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Newborn Care Around the World – India

 

With the exciting announcement of the Newborn Care Specialist services we are now offering, The Nanny Solution team has baby fever! We sat down with Rupanshi, our Nanny Liaison, and the newest mother on our team (she gave birth to her sweet boy, Aayansh, in early 2020) to ask her about birth practices and newborn care in her home country of India. You can read our interview with Rupanshi below. 

Rupanshi: Before I begin, I just want to say that India, like Canada, is multicultural and each region has its own set of customs and traditions. I am from the capital region, and have a bit of knowledge of the traditions that we follow in the north.

What are some unique birth traditions in India?
R: There are quite a few. For one, we do not reveal our pregnancy until the 1st trimester is over, in order to avoid evil (I know). And during pregnancy, moms are not supposed to eat papaya, lift heavy objects, or even exercise. Then, after a baby is born, mom and baby are generally made to wear black anklets and beads, and we apply a black mark behind the ear or on the forehead to ward off evil (I still do it with Aayansh). We also have a holy prayer on the 6th day of the baby’s birth for his/her future, and a havan (fire ritual) after the baby is 40 days to announce the arrival. 40 days is the incubation period wherein we are allowed to only go to the doctor’s clinic. At home, new moms are supposed to remain covered, with oil on our head and covered with a cap or scarf. This is due to the fact that the woman’s body is still recovering, and 40 days ensures complete recovery. Also, before honey was considered unsafe for babies, it was tradition to give honey to babies, even before mother’s milk. 

Where and how do most births take place?
R: Hospitals are usually considered the safest option, at least in metropolitan cities. I have seen some home births, but only for lower income groups. They usually try for a government hospital too.

Is there the equivalent of a baby shower in India?
R: Yes, it is called a “god bharai”. It is a beautiful tradition wherein married women whisper something nice for the baby in mom-to-be’s ears and give a gift in her lap, called “god” in Hindi. There is music, a little bit of dancing, and lots of food (we are big on food). We also have baby showers, just like in the western culture, but we do not have baby registries in India. My sister had a baby shower, and mine was planned, but unfortunately had to be cancelled due to COVID. 

Who is responsible for caring for the newborn during the first weeks?
R: A lot of people have hired help, if they can afford it, but generally it’s the grandmothers who help around the house. India still has the concept of a joint family, wherein we live with our parents and sometimes aunts, uncles, and cousins too, so it is not very uncommon to have the grandmother already living in the home. In urban cities, most people get help from Nannies or Newborn Care Specialists. Jappas, as they are called, come from Kolkata (a city in the Eastern part of the country) and specialize in newborn and new mom care. They are booked beforehand and called on when the mom is in the hospital for delivery. By the time mom delivers the baby and returns home, Jappas are there to take over. They do everything — from cleaning, feeding, changing, burping, swaddling etc. to making healthy and nutritious food for mom to promote milk production. They are what we call “baby experts”.

What does that care entail?
R: They provide massages for both mom and baby, and help out with feeding, burping, changing, swaddling, — anything and everything the baby needs. They sleep in the same room as the mom, and they are there for the first 40 days of the baby’s life. In our culture, we can only leave the house after 40 days (outside of doctor’s visits), as mom is still recovering and the baby hardly has any immunity. 

Do these practices differ depending on socioeconomic status or class?
R: Absolutely! Nannies and maids are not cheap, but even a middle class person can often afford them. Jappas can be expensive, but they are a lifesaver for many families. In fact, one of my cousins had her first baby and did not hire a Jappa. However, she saw the difference in the care between her firstborn and others’ children, and she was impressed. She is currently pregnant again and has already booked one for once the baby is born. If a family can afford to hire a Jappa, they often do — it’s an investment in their child and their family’s future. 

Thank you for sharing your culture with us, Rupanshi! It’s fascinating to hear about birth practices and newborn care in other parts of the world. We could definitely get on board with those massages for mom too!

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