is not new to us. Even during the Diwali, we are accustomed to take oil bath and oil massage. In Babies, oil massage is termed as "Snehana or Abhyanaga". I started doing baby massage when my daughter Cherry was just few weeks old. As much as it was beneficial for her health, we both enjoyed some intimate moments together. Her smile, her reaction and the giggling sound she makes as I touch her body made me feel the bliss of motherhood. As I do the massage, I keep conversing with her and she responds instantly with her baby language. I followed some simple massage daily for my baby and would love to share one simple massage tip here in this post.
I always massage my baby on the bed making her lie flat on a soft cloth. Below is one simple baby massage that I would like to share. It is called as I LOVE YOU massage for the letter strokes.
ILU massage for stomach [relieves gas and constipation]
- Trace the letter I on your baby's left side of the abdomen with firm and gentle movement using your fingers
- Then, make an upside down L along the base of your baby's ribs starting from the right to the left and down to your baby's abdomen.
- Next, make a U turn starting from the right side of your baby's tummy, then to the top around the navel and ending on to the left side.
Advantages of Ayurvedic Oil Massage
- Is Natural: Ayurvedic oils are natural oils and hence they are easily available in a place like India.
- Is Safe: Ayurveda depends on the knowledge of age old wisdom that had been passed from generation to generation. Because they are natural, they can be applied to babies from the time they are born .
- Health Benefits: Oil massage is nourishing, has relaxing effect on the baby's body making her sleep well, improves complexion as well as promotes strength and growth of the baby.
Right after the birth of my first baby, I was given medicated baths until the 16th day of naming my baby. Every day, there were these leaves with medicated values out of which I only know the name of two (neem leaves and thulasi leaves) that were put into my warm water tub. Also, I was shining in my turmeric armour right after my bath from top to bottom. My parents and grandma said that it offers enormous protection to both me and my baby with its medicinal values. This type of ayurvedic treatment after delivery has been passed from generation to generation.
Also, after Cherry's every bath she was exposed to what we call as "Sambrani" or Benzoin resin that we normally use on Friday poojas. I was not afraid of the heat since my grandma had the whole sambrani lit plate covered with Koodai ( bamboo vessel). It was believed that the smoke of sambrani has medicinal values and prevents cold/cough.
Other ayurvedic products that I have used for my children were
Vasambu (Sweet Flag) : Every baby born into our family has a vasambu bindi on the forehead and so did Cherry. Also a vasambu chain was tied either around the neck or the baby's wrist (like bracelet). It is believed that it wards off any infection or negative energies and is said to possess enormous healing property. The vasambu (பிள்ளை வளர்ப்பான்) is always used by heating in a flame burned through till oil (or direct flame) till it gets blackened and then powered for use. It is also applied around the baby's tummy to treat stomach ache in infants.
Yogurt : I could never forget those times when I went to see my paediatric for my baby's injection right after Cherry was seventh month old, the doctor always asks me to feed her curd, curd and more curd. She always tells me that even a multivitamin tonic is not that necessary but a yogurt is. With my youngest, I followed her advice and reaped a lot of health benefits. So those mother who are reading this, keep in mind "Yogurt".
Other than the above, there were more good things that I fed her through breast feeding like turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, curry leaves, cumin, greens (esp.drumstick leaves) and garlic. I remember eating lots and lots drumstick leaves to make my baby pass stool normally just when she was suffering from constipation. Yes, the goodness of what I feed myself is what went to my baby through breast milk.
All the above traditional knowledge are not new to many moms but will be useful to new moms reading this post. I am a firm believer of these customs and would pass these traditional wisdom to my children too.
DABUR AND ME
The name Dabur was the one that reminds me of Ayurveda's claimed health benefits during my childhood. Dabur Honey was the most preferred natural honey in every household. Dabur's Amla and Vakita hair oil are not new to me since I have been using them since school days. Now, the Dabur has been introduced Dabur Lal Tail for baby oil massage. It contains ayurvedic ingredients like Till Tail, Ratanjyot, Shankha Pushpi, Camphor and Urad - all related to natural medicine.
- TILL TAIL: It is also known as gingelly oil [எள் எண்ணெய்]. Sesame oil (Till Tail) is rich in important nutrients like omega-6 fatty acid and hence is nourishing. In Ayurveda, it is used as a remedy for oral health through oil pulling. Sesame oil keeps the baby skin nourished with its essential oils and is an excellent choice for baby body massage. Using this oil on the baby helps fight skin related problems and diaper rashes. It also helps relieve stress and relaxes the body leaving the baby fresh and happy.
- CAMPHOR [ கற்பூரம்]: Is waxy, has a strong aromatic odour and is easily absorbed through the skin. Due to its local anesthetic properties, Camphor acts as a cough suppressant. It is also highly used as active ingredient in cooling gels due to its cooling property. It is widely used as an oil in aromatherapy. Edible camphor known as "pachha karpooram" [பச்சைக் கற்பூரம்] is used in Indian desserts.
- SHANKHA PUSHPI[ விட்டுணுக்கிராந்தி] : It is a nature's subtle gift to improve your intelligence. In ayurveda, Shankha Pushpi is said to be a mind-enhancing herbs. It rejuvenates nervous functions and thereby helps in improved memory, acts as stress reliever, panacea for head ache and cures general weakness.
- RATANJYOT [ ஆதளை / காட்டாமணக்கு]: It is grown in Jammu and Kashmir as a dried herb. Known as Alkanet in English, Rataniyot is a natural colourant from the bark of a tree to give some Indian version of curry dishes their signature red hue. It is also known as Dyer's or Spanish Bugloss. Due to its medicinal properties, it is used in the treatment of wounds, pain relief from bites and stings. It is topically antiseptic and when used in massaging , it helps cures skin related infections and problems.
- URAD: Urad Dal [ உளுந்து] is also known as black gram or black lentil . This highly nutritious pulse is popular among Indian kitchen. It is also widely used in ayurveda to increases kapha and pitta of an individual. It helps in removing tan and heals sunburns. It is an effective way to lighten the skin and used as a body/facial scrub. It is also used for treating skin problems like acne, pimples and premature aging of the skin. Due to its anti inflammatory properties, massaging with this oil helps to reduce pain and inflammation.
Not only humans even animals pertaining to mammal species tend to have their own ayurvedic treatment.
Some lovely examples includes,
- When a cat is sick, it tends to get hold of a plant named Kuppaimeni (குப்பைமேணி/Acalifa indica ) to heal its health issues which I have personally witnessed. Hence the plant is also known as Poonai Vanangi meaning Cat's blessing.
- When a mother whale gives birth to a baby, it is said to eat all seaweeds in the sea to regain its strength according to Korean history. Hence Koreans even stress today the importance of taking seaweed soup (Miyeokguk) right after child birth to promote quick healing and milk formation.
SYNTHETIC PRODUCTS AND CHILDREN
The world we live are bound with innumerous synthetic products from the dress we wear to the food we eat. While the former is permissible, the latter is not. We all know that our body digests everything we put into it internally as well as externally in form of energy and blood. Only the right kind of products does the right thing to the body. Naturally occurring products proves no harm to the body as the body gets adjusted naturally. So, unless for emergency it is always better to go the natural way.
Always keep the spark of ancient wisdom alive among children. The timeless wisdom of our country is lost due to colonization of our country and negligence. Our elder's knowledge of herbs and spices should be preserved. Ayurveda is a vast knowledge and has values of long lasting treatment with its natural ingredients that is healthy for our children's natural growth.
My cousin who was suffering from asthma (breathing problem) was advised to take ayurvedic treatment as normal treatment gave instant relief but did not provide any long term cure. After a two years of ayurvedic treatment, he is completely free from Asthma and that's the success of this treatment. Though the result of Ayurveda is a slow process, they are safe and those diseases treated by ayurvedic medications rarely occur again.
Only a right product can make a world of difference in the development of a child. So always be wise and informed in choosing the best.
Disclosure: The above post is written for Indiblogger's "Traditional Knowledge, Natural growth" bringing forth my own thoughts and experience.