The first 40-days are an important time in the life of a new Indian mother. Traditionally, this period is meant to give her the privilege and support to slowly and respectfully recover from birthing, and enjoy a cozy time building a loving relationship with her newborn. In today’s fast-paced urban lifestyles and nuclear families, some new mothers consider this confinement period to be too long and inconvenient. They are eager to get back to their pre-birth or even pre-pregnancy routines at the earliest, either due to ignorance, circumstances, or out of choice. It is important to realize why certain age-old practices, such as this one, are necessary before brushing them aside as being superstition or irrelevant in the current times. The confinement period gives the new mother much needed rest, as the household chores and caring for older kids are taken up by family and friends, minimizing stress and post-natal depression that could not only hamper her health but also affect her milk supply. In addition, the new mother’s recovery is taken care of by providing her with appropriate nutritious meals and avoiding chances of infection by remaining indoors. This confinement period has been traditionally a part of several cultures around the world including our own rich Indian culture and is still widely practiced throughout Asia and few other parts of the world. Be it ‘Zouyuzei’ in the Chinese culture, ‘kyrkynan shygaru’ in the Kazakh culture, or ‘cuarentena’ in parts of Latin America - although the customs and exact duration may differ, all are aimed at protecting the new mother and the newborn baby. This confinement period where the mother has the luxury to spend all her time with her baby is equally crucial for the baby’s social, sensory, and cognitive development, which begins with understanding and recognizing the mother’s voice, touch, smell, and face/expressions. The time spent together will enable the mother to notice any early signs of delay or deviance in the baby’s development. Considering all the above, it may be wise to encourage this traditional practice in new moms everywhere.

The following are some of the red flags to watch for in a newborn child within the first few weeks:

  1. Lethargy
  2. Lack of interaction
  3. No response to loud noise
  4. Trouble moving the eyes or following moving objects

If you notice any such red flags, please consult a pediatrician at the earliest.