How to massage and bathe your baby…the traditional Indian way

A newborn baby’s first bath is a momentous, joyous occasion in Indian households, one that is steeped heavily in traditional practices and superstitions (not necessarily bad ones, though). There’s the scary yet vigorous oil massage given by a professional masseuse — women who have perfected the age-old ritual of giving massages especially meant for babies — the really hot bath followed by other customs such as applying kajal and a dash of aromatherapy using sambrani.

If you’re a first-time mother, you would know that doctors and family members advise against using soap for the first month or so. In many Indian homes, though, soaps aren’t used well until into the first year of the baby’s life. So how do they bathe the baby? Here are some traditional Indian ingredients that you can use to give your little one a natural and soothing bath.

For massage:

· Mustard oil (sarson ka tel) heated with a garlic cloves and fenugreek (methi) seeds is said to do wonders because of garlic’s anti-bacterial properties, and fenugreek, which relaxes the body. In some homes, mustard oil is heated with carom seeds (ajwain), which apparently soothes colicky babies.

· Add malai, gram flour (besan) and turmeric to oil to make a paste and use this to massage the baby. Many believe that the texture of besan removes the hair on your newborn’s body, and also gives it a healthy glow. But make sure that the paste is of a smooth consistency otherwise the gram flour might cause scratches on your baby’s skin.

· You can also prepare oil using coconut milk. Scrape a fresh coconut and extract the milk, and boil it on a low intensity to get oil from it. The only drawback of this process is that it consumes a lot of time (and coconuts).


· Essential oils such as chamomile or tea tree because they’re very strong and concentrated.

· Mustard oil, olive oil or ghee, if your baby has sensitive or broken skin.

For bathing your baby, you can try:

·  A mixture of powdered whole moong dal mixed with milk

· A home-made shampoo made from soap nuts (reetha) and Indian gooseberry (amla)

·  Boil some jackfruit leaves, leave overnight and use it the next day for the baby’s bath. Jackfruit is rich in magnesium, which is required for the proper absorption of calcium within the body.

·  A paste of multani mitti mixed with milk can be great for babies who suffer from diaper rash.

·  Make a powder out of red lentils (masoor dal) and mix with water or milk to make a paste for your baby’s bath.

Disclaimer: Always consult your paediatrician before trying anything new on your baby’s skin, even it is natural. If you observe any allergic reaction, consult a doctor immediately.