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Myths vs Facts: 15 questions every Indian mum wants to ask

By Lakshmy Ramanathan
Last updated on: May 15, 2017 10:43 IST
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Can a foetus hear the tinkle of bangles? Will drinking milk help produce more milk?


In India, the arrival of a child pushes everyone -- from the in house matriarch to the milkman down the road to come up with a list of do's and don't's.

But how can a first time mother make sense of it all?

Lakshmy Ramanathan, author of For Bumpier Times…An Indian Mother's Guide to 101 Pregnancy & Childcare Practices allays some of the doubts and fears that plague new parents .

#1. Can chillies/pickles blind my foetus?

No, it cannot. Eat what you like during pregnancy but in moderation.

A sudden spike in sugar, spice or masala can irritate the already sensitive gut of an expecting woman and escalate morning sickness.

If you suffer from any complication/health condition during or from before your pregnancy, ask your doctor to draw up a personalised diet chart.

# 2. Can my movements cause the umbilical cord to wind around the baby?

No. Many women hold themselves responsible for nuchal chords even though between a third and quarter of all babies arrive with the cord around their neck.

The umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta and not to any of your limbs. So flay your arms all you like. The umbilical cord is between 50 to 55 cm long -- a few cms longer than the average baby. That's enough for the two to get into trouble without you getting in between :-)

#3. Can an in utero foetus hear the tinkle of bangles?

Yes, it can. Apart from the auditory experience it provides, a wristful of bangles can do much more.

It can help in the early detection of pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) known to cause early detachment of placenta and even seizures in the mother.

Doctors explain that when bangles begin to 'bite', it indicates swelling of the limbs caused by a sudden hike in blood pressure.

An expectant mother should visit a doctor to evaluate the extent of swelling (as normal/ high) and seek solutions accordingly.

#4. Should a mother drink a lot of milk to produce milk?

No. A woman on a malnourished diet is equally capable of producing nutrient and antibody rich milk for her baby, although undergoing erosion of nutrient stores in her own body.

Milk production, ejection and draining are three different processes that are dependent on a host of factors such as the mother's state of mind, a good suckling position etc and not just on maternal diet.

#5. Will standing next to a fire or cooking dry up my milk?

No. The belief was probably circulated to keep a new mother out of the kitchen and ensure some rest and relief from domestic chores to focus on the newborn.  

#6. Is feeding a newborn gold beneficial?

In many south Indian communities there is a practice of rubbing a gold coin/nugget against a stone and mixing the extract with breastmilk/honey to give to the baby.

While honey is a no-no for newborns, the use of gold is neither beneficial nor harmful as the metal is non reactive by nature.

If it is given to the baby, it will be passed out in the stools. Please note that the WHO recommends that infants be given nothing other than breastmilk for the first six months.

#7. Can feeding a newborn from a silver bowl lead to metal intoxication?

No. In fact silver has pathogen killing abilities and is therefore used in surgical dressings and in water purifying systems to this day.

So for an infant/invalid, it is in fact a very good choice of metal to serve food in.

Do not use silver cups/ plates to store food for a long time. Use only to serve.

#8. Once solids have begun, breast feeds must come down.

No. Between six and 12 months, fifty per cent of a baby's needs are met by the mother's milk.

Between 12 to 24 months, thirty three per cent of its needs still come from breast milk.

Do not expect the frequency of feeding to come down once solids have begun.

World over, experts on infant nutrition advocate breastfeeding upto two years and beyond if both mother and child are able and willing.

#9. Does binding a towel post delivery help regain one's waist?

No. But it can definitely offer support to loosened abdomen and pelvic muscles.

Your tummy will begin to go in once the uterus begins to shrink which it will once breastfeeding is initiated. Of course, diet and exercise speed the process.

#10. Hot boiling water needs to be splashed on the labia and perineum to recover from birthing wounds

No. Very hot water can scald the already sore skin and its continued use can force open sutures.

Tipping ice cubes into a warm bath or sitting in a warm bath (SITZ bath) will bring more relief.

#11. Eating methi ladoos post delivery is beneficial.

Yes. Methi or fenugreek seeds are galactogogues -- proven scientifically to improve milk supply.

The diosgenin present in fenugreek seeds induces mammary gland tissue growth, which is associated with better milk synthesis.

Include no more than 6 gms of methi per day in your diet post delivery. It is better to avoid methi during pregnancy as it is is associated with triggering contractions.

#12. A newborn's nipples need to be squeezed off milk to make sure they don't grow large and ugly.

No. Squeezing will in fact stimulate the nipples to secrete more milk.

Also, constant fondling could lead to a localised infection such as a breast abscess.

'Witch's milk' or galactorhoea present in newborns is caused by the temporary sharing/transfer of hormones between mother and child during the time of birthing. This will disappear within a couple of days and requires no intervention.

#13. A boiling hot water bath will put a baby to sleep.

No. It's commonly believed that hot mugs of water should be splashed on the baby's back to rid it off 'aches and pains', to improve blood circulation and put it to sleep.

The medical community has however submitted proof in the form of videos which show babies undergoing a reflex epilepsy in reaction to the high temperatures of bath water.

They then drift into an unconscious state often viewed as 'baby falling asleep'. This reflex epilepsy is termed hot water epilepsy.

It is imperative to keep bath water temperatures bearable and enjoyable for the baby.  

#14. A tonsure is essential for a child to have good hair.

No. The colour, curl and thickness of hair are genetically determined. While pigment cells present at the follicle decide hair colour, the cross section of a follicle decides the curl.

A round cross section gives rise to straight hair, oval to curly hair and bean shape to wavy hair.

The thickness of hair is determined by the number of hair follicles on the baby's scalp.

It is worth noting that hair follicles develop on a baby's scalp between the second and fifth month of pregnancy. No new follicles grow for the entire liftetime!

Babies shed their first hair called lanugo by the 8th month of inside the mother's womb.

The crop of hair on the head and body at birth is called vellus. This graduates to stronger and pigmented hair over time, naturally. A tonsure is not mandatory.

#15. Elders at home fear that my infant's attempts to stand early will bend her spine.

No it will not.

It's funny that the thing that keeps us erect is actually bent. A fully developed spine is S shaped due to the three sections that constitute it -- the cervical, thoracic and lumbar.

In a baby, the first and third sections are absent. As the baby begins to lift her head, the cervical section develops.

Similarly, as she sits, crawls and creeps, the lumbar portion of the spine develops.

As long as there is an adult nearby supervising, allow your infant to cruise, crawl, walk and tumble along on her way to independence.

Lead image used for representational purposes only.

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Lakshmy Ramanathan