Of Ayurveda and Baby Care

What is the smell of a baby according to you? Oil that you used for her massage, maybe the soft scent of milk, and Sodium Tallowate, Water (eau), Sodium Cocoate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Titanium Dioxide, Pentasodium Pentetate, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Parfum.

What’s this, you ask? Jibber-jabber. Trash talk.  A list of words for which you have to dig out your tenth grade chemistry textbook? No no! Those are the ingredients used to make your regular bar of soap. You know, the one you rub on your baby everyday, after you make her yell by pouring lukewarm water on her belly. The one you breathe in when you’re drying her softly with a towel, the one that makes you think of her every time you do your baby shopping at Health and Glow.

But I vaguely remember a time when the smell of a baby didn’t mean the smell of a certain powder. When I was four and at my grandmother’s for the summer, she used to make me breakfast. Sometimes it’d be crisp dosa, sometimes the fluffiest idli floating in sambar or spiced upma. Then, before I could run out to pick up mangoes fallen from the tree, she’d drag me to the bathroom, strip me and dunk me into a bucket of warm water. While I pretended to swim and splashed all over the stone floor, she’d grind fresh neem leaves from the tree outside, tulsi from the alter plant and whole turmeric. She’d scoop up a handful and mix it in the bathwater. After five minutes, she’d order me out and scrub me thoroughly with a mixture she pulled out of a box and made into a paste with a spoonful of milk, no matter how hard I kicked. It’d leave me smelling of sunflower, cream and honey. I’m surprised I wasn’t devoured by bees.

Now, you live in an apartment, surrounded by other flats, and the only greenery in sight is the lawn where your four-year-old plays with the other kids. You take pride in the fact that you’re a nuclear family – you’ve raised your kids on your own, with only fortnightly visits to each granny’s house. So the Ayurvedic skincare that my grandmother was expert at, isn’t feasible for you.

More and more people are going back to their roots, turning to natural methods of sustaining health and happiness. Carcinogens in what we eat, wear, breath, bathe with, play with: there’s no dearth of things that we need to stay away from because they might cause cancer. A baby powder or wash is the last thing that we expect it in. So what really does Ayurveda offer? For example, there are three doshas that regulate skin health.

According to Ayurveda, vata governs circulation in the skin and modulates the sense of touch. Pitta controls skin temperature and the biochemical processes that occur in the skin. Kapha modulates moisture levels and lubrication. A person is characterised by the proportion of doshas present in his body. An imbalance of one, two or all three doshas causes disease. There are many ways in Ayurveda to help this situation. You could visit your local Ayurveda doctor, or you could bring home the goodness of Ayurveda from Himalaya.

Take soap for instance: The Gentle Baby Soap with almond and olive oils soothes, and both are important Ayurvedic ingredients. Or the Refreshing Baby Soap kills bacteria and inflammation and cools with watermelon, khus grass and neem, secrets from my grandmother’s time. The Nourishing Baby Soap is an emollient for sensitive skin, using sunflower and castor oils, honey and milk, also ingredients easily found in older kitchens.
Without artificial perfume, Himalaya’s range of baby soap is fresh, healing and strong; it sings of vacations, of breakfasts at home and bucket baths. Its scent is of herbs, of gardens and memories. And of my grandmother.

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