When a baby is born, the parents are also born with her. Not only the mother, but also the father evolves infinitely more as a human being (even though most depictions of parenting would have us believe that only the mother is overwhelmed by the baby, I can vouch for all the men I know personally, that they cried a wee bit too).
The first time we set eyes on little G's face, her eyes screwed shut, we knew we were captured – lock stock and barrel. Little G now held firmly in her little fists, both our hearts tightly clasped – for life. It is natural then, that we would do everything in our capacity to ensure that she was growing well.
This entailed various forms of research – reading all the books on parenting we could lay our hands on, talking to all the ‘been there done that’ parents (including our own) while risking the smirk on their faces when they narrated what was in store; going berserk with Google searches - Everything!
The first few days, we were even scared of burping baby G, for fear of hurting her while doing so. But gradually, we learnt how much little G loved to be touched - she slept contentedly in our arms, wailing as soon as she was laid down in her crib.
I finally overcame the paranoia of inadvertently hurting her, and started giving her massages. (A little prelude here: I come from the land of massages – Kerala, where we use massages to solve everything from aching muscles to treating depressions. Hence, while I was briefly influenced by advocates of ‘no-massage-for-babies’, my entire family of extended relatives would have disowned me if I followed that route. Their argument? Well, they say there are years of scientific Ayurvedic research - such as this research - in support of the practice.)
During earlier days, the mothers and the grandmothers concocted massage oils with the purest of ingredients; but today that option seems to be drying out with nuclear families. Fortunately, there are companies that spend years researching and developing the same today, making things slightly easier for us city dwellers.
This was when I discovered the joy of touch. Science has proven that the loving touch of the caregiver is one of the most important contributors, next only to breast milk, perhaps, for the natural growth of a baby in the first few months. As a first-hand recipient of the rewards, I have now become a strong advocate of baby massages – when done correctly.
What were the rewards, you ask? Well, let me begin with the glowing skin of little G. When babies are born, they have skin that is so tender; it is scary to even touch them. Gradually the skin toughens up, but gets drier and needs moisturizing. Options range from various kinds of oils, to lotions and creams that are formulated specially for baby skin.
But the best option is a pre bath massage - it has much more than healthy skin to contribute. A few months later, the massage had helped increase little G’s appetite. She seemed to be calmer after her afternoon massages and slept well. The massage was also our precious time with each other – a time when I would sing to her, and she would gaze into my eyes while making baby sounds. When she learnt how to smile, she would give me dazzling smiles every time I would talk to her during the massages.
The style and frequency of little G’s massage changed a little when she started trying to crawl. My mother would now use slightly more pressure with a slight twisting motion, on her pudgy little legs and arms, since her muscles needed more nourishment now that she was ready to crawl. And sure enough, she was crawling almost as fast as I could run!The crawling soon progressed to running without any brakes, which was another reward of her massages (while her proud grandmother gave me a proud "I-told-you-so" look).
Along with these massages, another lesson I learnt in parenting is that natural foods are a far better option than any of the packaged ‘convenience’ foods that is aplenty in the market today. My little one was served pureed bananas, pureed apples and mashed potatoes as her first experience of food. She relished them, and much to my relief, her tiny stomach could easily digest the natural fibers in the foods. I thus learnt that while packaged baby foods are sometimes unavoidable (such as when traveling), clean, natural foods are the best.
Our ancestors knew the bounty of nature, and lived in harmony with it. Science and technology, while making life easier for all of us, have in some way, taken us away from all that was life-giving. Remember all the home remedies that our grannies subjected us to? Many of them were deeply studied and hence, scientific in nature (this, ofcourse is not true of blind superstitions – hence Authenticity must be the key here).
While my children were growing up, I had the good fortune of having my elder relatives a phone call away. Thus, much of their knowledge got transferred into my life as a new, nervous mother. Some things I had scoffed at earlier showed me instant results, forcing me to look at traditional knowledge with renewed respect. Some of them, I list here -
- My mother would insist that a simple cough could be treated with of juice of fresh ginger and tulsi leaf, mixed with honey – safe and effective. No side effects, no worry of any chemical. This, according to me is what Ayurveda was all about - natural, no side effects, and effective.
- There were some simple kitchen herbs that were an absolute essential in foods for little G – ajwain (carom seeds) in her paranthas and heeng (asafetida) in her dal – these helped in digestion
- As little G grew into a naughty preschooler, her mother (yup... that's me !) was subjected to long lectures (this time, by the doting grandfather) on the importance of traditionally used natural foods for mental and physical growth. Thus, little G snacked on almonds and raisins instead of chips and biscuits. No doubt, this food group contributed greatly to her ability to discover innovative ways of getting in and out of mischief :-)
Today, with our second baby, we are more confident as parents; but my husband and I are still learning, wide-eyed, the wonders that nature and traditional wisdom has in store for us. Our experience has taught us that used regularly, and with the right kind of researched natural ayurvedic products, nature has every solution to the nutrition and growth for her children.
This is a post written for the "Traditional Knowledge, Natural Growth" contest by Dabur and Indiblogger