Burp Yo' Babies!

Today, I taught about taking care of babies.

See the lovely lady in pink on the left?


You may recognize her from my clinic photos. She's now 8 months pregnant with her first baby. Next to her is her neighbor, whose name means "balloon", which I think is just cool.

My friend asked me to teach her and her neighbors on taking care of babies. Although I've never had a baby of my own, I guess being a nurse is qualification enough!

Caring for a mother during and after birth, as well as her newborn baby, is actually a big deal here. Cambodia has made immense progress in maternal health care, even just between 2005-2010. But maternal mortality - women who die in childbirth or shortly after birth because of complications - is still high: 206 out of 100,000 live births - over 15 times that of the United States. Infant mortality - death in the first year of life - happens in 45 out of every 1,000 children (compared to 7 per 1,000 in the U.S.). 

There are also a lot of traditional practices in Cambodia that can potentially do a lot of harm. One tradition is that of Ang Pleung, or "roasting" the mother after birth (see a photo here). Some people believe that the woman's body is too cold after birth and needs heating up in order to release impurities from the body and help with healing. So, in the most extreme version of ang pleung, the family builds a fire under an elevated platform, and the woman lays over it for three to seven days. Sometimes she drinks medicinal alcohol and very little water, not bathing for those days either. The infant may or may not be breastfed during this time, and may only be given water to drink. Unfortunately, women may die of dehydration because of this practice.

Another tradition, not so common, is to put a wasp's nest on the baby's umbilical cord while it is healing. I'm not sure what the rational is behind this, but it was emphasized in the maternal health book we read to not do this! Obviously, this can introduce a lot of different infections into that belly button.

My friend read a Khmer maternal-newborn health book out loud, and we talked about the different topics. One of the women had already had some children, and I encouraged her to talk about her experiences. One interesting thing I have seen before is that women here don't really burp their babies after feeding. Now, a lot of women back home don't burp their babies enough, or very long, but they know they should do it. Here, it's just not a practice at all - completely unknown. So I explained how to do it and why. It's something that is so simple, yet will go a long ways in making that baby (and the momma!) happy.