Ayurveda has gained wide recognition for its contribution to general medicine and surgery. However, only precious little is known about the Ayurveda baby care techniques. This article is an introduction to how alternative medicine looks at baby care and their advise.
A brief history of Ayurvedic Pediatric care
It is true that newborn and Pediatric care was well described in different texts of Ayurveda, the first exclusive textbook of Kaumarabhritya viz. Kashyapa Samhita dated 6th Century BC.
Taking care of the mother
Newborn care, as per the Ayurvedic texts, begins from the conception or, in fact, the pre-conception of the baby.
The well-being of the mother plays a crucial role in the healthy growth of the fetus.
There are a few health conditions that one ought to be aware of in this regard. These have been described as Garbha vyapada (complications during pregnancy) in the Ayurvedic texts.
One such problem is Upavishtaka. It is the condition wherein the mother experiences copious vaginal discharge. The fetus that is growing in her is likely to have a retarded growth pattern.
Another health concern is the Nagodara. This is a health condition wherein the mother, due to stress, may suffer from vaginal leaking. Thus, leading to an emaciated fetus. The ailment called Lina garbha refers to a scenario wherein the fetus is not viable
Newborn care in Ayurveda – in brief
Neonatal care is called Navjata Shishu Paricharya. The first step towards newborn is the Ulva Parimarjana or the cleansing of the vernix caseous.
This is followed by the Pranapatyagamana, i.e the resuscitative measures, the Naal Chedana or the cutting of Umbilical Cord, Snana (Bathing), Pichu Dharana (external oleation), the warna prashanas or the ingestion of gold bhasma (an edible substance that appears similar to ash) with medhya drugs, the Garbhodaka Vamana or the cleansing of the stomach by emesis and finally the jata karma or the introduction of food.
A few well-known new born care practices in Ayurveda
- The vernix is removed by using Saindava rock salt and ghee.
- Bala taila is used for massage.
- Two stones are struck near the baby’s ear to examine the baby’s hearing impulse. In doing so, one can stimulate the Auditory nerve.
- After the baby breathes and cries, the umbilical cord is cut at a distance of four angulas (finger) and tied with a thread. Kushta taila is applied to prevent any form of sepsis.
- A cloth soaked in oil-soaked is kept on the anterior fontanel of the scalp to hypothermia. The baby is then bathed with a decoction of herbs having antiseptic properties and odour.
- Saindhave, ghee and Vacha (Acorus calamus) are used to clear the stomach from ingested amniotic fluids and blood as well as to prevent vomiting after consuming food.
- After the stomach is cleansed, the baby is fed semi-solids like Ghee and Honey that make the baby energetic and provide passive immunity
- On the second and the third day, mothers are advised to give their babies lakshaman ghee followed by exclusive breastfeeds.
- Raksha karma is also followed. This is a procedure that ensures disinfection and prevents sepsis caused due to clothes, cot or wards around the baby.
- Drug combinations - with gold as one of the contents - namely Hemae. gold, Sweta Vacha (Acorus calamus), kushta (sassuria lappa) or Arka pushpin matsyaksha, sankha or kaidarya, kanaka and Vacha are also administered. These medicines are consumed, after mixing them with honey and ghee for a period of one year to ensure good growth patterns, intelligence, strength, toned skin colour and is beneficial to the whole body
This article has been written by Dr. Elizabeth John. She has been working as an Ayurveda doctor for over 25 years and holds an MD and a PhD in Ayurveda. Presently, Dr. Elizabeth John is the Professor and Head of the Department of Shalya at the Karnataka Ayurveda Medical College (KAMC), Mangaluru, Karnataka, India.