Mother and Child Care in Grandma’s Way
In my Grandma’s time, deliveries were done in the comfort and privacy of each ones home. So they did not have to undergo too much strain and stress of admission in hospitals and delivering in the midst of all strangers and medicine smells as well as patients with various illnesses. When the time came for delivery, my grandma would call a mid-wife (an old woman who by experience and not by studying in medical or nursing college who learned to assist deliveries) was called to the house and the birthing was done very naturally in one bed room of the house. As I mentioned earlier people were very hard working in those days and there was no rest for women even when they were pregnant. So, most of their delivery time occurred, while working in the house or in fields.
Once the baby was born in the house, my Grandma would take the baby early in the morning before 7 am daily for sun bathing in the open air for 7 to 15 days. Every day, after the sun bathing, she used to take a huge beetle tree leaf’s bottom portion (pala) and make the baby lie in it, apply castor oil on head and fresh turmeric root paste mixed with virgin coconut oil (home made from selected ripe coconut milk) on whole body. Then would do soft massage of the head, face and body for 10 to 15 minutes after which the child was bathed in look warm water using vella-incha or Palincha (scientific name of Soap bark: Acacia caesia (L.)Willd) extract instead of soap and soft cotton cloth or banana leaf to scrub the body. After bathing she would wipe the child with very soft towel, then clean the nostrils, ears etc. with soft cotton cloth bits rolled like a cotton wick of the oil lamp. All the linens and dresses used for the baby were white and made of very soft cotton material.
Once the baby was dry she would apply Kajal (Kanmashi) on the baby’s eye brows and eyelids. This Kajal was made at home from cotton cloth and virgin coconut oil. Then would wrap the baby in white clothes and give to the mother who would by then have bathed in hot water made of various medicinal leaves after applying coconut oil on head and Dhanuandiri kuzhambu (a thick Ayurvedic medicinal oil which heals aches and pains) to the whole body as well as fresh turmeric root paste. She also would have finished her breakfast which was prepared adding various medicinal ingredients to strengthen her body and nourish the child.
The mother would then feed the baby with breast milk. After feeding, the child and the mother would fall asleep. They could sleep very soundly because the head and body were very cool with all the oils. This routine was followed for 90 days and then the mother and child were transferred to her husband’s house and had to return to the normal household chores. For the baby the bathing procedure would be continued still. Since joint family system reigned everywhere, looking after babies was not a difficult thing. So the baby would grow up in a very healthy environment.
Till the age of 3, breast feeding was a must.
From 3 months onward Ragi powder (finger millet/ Kurum Pullu) porridge and dried banana powder porridge were given. After 6 months, little rice with a pinch of salt (un-iodized natural salt water) and virgin coconut oil was introduced. Once little teeth began to appear rice mixed with some boiled vegetables and virgin coconut oil were their foods. When reaching one year fish and soft tiny bits of meat were introduced and slowly would get accustomed to eating spicy foods like the adults.
Once the baby grew and was able to run around, my Grandma would apply coconut oil on the head and body, then sent the baby to the courtyard to take a walk around the house in the early morning sun without any clothes. After that the child was sent to the river or pond to have a swim and then sumptuous breakfast was served. Only after 3 years of age cow milk (organic) boiled with muthanga root (nut grass: a medicinal wild plant root) would be given to drink. Since all these cares were given, the children developed beautiful and healthy skin, teeth as well as hair and had no allergies. Their gut health was awesome. Every night they were given one spoon honey after all the meals.
During the day kids would mostly be out doors playing. They had natural toys of their own creations with twigs, leaves and mud. Would make rice and curry with coconut shells and mud. Toys out of banana bark, tiny coconuts and other seeds and sticks. Beetle Nut tree leaf was used to make sitting and pulling cart like in picture. No ready made toys of any sought were given. Kings crowns were made with jack fruit tree leaves. They would enter the house only for meals and in the night, the rest of the time older ones would take care of the younger ones while playing outdoors.
Deworming was done once in 6 months by giving Kacholam roots- Justicia adhatoda is the scientific name (Galanga: a medicinal plant root cultivated in Kerala). My grandma used to take fresh Kacholam root from the garden, wash and grind it into a paste and gave 1 tea spoon each to the children before going to bed in the night. Also would apply some paste on the scalp (Uchi) of the head and at the center of the stomach around the umbilicus.
Children’s 1st Alphabets
At the age of 4 they were sent to a Kalari with a Guru (Ashan) to learn their 1st alphabets and numbers. The 1st day Guru would sit down on the floor with folded legs then the child would offer him a beetle nut and some money on a pan leaf (Guru Dhakshina) after receiving it from the child, he would make the child sit on his lap and write the 1st alphabet on the child’s tongue with a stylus (Narayam) then hold the child’s 2nd finger and make him write the 1st alphabet in the rice which was kept in a plate without cooking. The 2nd day onward every child had to bring washed, cleaned and dried sand in a tin, glass bottle or newspaper, remember there was no plastic at that time.
All had to sit on the floor, spread the sand in front of each one, then the Guru would write the 1st alphabet of Malayalam on the sand of each one. The students had to write on top of that over and over again, pronouncing that letter loudly until they were able to say and write it even in their sleep. Skin would peel out from the tender hands of the kids by evening, but the Guru or the parents wouldn’t spare them. There were no text or note books at that time, so the letters were written on
dried palm leaves with a stylus. The Guru would write all the letters on the leaves and give to each child to learn at home.
Primary School education
At the age of 5 all the children were sent for Primary School education. They had only a slate and pencil to write on. No note books or text books. Only teachers had text books. Children would go happily to school because unlike the Kalari, they could get benches to sit down and many friends to play in huge play grounds. Kids of those days grew up in very healthy social and cultural environment and grew up as good and loving human beings who cared for each one. They also had very strong family ties and lived long holistic lives. Our child hood days were the happiest days to cherish for the rest of the time. Wish every one a healthy child caring like my grandmas time, not an easy task but not impossible too. Thank you.
How to make Ragi Porridge?
Ragi Powder – 2 Table Spoons (Can soak and grind full Ragi too)
Melted Jaggery – 1 or 2 teaspoon or according to taste (Grandma used Karipetti-special jaggery made from sweet toddy (Neera))
Salt – 1 pinch
Cardamom powder – 1 pinch
Cumin seeds powder (Jeera) – 1 pinch
Water – 1 Cup
Pour water in a saucepan, add all the ingredients and stir continuously on slow fire. Must be very careful or else lumps will be formed. Once the mixture is thick can add 1 teaspoon organic ghee (home made is the best for babies). Remove it from fire when cool feed the baby. Those who want to feed the baby with feeding bottle can add extra water before beginning to cook and make the mixture loose to pour in feeding bottle.
How to make Kajal at home?
Take a white cotton cloth as big as gents kerchief roll it, soak it in virgin coconut oil.; after 5 minutes take it and squeeze out all the oil; Light a candle, burn one end of the cloth, as it burns hold a ceramic plate on top of it upside down, so the black smoke will go on to the plate, once all the cloth is burned out turn the plate and gather the black dust on the ceramic plate mix with little coconut oil if necessary and apply it to the eyes. It gives a very soothing effect. My grandma would apply Kajal for both male and female kids till the age of 3 years.
How to use incha?
Take a small portion and tear it as shown in above picture, soak it in water after 10 minutes take and mix it very well till froth forms, use this froth and water to bathe babies. For adult this same thing can be used with hibiscus leaves or some other leaves (thali) to apply on head instead of shampoo. The fiber can be used to scrub the body, no need to use soap or shampoo; this has a natural cleansing effect.