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Baby bath- The traditional kerala style

Updated on August 2, 2013

virgin coconut oil prepared at home

Virgin coconut oil Prepared at home
Virgin coconut oil Prepared at home

Baby Bath- The way my grandmother do.

Its actually so cute to see them in bath tubs and that is assuming they love to bath.

This article is all about bathing your infant in the traditional kerala style and In this I have put in the details of the way in which my 90 year old grandmother does it and has made me do it.

Being a first time mother, I had found it difficult or rather was very much scared and a bit sort of helpless to bath my baby all by myself and that was when my grandmother came in to help me. I am writing this hub in the hope that this hub will be of some help to all those mothers who want their babies to have a traditional kerala style bath. My grandmother has always insisted on bathing babies early in the morning before 9'O clock and in using traditional and ayurvedic items for soap, oil and herbal juices in bathing water.In here , I am putting in the steps in which she used to bath my baby.

Step 1: Preparations before bath

Step 2: Massaging

Step 3: Bathing

Step 4: After Bath

It is always better to pick up a time that is most convenient and suitable for you . My grandmother prefers giving them a bath in the morning by 7 ,8 or 9 so that they could be fed and then they would sleep for some time giving us enough time to do the households.According to my grandmother, It is auspicious to give bath to baby before 9 in the morning .

Preparations Before Bath

We require some previously boiled water," Nalpamaradi velichena" ( It is an oil we get from ayurvedic shops that has herbal properties in it, including turmeric ) , " Green gram powder or "channa powder" prepared at home as per my grandmother but I prefer baby soap and " Thenga pal vendha velichena" ( Virgin coconut oil prepared at home).

Bathing them in the traditional kerala style includes boiling some water with some Jackfruit leaves in them the previous night itself and the next day morning we just need to keep it out in the sun and just warm up the water instead of boiling it up before bathing.

For hair , my grandmother uses oil obtained from coconut milk. ( virgin coconut oil). This can be prepared at home. All we have to do for this is scrape some coconut, get its juice (coconut milk) and then boil it in low flame till we get the oil from it. It seems simple but the difficult part lies in scraping up 7 or 10 coconuts to get one small bottle of oil.

Greengram powder is also prepared at home by buying some green gram and then powdering it and then storing it in an airtight container.

After keeping these things ready, My grandmother would sit on some very short bench and she would keep the baby in her lap.

Oil to be applied over body ( Nalpamaradi thailam)
Vayambu kootu
Oil to be applied on hair ( Virgin coconut oil)
Baby soap ( or green gram powder prepared at home)
Baby powder and puff to apply powder
Baby shampoo if needed
Porridge / baby food
Dress for baby


Then comes the massaging.According to my grandmother, for new borns, it is always better to massage them with virgin coconut oil prepared at home or " Nalpamaradi thailam ". Its an ayurvedic oil that includes turmeric and is beneficial to the babies.

While massaging ,my grandmother first applies the oil or coconut milk onto her palm and then gently massages it onto the baby .

While massaging the oil, she says its good if we could talk to our babies, or sing to them. This would make them happy rather than cranky before bathing.

She used to give special care to each body part while massaging and she massages my babies hands , legs, forehead, chest ,head. She massages for a minimum of 10 minutes and each day she massages, my baby generally goes into a short nap while in her lap and then she wakes the baby slowly and then washes out the oil using some mild soap or green gram powder and lukewarm water (she uses the previously boiled water she warmed up in the sun before bathing). My grandmother prefers using " pattu inja" ( "Pattu inja" means soft 'inja' wherein 'inja' is the soft skin of some herbal tree) instead of soap but I have always used soap as I have always felt "inja" is a bit rough for babies.

Rather than using bath tubs , my grandmother says it is better if we could sit somewhere and keep our baby in our lap and bath our baby. She says that babies should be held in such a way that there heads are held high and that our hands support their neck and head region.( so that water do not get into their nose).

After Bath

After bath, we require grinded Vayambu kootu , baby powder, Kajal , baby dress and then we feed the baby, . So we keep these things ready.

Once the bathing is over, she mops up the water gently and then gives me the baby when I am supposed to give my baby a pinch of " vayambu kootu" .

Vayambu Kootu is of ayurvedic substances like 'vayambu', 'rudraksham' and so. It's a group of medicinal plants that is supposed to give them good speaking capability and is supposed to cleanse the baby's mouth and is commonly done in Kerala.Its generally done in front of a lighted " nilavilakku" and is given facing east .



Vayambu Kootu

Vayambu consist of the following ayurvedic items : ' Vayambu', 'Erattimaduram', 'Kadukka', 'Nellikka', 'Thannikka', 'Masikka', 'Rudraksham', 'Gold', 'Sandal','valam piri' and 'idampiri'.These medicinal plants are rubbed onto a " channa" ( a sort of stone with a rough surface so we can rub the vayambu to get a bit of their paste .

How Vayambu is administered

This paste is then mixed with ghee or breast milk and then applied onto the babies tongue 3 times, each time , chanting the name of God .It generally used to be " Om Nama Shivaya" each time we apply it onto the babies tongue. Vayambu is administered in front of a lighted nilavilaku and facing east.The channa that we use for vayambu administration is the one we generally used to rub sandalwood pieces at home.( Earlier, every hindu family in kerala used to have a chandana chana at home .Now we do get this in the markets.) This procedure of giving vayambu is continued till the baby's 6 th month , that is till his/ her "chorunu" ( the first time they have rice). (" vayambu" is given only after 28 days after the baby's naming ceremony).

After giving "vayambu" , a vayambu dot is put on the right side of upper forehead.


If the baby is less than a month old the only breast milk is given and then put to sleep else some porridge prepared from Kannan kaya powder or sooji gothambu is given before breast milk and then they are put to sleep.

Porridge prepared from " sooji gothambu" or from " kannankaya " powder are easy for babies to digest. Babies generally get tired after the entire procedure of bathing so after feeding they could be put to sleep and moreover the above mentioned entire procedure of baby bathing generally takes 30 minutes to 45 minutes( including feeding babies after bathing). and then wash there face if it is necessary and then apply some baby powder and kajal.

The kerala style includes applying kajal to their eyes , putting a kajal bindi and a kajal beauty spot .According to my grandmother, "Vayambu" dot on forehead and 'kajal' beauty spots are put to overcome the gaze or evil eyes of others.The 'Kajal' for this purpose is prepared at home.


To prepare Kajal at home , we requires mustard oil,a brass lamp( nilavilakku), Cotton to make a wick and a brass plate to cover the lamp.

Preparing Kajal at home


So, to prepare kajal at home we fill the brass lamp with mustard oil.Then, we make a wick with cotton and then Light the lamp. after lighting the lamp we then cover the lamp lightly with the container or the plate in such a way that the smoke and the flame touches it but not get extinguished. We let it burn like this for some 5 or 6 hours till we get the black soot collected on the brass plate.

Then ,this soot is collected and to this a few drops of ghee is added to it to get a smooth form. It is then put into a small kajal box and your kajal is ready.

Although , these are traditional methods that I have described in this article and everyone in our family as well as in most nearby families have also done these including me, putting kajal in baby’s eyes is not recommended by doctors.

Breast feeding is the best for babies and " sooji gothambu " ," kanankaya " and ragi are given just to support and only after 28 days and once or twice a day and babies are to be breastfed as much as possible.

After , the whole procedure of bathing , administering vayambu, applying kajal and feeding , the babies are then put to sleep and they will generally sleep peacefully for a bit longer time after this whole procedure,for they would be tired , well fed and happy and that is all that a mother wants....whatever style it is .

Above all it is the happiness that we can give to our babies and the love and the care.

Some of the terms I have used in the above article are malayalam terms and there corresponding english terms are as given below.

  • Vayambu is sweet flag ,(Acorus Calamus)
  • Rudraksham is utrasum bead
  • Erattimaduram is Liquorice
  • Kadukka is Myrobalan
  • Nellikka is gooseberry
  • Thannikka is Belliric myrobalan
  • Masikka is quercus infectoria
  • valam piri and idam piri are stems of East Indian screw tree
  • nilavilaku is a brass lamp
  • inja is Soap-pod


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    • profile image

      Chris Snowdon 

      5 years ago

      I appreciate the effort you have taken to give a detailed description on baby bathing ,including all the minute details...

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Till what age babies should be given massage? And till what age i can use nalpamarathi on him?

    • profile image

      safeena shamzeer 

      6 years ago

      thank u very much.......

    • Nayana1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from INDIA

      thumbi7: Thank you for the visit. Happy to know that you enjoyed my hub.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 

      6 years ago from India

      Very detailed hub on baby bath. I am happy to see that you managed to get the English terms or scientific names for all those plant products.

      Enjoyed reading your hub.

      Voted up and sharing

    • Nayana1 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from INDIA

      Thank you Denise. I am actually new to hubs and am so happy to know that you liked my hub.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      What an interesting hub. I enjoyed reading the details because it was nothing I was familiar with my children. I do see the value of the points you've made here. I especially like the idea of massage-it's so important to touch your baby. This is a beautiful hub-thank you for sharing. I rated it UP/U/A/I and shared.


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