Saturday, February 28, 2015

Common sterilization mistakes for bottle fed babies

Breast milk is the best source of nourishment for infants and their is no equal to it whatsoever. However, when for genuine reasons parents resort to infant formula, they quickly  discover another problem. Bottle-fed babies often get their tummies upset and sterilization is a major issue with formula feeding. This can be due to contamination of milk, poor sterilization or several other reasons. There are many articles available on the web regarding common sterilization techniques such as using boiled water, electric sterilization as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages. What I have listed here are the finer issues there are easier to be overlooked regardless of your method. 

Wash hands with soap and water
Before you proceed with sterilization, make sure that your hands are washed well with soap

Also boil formula spoon:
Boiling formula spoon is a good idea specially if the spoon is left out in the open or on top of the lid of the formula's can. 

Completely submerged:
If you are are boiling water to sterilize the feeding equipment, make sure they are completely submerged in the boiling water.

Keep the lid closed:
At the time of boiling, insure that the lid of the utensil is closed.

After taking out equipment,assemble as quickly as possible
This insures that individual components specially the internal ones like nipples don't get bacteria on them. You should assemble them as soon as the sterilization is complete and place them in a safe place as mentioned above.

Use immediately:
Ideally, you should use the sterilized bottle as soon as possible. You can keep them for up to 12 hours if stored in a covered place.

Don't expose the feeding equipment to air till needed
The bottles should not be left out after being sterilized. They should be tucked away in a covered place such as your cupboard or any other place that is not exposed to air. Make sure that this equipment is not unused for more than 12 hours.

Clean and disinfect the work surface used for feeding
The working surface is where you place the bottles and prepare the formula. If the place is not clean and disinfected, there are high chances that the bottle would get the bacteria from there so keep it clean at all times.

Best of luck for a safe and healthy feeding experience for you and your baby.

(Note: I have gathered these points from various resources online and by implementing these measures my son has been bottle fed for over 9 months without any episode of diarrhea)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bothered by cellphone during Salah (prayers)? Here's a solution


So often the phone rings during congregational prayers in mosques these days that is no more a novelty. Hardly a prayer is prayed these days without an interruption. Inspite of repeated pleas by the Imam Sahib (prayer leader) before every prayer, the trend continues unabated. One possible reason why many people maybe reluctant to switch or put their phones on silent is that they might forget to turn it back on after the prayers. Trust me, this has happened to me so many times that I started to look for a solution. Which I found  after I hit the Google Play. (Note: this works for only for Android smartphones but you can look for similar solutions for Apple, Windows phones as well)

Enter Silent Timer

So the solution I chose was an app that would automatically bring the phone back to normal state after a reasonable amount of time. I am referring to Silent Timer. Yes, the app looks ugly but it does what it says. I know there are more fancy apps out there that also allow scheduling, but this apps simplicity really lured me. All I need to before every prayer now is a simple click and the rest would take care of itself.
Main interface (single screen) of Silent Timer
Hope you try this and pray worry-free. Let us all try to make our mosques and prayer places free from noise pollution and honour them as they are deemed to. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dangers of lead paints and situation in Pakistan (Karachi)

Recently while reading Dr.Spock's Baby and Childcare in India, I came to realize the dangers and gravity of the existence of lead in our paints. Not that I haven't heard about it before. My 9 month old had been scratching the walls for a few days and my mother had already forewarned me a quite a while ago about the danger. But it was only when I read it myself that the extent of the risk lead posed became clear to me.
Increased lead levels in children can lead to brain damage, anemia and several other dangers such poor mental development, hyperactivity, etc.
A major source of lead in houses is crumbling paint on inside walls, windows and other places in the house. As this paint falls, it becomes part of the dust on the ground. As babies and toddlers crawl, it is no wonder they end up consuming this lead via the fingers. Some countries have banned the use of lead like USA. Dr.Spocks also recommended to get the paint removed professionally and not by a scraper. (I was wondering what could be more professional since I have always seen painters remove the paint with the scraper and nothing else. Ah, could be a developed world thing but I certainly know no better).
This led me to search for lead-free paints in Pakistan. But before I go on to share my findings, I was particularly alarmed by this study in Dawn newspaper which analysed paint samples in local markets:

  • United States has restricted the use of lead in paints by bringing the permissible limit down to 90 parts per million (total lead in paint) from 600ppm (600mg/kg) last year.
  • Consumer paints in Pakistan are not included in the list of 78 products that require compulsory certification and regular monitoring by the Pakistan Standards Quality Control Authority (PSQCA),
  • PSQCA, though, provides specifications (last revised in 1997) for 'lead-free paints', if required (300mg/kg).
  • Three samples out of 15, including six samples of distemper, had very high concentrations of lead, ranging from 784.46 mg/kg to 195,139mg/kg. Other samples had lead concentration between 19.63mg/kg and 505.6mg/kg.
  • 1 sample of lead-free matte-finish was tested to be free from lead, while another had lead concentration of 37.9 mg/kg. A sample of lime (chuna) had 172.31mg/kg lead.
  • According to the researchers, the amount of presence lead present in a paint is directly proportional to the fastness of the color. ie A chuna or distemper is going to contain the least amount of lead in it.
  • One study found that approximately 73 per cent of residential paint brands tested from 12 countries representing 46 per cent of the world's population exceeded the US standard of 600ppm for lead in paint. In addition, 69 percent of the brands had at least one sample exceeding 10,000ppm. High lead paints were detected in all countries.
  • Lead most severely affects children less than 6 months old.

It seems there is no straight-forward way of finding out lead-free products in Pakistan. I looked online and has Berger Pakistan mentioned on one product product without lead but no guarantee on its website that it has completely removed lead from its formulations (like Berger India). Whats worse, the  leading paint manufacturers appear to have double standards with hugely varying lead content in different countries. In India one sample contained 17,000 ppm (way over the safety limit) but a similar sample in Bangladesh was found to have 212000 ppm in Nepal! (Source)

I was glad to see Rainbow paints mention that there water-based emulsions have no lead

in them (It could mean acceptable limits) but there wasn't much else to write home about.
I would admit that I haven't yet paid a visit to market and scan all the brands (Gobis) for instance and insist on lead free paints. However, in the absence of a clue on the paint bucket like a lead-free seal, I really doubt a paint retailer would know what I am talking about. A key place to know more about be Paint manufacturers themselves or the research of the study in the references below. Till then, I would keep my paint from crumbling and renew paint at least once a year and go for a distemper or chuna like paint to insure that lead is minimal in paint and the paint doesn't start to whither or crumble.
If someone can update me or has something else to share on the matter, I would be happy to hear! Let us all request PSQCA for a more stringent approach to consumer paints.

1. Baby and Childcare in India by Dr. Benjamin Flock, Dr.Abdullah Ghori and Dr.Robert Needlman

2. Lead-based consumer paints posing health risk, Newspaper Article in Daily Dawn:

3. Berger Pakistan:  Damp and Thinner

4. Indian paint manufacturers have toxic double standards

5. Rainbow Paint Industries: Corporate Social Responsibilty