Monday, July 10, 2006

It's a Miracle I Survived

I overheard my mother talking on the phone to her sister in law one day about how much their children (meaning me and my 36 year old cousin) have complicated raising children. "It was easier when we were raising kids, there were less rules," said my mom. She's right, and in that ignorance there was bliss. They didn't know back then in the 70's that giving honey to infants can cause botulism or that giving a one year old more than 6 bottles of cow's milk a day can cause intestinal bleeding and anemia. They also didn't care much for infant car seats. My dad said that car seats were just coming out in America in the 70's, but it wasn't mandatory to use them. The babies used to ride on their mother's laps and the older toddlers were just buckled in the backseat with regular seat belts. (I think, actually, in many Third World countries, this practice is still the norm.)

I remember it was a constant source of tension between me and my mom when I brought my firstborn son home from the hospital. She would tell me to do things a certain way, because that's what she did with me and I turned out "fine", but I would immediately have to tell her that we couldn't because the pediatrician says that's not safe anymore.

Amongst these things were:

  1. Feeding honey to the newborn baby. In our culture, there is a Muslim baby ritual where the Adhan is said in both of the baby's ears to make the baby a Muslim (it's almost like a Baptism, in a way) and then after that, a small amount of honey is placed on the baby's tongue. I don't quite understand where the honey part came from, but from what I have read, it is believed that this practice gets a baby's taste buds going and will encourage a baby to nurse more easily. My babies got the Adhan in their ears, but we passed on giving the honey because we didn't want to risk botulism. My mom insists there's nothing wrong with honey, and I have to admit I myself used to dunk my brother's pacifier in honey before sticking it in his mouth when he was a wee 4 months old, but just because we all managed to survive didn't mean the risk was not there. In fact, now every jar of honey has a warning written on it not to give it to infants under age 1, because it might cause a fatal attack of botulism.
  2. Dousing a baby's bottom with Baby Powder containing talc (or otherwise known as Talcum Powder). Talc has been linked to causing ovarian cancer in baby girls. We're not supposed to use this in the diaper area anymore, not even on baby boys. And it doesn't really help keep a baby dry anyway, it just cakes up when wet and becomes a giant mess. Although Baby Powder is now made without talc, it's use is still not required unless you have a baby that sweats alot, in that case some powder rubbed between your hands first and then applied on the baby's body helps make a baby more comfortable. But be careful not to shake the powder on the baby, the powder can fly up into the baby's tiny nostrils and cause it to stop breathing. I got a whole bunch of Baby Powders when the kids were born but I never use them on the babies. I use it on myself before I wax my legs instead, the powder is good for helping wax grab all the hair. But I hope I don't get cancer, because my mom used Baby Powder heavily on all of us.
  3. St. Joseph's Baby Aspirin for fevers and general health. Now, it has been revealed this can cause Reye's Syndrome in children and has been taken off the market in the US. But I used to eat this like candy when I was little. Remember those orange chewables that were supposed to be "good for you"? We're lucky we didn't die.
  4. Feeding solids starting at age 8 weeks. My mother decided after two days of nursing that it was not for her, and switched me to formula. Back then the doctors mistakenly told women that formula was actually better than breastmilk and there was little support for women who wanted to try nursing. But I was only on formula for two months before I was switched to regular cow's milk and started eating cereals, soft boiled egg yolks, puddings, and anything else that could be made in a blender. My friend's mother recently revealed that they used to make their own formula for one of their daughers who was allergic to cow's milk by using karo syrup and goat milk. We all managed to survive and grow up healthy. But now, pediatricians recommend that women breastfeed or give formula with iron for one year and not start solids before four months because before that, the baby's digestive system is not capable of handling foods other than milk. It's a miracle my stomach didn't explode.
  5. Giving a baby a bottle while lying down in the crib and/or putting it on self-feed mode with the bottle propped on the pillow. It's scary that some parents still do this, I saw it happen at a dinner party once. The mother was busy setting the food on the table and her 7 week old son was hungry. She put him in his infant car seat, put a few receiving blankets under his chin, place the bottle on it and set the kid on auto feed. Poor guy couldn't even hold his bottle and get his mouth on the nipple (he hadn't discovered his hands yet) so I offered to feed her baby for her and the mother insisted "No, he's a big boy he can manage himself" but the kid was clearly not doing too well, so I told her it was no problem and helped him drink his bottle. And then burp him. I was nine months pregnant with the twins at the time, and my son was busy playing with friends so I had the time to feed her child, but I find this self-feeding thing to be very cruel. My mom did it a couple of times with my kids when I left them with her and I'd come back to see the baby with a pillow on her chest gulping in huge amounts of air while trying to maintain a hold on the bottle nipple. It wasn't right. This was the main reason I ended breastfeeding the twins as long as I did (two years) because I couldn't bear to put one on auto feed or have her scream in hunger while I nursed the other. I actually nursed them both at the same time. I think you truly haven't understood the full potential of your rack until you've breastfed two babies at once. (Okay, now that I gave you that uncalled for visual, you can throw up now.)

The good thing is my mom didn't push any of her old school ways on me and how I raised my children. She understood times have changed, and took the extra effort to learn the new rules of childcare, but still sometimes has difficulty understanding why something was okay back in the 70's and is not okay now. She still goes back to citing that "If it was so bad, how come you turned out okay?" I'm not so sure if I turned out okay. I think most of my anemia is a result of not getting enough iron and drinking too much cow's milk since age 2 months, and I've still got tons of baby fat from being fed the Breakfast of Champions when I couldn't even roll over on to my tummy to throw it up. "Well," my mom said to me one day, "at least I didn't give you opium to make you go to sleep. Your great-grandmother did that to me and your grandmother, and her mother did that to her before her. They knew just the right amount to give to a baby without killing it." I did some research on the use of opium on infants in the sub-continent and found that in India/Pakistan, opium was the ultimate cure all drug for all baby fussiness, gas, colic, and excessive crying. They would literally put a single poppy seed on the baby's tongue and immediately put the baby to the breast so the baby would drink the opium down with breastmilk. By the time my parents grew up as children in the 50's, the research came out that opium was a lethal drug and use of opium for any reason other than medicinal became banned in Pakistan and India. Wow. My mother was doped as an infant, I always thought it was a miracle I survived, but it's a miracle she survived too.


simply me said...

I've got all sorts of digestive issues that I think stem from how I was raised/fed as a child. Gosh..the egg yolks..whenever I tell people that, they're like, "how did you not get salmonella?!". I wonder if it's just a desi thing or if all parents back in the 70's/80's raised their kids without worrying so much about any consequences. It's funny, I always wonder how I survived too when I hear all the stories my mom tells! We're so obsessed with germs too now, but back then I remember my mom handling meats and dad using the lota on us, and then just rinsing their hands off with a little water! Yuck!!!

Chic Mommy said...

I know, my mom thinks I wash the kids hands too much and am too anal (pun) about using soap and water all the time. she also thinks the kids only really need to take a bath about twice a week, that too much soap will dry out their skin.

sherni said...

Oh, mothers. At least you can set your own mom straight - setting a mother in law straight is much harder. Add another big issue to my growing "i'm scared to have kids" list =)

Kelly said...

It still boggles my mind about the car seats.
Oh the stories that my Mom tells.
It truly is frightening.

Unknown said...

hysterical! I wonder years from now what our grown kids will think of our child rearing practices.

I totally remember my mom with the honey too.

August Sunshine said...

That was really informative for me. I thought at least one source for the honey love Muslim desis have is the Prophet. He is said to have remarked that honey is the cure for any ill, anything but death . . . or something to that effect.

Bengali Chick said...

WOW -- great blog post. I heart your blog. I have a lot to learn before I have a baby. And I second you Sonia, telling your MIL (mother in law) what you think is right is going to be a scary challenge.

Cindi said...

Just wandered over from another blog. St. Joe's Baby Aspirin is still on the market but is sold as a low dose aspirin for people to take to prevent heart attacks......I give it to people all the time at work (I'm a RN).

It is amazing how things have changed, your right. Sometimes I would love to go back to some of those ways but I hesitate too because of the "what ifs". No one can give you the true sense of a mother's protective instinct until you are one.

Amani said...

I love this post. I agree with Kelly. My mother thinks I am crazy b/c I refuse to breastfeed my daughter while we are driving. She says she did it all the time with us. With all the new age information we have, our mothers didn't have any of it, and we turned out ok. So, it's hard to argue with them. Oh, you are my hero-breastfeeding twins for two years??!! I am hoping to make it to one with one baby. Btw, they now make hands-free bottles. Do a google search.