Salting the baby or assaulting the baby (see what I did there)

One of the causes of hypernatremia is water loss from the skin. This is increased in hot weather or if the skin damaged due to a lesion, burn or other wound. But I did not know hypernatremia cold result from cutaneous salt absorption.

Cutaneous Salt Toxicity
Fatal hypernatremia Na = 196

So in parts of the Middle East, Turkey, India, and China it is traditional to salt a newborn. Salt is dissolved in water, and olive oil and rubbed on the skin. There have been multiple reports (PubMed search | case report PDF | Google Search) of systemic cutaneous absorption of salt that causes hypernatremia.

Report from Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Amman Jordan

  1. Three days old boy admitted with severe hypernatremia, serum sodium 194 mmol/L and intracranial hemorrhage who died.
  2. Eight days old girl with hypernatremia, serum sodium 164 mmol/L, severe hyperbilirubinemia, serum bilirubin 30 mg/dl, and intracranial bleeding.
  3. Fourteen days old boy with generalized healing skin lesions, had normal head circumference at birth but developed severe microcephaly subsequently.
  4. Six days old girl admitted with fever, meningitis and UTI, serum sodium 142 mmol/L.
  5. Seven days old boy with hyperbilirubinemia, serum bilirubin 21.5 mg/dl, and serum sodium 155 mmol/L.

 A turkish report (unsourced from a website on Turkish Living):

…from a study conducted in Turkey in 2008 about practices in pregnancy and post partum… Eighty percent of the respondents were literate/primary school graduates, 45% had given birth at home. The most potentially harmful practices among women were swaddling (81%), dressing the baby with a sand-filled nappy (‘holluk’) (35%), and bathing the baby in salt water (40%). A relationship between traditional postpartum practices and demographic characteristics of women such as age, educational status, age at marriage and birth place was observed P<0 .05.="">

Sounds like this practice is still common in Turkey. A neonatal team from Jordan did a presentation on this practice at a conference and their slides are online. As part of the research they interviewed 112 women who gave birth at their hospital.

According to Wikipedia this is also a biblical practice. Ezekial 16:4

Newborn babies were rubbed with salt. A reference to this practice is in Ezekiel 16:4: “As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.”The significance of rubbing a newborn with salt is to indicate that the child would be raised to have integrity, to always be truthful.

What do CAM advocates say about this natural and traditional folk practice?

Just bought this last night from Fotolia