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Beliefs and Facts about Infant feeding in India

Customarily, baby is delivered at home by a Dai (midwife). The female elders led by mother-in-law take over to ensure conformance with age old traditions.

The same was done when the mother-in-law had given birth. The customs are handed down from generation to generation. The practices vary from region to region.


Belief: Colostrum is harmful to infant

In some parts of India, Colostrum is considered as 'heavy' food that can not be digested by the newborn. The  white color is associated with purity. The Colostrum is yellowish, therefore it is deemed as impure. Therefore, the Colostrum is thrown away.


Colostrum is an ideal food for the infant.

Colostrum has all the nutrients needed for the infant. It is specially good for the digestive tract. The new born should be given Colostrum within first hour soon after birth. The ideal time is first 30 minutes when the infant is very active. If you wait six hour, Colostrum will start to get re-absorbed in the mother.


Belief: Pre-lactation feedings are necessary

The infant is not given breast for 24 to 96 hours. For religious reasons, Ghutti (Honey and Ghee) is given at birth. Other pre-lactation feeding fluids consisting of tea, plain water, or sweet water solution sweetened with Jaggery, sugar, honey, glucose. Holy water (Ganga Jal) may be given.


Infant does NOT need pre-lactation feedings.

Colostrum is the ideal food for the infant. Pre-lactation feedings can be harmful. Honey and Jaggery may even cause botulism, and eventual death.


Belief: Supplement  Breast Milk with Buffalo's milk

Breast milk is supplemented with Buffalo's milk diluted with sugar water. In some regions Goat's milk is used, while in other regions Cow's milk is used. The dilution is believed to make it easier to be digested by the infant.


Do not give Buffalo's milk or Cow's milk for first 12 months

Infant should not be given Cow's milk or Buffalo's milk for the first 12 months. These milks can cause internal bleeding in an infant. The dairy milk are low in iron as well.


Belief: Infants need extra fluids to supplement Breast Milk

Breast milk is supplemented with tea, herbal water, water, sugar water, glucose water, fruit juices.


Infants do not need added fluids for first six months,

For the first six months, infant does not need additional fluids beyond breast milk or infant formula. There is enough fluid in breast milk even to compensate for loss during Diarrhea, or the dry hot summer. If you think, baby is thirsty, give more breast milk, or infant formula.


Belief: Gripe water is a good Colic Remedy

In the olden days, mother's used to place a grain of opium on the infants tongue. During Raj, British brought Gripe water that contained Alcohol. The opium was replaced with alcohol.


Do not give Gripe Water that contains alcohol and baking soda

Original Gripe water was banned in United States, and modified in UK. You can make a simple Gripe water at home to get colic relief


Belief: If baby has diarrhea, give water only.

Mothers stop breast feeding infants and start giving sugar water during diarrhea for hydration. Sometimes, herbs are added.


Do Not stop breast feeding during infant diarrhea

Breast water contains water to rehydrate as well as nutrients needed for developing system. Do not stop, but increase the number of feedings.


Belief: Give Roti soaked in Dal water as first solid food

Mothers give wheat staples such as Dalia (cracked wheat) and Roti as soon as the infants are able to eat.


Do not give high gluten cereals for the  first 12 months

During first 12 months, the choice of cereals and grains should be limited to Rice, Buckwheat, and Millet (Ragi, Bajra, Jowar). The infants immune system may be allergic to high gluten cereals.

In South India, Ragi is popular. In Rajasthan, Bajra and Jowar are popular. These are acceptable and good choices.


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