HOW TO RAISE A HEALTHY CHILD
( By Edited by A.P. Dewan )

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Conception

Look upon the child,and praise him that made him!

The very thought of having a child and raising him as a holistically healthy individual sends electro-magnetic waves through the body-frames of both the prospective mother and the prospective father. The thought excites the woman more. She sees herself as the "Janani", giver of birth. She sees herself as the "Shakti", the power. She visualises herself as the embodiment of love for the child that is to come. She is ready to make any sacrifice for the sake of having that child as better than the best, as one who will bring love, joy and pride into her life. She wholeheartedly agrees with Rabindra Nath Tagore that "Infants bring again and again
A message of re-assurance
They seem to promise deliverance,
Light, dawn
(New Birth, 1940)

The mother sincerely believes that her infant will bring light into her life. She has every right to dream that dream of deliverance. And that dream could get translated into a reality. But she will have to work hard for that.

If it is not to be one of those births which occur one hundred times every minute on this globe, both the prospective parents will have to plan and execute that plan for excellence in a devoted manner. They cannot just get going the ordinary way into conception. They will have to make preparations for pregnancy, spread over a period of three to six months before the proposed day of conception. That pregnancy will have to be nurtured in a special way, most carefully during the last two months of pregnancy. After birth of the baby, the parents will have not only to breast feed the child for a reasonably long period but also follow a detailed schedule for the first two years of the life of the baby so that his brain cells get wired for maximum intelligence within the over all limitations of heredity. The parents have a commitment to make. Things do not come an easy way.

If you are the man and the woman dreaming the dream of having a baby who is better than the best and are prepared to be committed to work devotedly towards that goal, you can be assured that you have not undertaken an impossible task. It is easy and within the realms of achievement. Go ahead ! This book is an endeavour to furnish the relevant know-how on the subject. May God bless you with success in your efforts!

Preparation for pregnancy

Preparation for pregnancy should begin at least three months, and preferably six months, before conception. When it is considered that in six months, before conception. When it is considered that one in six pregnancies results in miscarriage and one in twenty pregnancies results in malformations, pre-conceptional care is taking on a new meaning for many people. Experts believe that the motherís health and nutrition before conception matter more to the growth and development of the embryo than during the pregnancy itself. It is important that the embryo gets all the nutrients it needs for easy journey upto the time of delivery.

The association for the Promotion of Perceptual Care (28 The Paddock, Godalming, Surrey, U.K.) advises using natural family planning methods such as condom and diaphragm before thinking conception. Pills and Coil alter the mineral balance of the body. Pills and coils raise copper levels and lower zinc levels, that is, their effect is doubly retrograde. Their use must be discontinued much before attempting conception. Pills lower vitamin B & C levels. Coils also increase the risk of infection which could be transmitted to the unborn child also.

Smoking must be given up 2 or 3 months before conception. Otherwise risk of premature birth, danger of complications on birth, increased chances of cough and cold and respiratory infections are likely to be high. Some studies even suggest that smoking affects learning abilities of the child later in life. New research has shown that even the babies of passive smokers can be at risk. Lead, another poisonous substance in cigarette smoke, is known to produce malformed sperms.

Sperms takes about 10 weeks to grow. The male must consequently take al sorts of precautions about 10 to 12 weeks before attempting conception. Adequate zince, magesium, vitamins A and C are essential for production of healthy sperms. During 12 weeks prior to conception male should increase taking foods rich in the aforesaid nutrients or even take supplements of these nutrients. Whole grains, legumes, dried skimmed milk, processed cheese, nuts, seeds, liver, brewerís yeast, peanuts, eggs, cottage cheese, chicken are rich in zinc. The whole wheat products have four times more zinc than white flour. Hard water invariably has high magnesium content. Other significant sources of magnesium are whole grain cereals, pulses, nuts, green leafy vegetables, dairy products and sea food.

The testes are adversly effected by lead, copper, mercury and aluminium. Intake of foods containing these heavy metals should be avoided. Drinking of alcohol and coffee also affects the quality of sperms very adversly. Avoiding liquor at the time of conception and in the first 10-12 weeks, by both the partners, makes good sense.

Pre-conceptual foods recommended are low salt, low sugar and low fat foods, fresh fruits, vegetables, preferably raw, green leafy vegetables, complex unrefined cereals, potatoes, high intake of vitamins B and C, folic acid, garlic and mineral selenium, sources, celery, cucumber, onion, garlic, mushroom, radish and whole grains.

The most crucial time in a babyís development is the first four weeks of gestation. The central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cod are duly developed in the first few weeks, before the pregnancy is even known or recognised. If the baby is undernourished during the first four weeks of gestation, it may, in later life, develop high blood pressure, clotting disorders, abnormal glucose, insulin and cholesteral metabolisms in middle age. The best time to prepare your body for pregnancy is before you conceive. It gives your child the best possible start in life. Both the parents should follow an exercise regimen and get on to a healthy diet 10-12 weeks before the proposed period of conception. In the first few days after conception the embryo grows at an astonishing rate and it is vital that it gets all the nutrients it needs. Please note that the need of nutrients is the greatest when you are not even sure that conception has taken place.

Both the parents should avoid hot bath around the time they warm to conceive. Hot bath generally lowers the sperm count. Prospective father should take steps to improve the sperm quality. Excessive ejaculation and prolonged abstinence both have adverse effect on the quality and quantity of sperms. Sex every 4-5 days maintains semen at a proper level. For best results the scrotum needs to be about four degrees cooler than body temperature. Underwear should be of cotton and trousers loose fitting. Some experts even recommend douching the testicles daily with cold water. A 4-5 minute cold shower or bath every morning for both partners is recommended. This increases the quality and quantity of sperms as also better ovulation by the prospective mother.

Conception occurs as a result of many finely tuned physical and emotional factors in the man and the woman. Both of them should be in good mental health as well. Both should be relaxed with no fear, no grief, no impatience, no worry.

Heredity plays a definite part in shaping the physical, emotional mental and spiritual make-up of the child. Genes play a definite role Freud said "Anatomy is destiny". Genetic potential does make itself felt. Thomas Hardy, in his poem on "Heredity" writes. I am the family face.
Flesh perishes, I live on.
Projecting trait and trace.
Through time to times anon.

How does heredity manifest itself? Of course, through the sperm and the ova. It is for you to improve the quality of the sperm and the ova. You are a part, and the most important part, of the heredity of your child. Improve yourselves, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for undertaking the job of bringing into existence a human being who is better than the best and who makes you proud of being his ancestor. If you are suffering from diabetes, asthma or any other disease, get those actively treated before planning conception. You would be making a dent in the heredity of your child. The best of men are but men at best (1680 Aubrey Letter). You do your best and the result could be a "best of men".

To really make the most of a womanís fertile time, it would be a good idea for the couple to avoid making love for about a week before she expects to ovulate. This will enable the man to build up a good and high sperm count. When you see clear shining mucus, make love once, then skip a day allowing your partner to build up some more sperms. Then make love again. The day of maximum clear cervical mucus is usually the day before ovulation and is your most fertile day.

That be so and you have bit upon your most fertile day out of a period of 10-12 weeks of preconceptual care but what if the motherís body system has not yet emerged out of the period of strain of a previous pregnancy. Child birth and prolonged breast feeding. You would then be at a good point out of a period of fatigue. Before a new conception, we must ensure that the womanís body is mature enough to bear the burden of pregnancy, birth and nursing or having gone through that strain once, is now free of that strain to bear the strain of a new child. Births should be properly timed from this angle also.

Timing Births

It is risky if a woman becomes pregnant before the age of 18 or after the age of 35. Spacing between any two births must not be less than 2 years. It increases the risks of pregnancy and childbirth if a woman has more than three children. These are the accepted norms for timing births, but why in India 125000 women die every year from problems related to pregnancy and childbirth, but why? Infant under 5 mortality rate in India in 1992 was 124 per thousand live births, more than in 103 other countries, but why?

Nearly 43.8% of our children suffer from moderate degrees of protein energy malnutrition when we have the largest nutrition programme in the world and when under the Integrated Child Development services launched in 1975, 16.5 million children upto 6 years age group and 3.2 million pregnant women are getting food assistance, though the per head provision is very low.

Nutrition is a multi-sectoral issue but if new children are born only to women who are in good health and can bear the burden of motherhood, things would change. Let us examine these issues from different angles.

Sarda Act promulgated about four decades ago provides that it is an offence to marry a girl under the age of 18 years and a male under the age of 21. This minimum age for marriage of girls was fixed on the basis of the capability of the female to effectively discharge the duties and responsibilities of motherhood. Our culture looks with disdain on birth of children out of wedlock. This if a girl under 18 gives birth to a child, it is an offence both against the law of the land as also against its culture.

A documentary on the television very effectively shows how a beautiful pot made by the potter gives way when used unbaked. Similarly an unbaked version of womanhood would give way under the strain of motherhood if sufficient time is not allowed to her body to gear upto to the requirements of the situation. Leave aside the provisions of law and the cultural dictates, for health reasons alone, no girl should become pregnant before the age of 18. Every girl should be allowed sufficient time to become a woman before becoming a mother.

If you look at it from another angle, though not so important, a girl of 18 would, educationally, be just out of the senior school. If she is married even before she has completed her senior school, it would deny her the benefits of higher education. Why should the families or the persons concerned be so unduly harsh on her? Even if married early, the couple should use family planning techniques to delay the first pregnancy until at least the age of 18.

Reproductive age of women may generally last upto the age 45 but much before the menopause, the estrogen levels drop in the body because of low output of estrogen by the ovaries. With low levels of estrogen, her own immunity levels are low. In that condition and because of many other such factors, she cannot impart enough immunity to the child she raises. It, therefore becomes extremely important not to get pregnant after the age of 35. Such a deadline will reduce the rate of infant mortality as also the number of malformed children. A large proportion of infant deaths is due to the body of the mother not being in good health to bear the burden of motherhood.

Spacing of children is very necessary for the health and happiness of the family. According to the folk lore, the strain of child birth is so great on various organs of the mother that she is advised complete rest for 40 days. This period of complete rest laid down in all religions, gives some respite to her system. There are two periods in the life of a woman when there is a great strain on her physical being. One is the period of about nine months of pregnancy and the other is of one year or more of nursing her baby when she spends energy equivalent of about 1000 calories per day in breast feeding him. It is possible to shoulder one of these responsibilities at a time otherwise her system will go under. Mother Nature, in recognition of this situation, so provided that in most cases she will not get pregnant so long as she continued to nurse her child. As mentioned elsewhere, breast feeding of one to one and a half years is desirable for the well-being of the child. Thus years of nursing and nine months of the next pregnancy will give a spacing of more than two years between the two children. It is only if the mother stops nursing earlier that the next pregnancy could occur earlier than 1? years from the birth of the previous child. All that is required for a healthy progeny is to follow the rules of nature and to breast feed the child for more than one year. Defaults bring the penalty of poor health both for the mother and for her children. Let you follow the intent of the laws of nature and even if menstruation starts earlier than 1? years of the birth of the previous child, use family planning techniques so that the next pregnancy does not take place earlier than indicated above. It will be still better if the decision to have another baby is postponed till the youngest child is at least 2 years old.

If proper spacing is not there between the children, the motherís system does not get adequate respite from the strains of pregnancy, child-birth and nursing. Her body needs at least two years to recover fully from the strains of a pregnancy, birth and nursing of one child. Risk to her health is greater if her body does not get enough respite. Let her get her strength and energy back for undertaking the project of having another child. If that is not done, there are real chances of premature, under-weight children who are more likely to fall ill and according to statistical pundits, four times more likely to die in the first year of life.

With proper spacing, the toddler would have got his "independence"of 2-3 years age and you would have enjoyed the pure joy of parenthood for few years. An exhausted mother would then not be lumping the two children together. Their needs are separate. Children close in age are likely to bicker and fight endlessly. With 3 to 4 year spacing, the younger one listens to the elder and they become friends. With 4 to 5 years difference the elder child is ready to participate in the care of the new baby. If spacing is of more than 5 years, the chances of close companionship between them are generally lost. These days parents feel that one child may be too lonely. And only child is likely to get spoiled or may suffer. Most families today tend to think of a family of two children as their goal. That is all very good. The fault creeps in when the mothers with careers want the second child early so that they can get back to work early. Another fault creeps in when some couples are ignorant of several alternate methods of safe, effective family planning and fail to take advice the most suitable means of family planning.

A family of two children can get excellent care from the parents and can give back due care and attention to those parents in their old age. Risk of family problems would also be minimum. You need not raise a bigger family just as an assurance that you will be well looked after in your old age.

Another problem with some parents in India is that they yearn for atleast one male child and go on adding to the number of the girls. Let them know that Plato thought that "A boy is, of all wild beasts, the most difficult to manage". They also forget the English saying, which is repeated in Indian folklore also, that "My son is my son till he gets him a wife, but my daughter is my daughter all the days of her lifeí. This is not universally correct because there are sons and sons who are sons of their parents, besides being attached to their own children always and ever. The yearning for a son is no justification for adding to your stock. If you are unlucky, you may not get solace, comfort and care even from a dozen sons. Be content with a family of two children. This is an important requirement if you want to raise a healthy child.

Women with the AIDS virus should avoid becoming pregnant. They have a 50% chance of giving birth to a baby who has the AIDS virus. Most of such babies with AIDS virus die before they are three years old.

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