Baby Care Before and After Pregnancy

We have a few questions regarding newborn babies. For newborn babies at a very vulnerable stage, I have framed questions for Dr. Manjit Singh Sekhon regarding baby care.  How soon does the umbilical cord of the baby fall of? Does the mother have to put any ointment to make that happen sooner?

As we all know, the umbilical cord is used to bring food into the baby before birth. That is when the baby is in the uterus. When the baby is born, the cord is cut as it is no longer required. And it starts to dry up. It usually dries for up to 7 days. And falls off by day 8 or 9. There could be a slight variation, but it usually falls off by day 8 or 9. 

Why is the umbilical cord so important? 

Usually, this is where the infection sets in. it is vulnerable to infections, especially when the cord falls off. So, a small swab or betadine can be applied to the umbilical cord. This is to protect it from bacteria and germs. This is all the care that is required. 

At times the baby’s poop is green in color, which can worry the mother.

When the child is still in the mother’s womb, he is swallowing a lot of amniotic fluid in which he is floating. He’s floating in this fluid, so he keeps swallowing it. This fluid contains a lot of dead cells and other debris within the uterus. All this debris then collects in the baby’s intestines and his stomach. And this remains there throughout the pregnancy. When the baby is born, for the first 5 days, he passes what greenish-black stool, which is just cleaning out the debris inside his stomach is. 

By this time, the baby has also started feeding. So the poop formed by this is yellow. So in 3-4 days, you’ll see that the stool has become yellow from a greenish-black color. And by day 7 it will be just yellow. Later on, we find that in children with infections, an intestine infection may pass a green color stool. In this case, a stool test and consultation from a pediatrician could be needed. 

Oral health of babies(baby care):  The baby gets new teeth. What my daughter does is eat toothpaste instead of brushing her teeth. I don’t know if that’s a benefit of any kind. 

Before they start getting their teeth, they do not have any teeth when they are only 6-8 months old. At this time also the oral health should be taken care of. What we do is we get something called Boro-glycerin. This is readily available at a chemist’s shop. A Jhonson’s bud, the one used to clean the ear, is used. Dip the bud in boro glycerine and then apply it to the gums and tongue of the baby. This helps to keep the mouth clean and relatively free of bacteria. Because when the baby is drinking milk, some of the milk remains in the mouth. Some of it stays on the tongue. So if you use something to clean the tongue, it helps. The baby will be more comfortable and salivate-less, i.e., the drolling will be lessened. And in due course of time, he will get his teeth.

To begin with, this whole thing about brushing is to get him used to the idea of brushing his teeth. So this may not have a great benefit. But with time, he will get used to it, and it will help the baby later as he keeps his oral hygiene in check. And most of these baby toothpaste is safe for the baby care, even if he swallows them. 

What is the process of learning in a baby? 

It is given to us inherently by nature. As the baby grows in age, his brain starts to learn particular things. You don’t have actually to teach him anything. Language skills will develop, motor skills will develop. And this is very interesting. He will be able to isolate his index finger and will be able to point at things. And then, he will develop what is called a pincer hold, which is between the thumb and the forefinger. A baby smaller than 9 months, when he looks at an ant crawling on the table, he’ll try to pick it up with his whole hand. But at nine months, he can reach out and pick it up like this (pincer hold). These are all motor skills that develop without us having to do anything. So we don’t have to teach our babies anything at all. This is something that they will learn as time passes.

Similarly, being able to sit up, which would be somewhere between 7-8 months. Being able to stand up would be around 11 months. And then finally to walk, that would be about 1 year to 15 months. So all these things are developed as the baby grows. 

So does singing to the baby, playing with them help them grow? 

Yes, it helps. It’s very important for the baby. It helps just not in stimulating the brain of the baby but also helps them absorb language skills. After all, how would our baby understand Hindi, English, or Punjabi and not Spanish, French, or Portuguese? Because this is the language we use to talk to them, they pick up our language to speak with them. The second thing would be bonding. When you talk to the baby, you start to develop a certain bond with him when you speak to the baby. 

There are sayings and beliefs that giving honey or gudti to the child helps the baby? 

Is it true? Do they help? 

This, even I did not know about. But it is called ‘gudti.’ The eldest, the most respected member of the family, gives the baby the first drop of food. And honey is the chosen liquid to be given. And this honey is not safe. It came to my knowledge recently that it has a certain type of bacteria called C. botulinum. This can sometimes cause infections and, in some cases, can be fatal for the baby. Therefore honey is now discouraged. 

As far as Ghutti’s are concerned, they are mainly social things that have no beneficial effect. 

It is also suggested to touch some water on the baby’s lip to prevent them from getting dry. 

This is unnecessary. If the baby is dehydrated, he probably needs water. The dryness will only go away once something goes in his stomach, which goes in his blood, and he gets hydrated. If the lips are dry, touching water won’t help. 

How soon after discharge (from the hospital) can the baby be given a bath?

There are different opinions to this. Some would suggest only sponge the baby for up to 7 days, till the cord falls off. Then, once the cord falls off, you can start bathing him. I think that not giving a bath is not required. One can provide a bath right from day 1. And you can continue providing a bath daily. You should bathe the baby every day. The baby feels much better after a bath. His clothes have been changed. He feels fresher. This is my personal opinion on this. If you want to go by the traditional and wait for the cord to fall off, that is okay too. 

What would you like to add to this? What would be that one thing you would advise the mother to do? 

To begin with, I would say, ‘This is the most natural phenomenon that you will ever go through in your life, to give birth to a baby.’ the care for the baby will come from within. So listen to your heart and care for the baby. Please don’t listen to advice from too many people who don’t know what they are talking about. Because this is physiological, that means it is not a disease. To give birth to a baby is not a problem. It is a part of our life. 

It’s okay to make mistakes right like the mother wants everything to be perfect. 

There are very few mistakes that the mother will make if she listens to herself. Suppose any female mammal can be a mother and do the right thing by herself 99.9% of the time. Then let us say that a human being, a much intelligent mammal, will always do the right thing. 

Anything you would want to add to this meaningful conversation? Any books you would like to suggest? 

Traditionally there is this very interesting book that has been around for quite some time now. It’s by Dr. Spock. It answers most of the questions that mothers usually ask. The answers are scientific. I’ve read it myself so that I can vouch for it. So maybe if you need a reference book, Dr. Spock is the correct answer. 

How soon can sugar and salt be started for the baby? 

The baby’s metabolism is the same as an adult’s metabolism. Therefore, in moderate quantities, sugar and salt are not harmful. This is the other myth that we often see. Our goal should be to develop different tastes for the baby. When you start breastfeeding the baby, the taste is sweet, i.e., it has lactose in it, that is, sugar. So as we start feeding the baby solids, you should also give the baby sweet like—

  • Si Cerelac.
  • Fruits like banana, which is sweet.
  • Dal, which is savory.
  • Curd, but don’t put salt or sugar in it.

So that he develops a sour taste as well, so the more variety of flavors he eats, the more diverse the food he eats. And that’s what we want. We want them to eat a diverse diet. A bit of everything. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, nutrients, micro-nutrients, and so on. 

You’ve answered all the questions, and now I would like to thank Dr. Manjit for being a part of this very informative interview. 

Thank you.

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