If* salting newborns is a good thing, why don't we do it anymore?

This is not a "Why don't we follow the Sages' medical advice?" question. If, in fact, Ezekiel 16:4 is emphasizing how neglected we were when G-d took care of us, it would seem, at the very least, that a prophet of G-d deems it an important practice and a basic part of post-childbirth care, like cutting the umbilical cord and cleansing and swaddling the newborn.

Is there any Halachic literature encouraging (or mandating) the practice? Incidentally, is there any Halachic literature at all about what to do immediately postpartum?

*Big "IF". The thought there, though it resonates with me on an interpretive level, might be way off.

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    Since you linked to my comment that "salting is a good thing", I should mention that all I meant is that salting is implicated as a good thing in the context of the verse.
    – Fred
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 19:11
  • @Fred, fair enough.
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 19:14
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    salting was a way of cleaning the baby (cf wiki.answers.com/Q/…) but the tendency now is for midwives to leave the baby and NOT clean the vernix off as it provides some anti-bacterial protection.
    – rosends
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 20:41
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    – jake
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 20:55
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    @Ariel, I'm going to go with their recommendation and not salt any babies.
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


Is this a scientific question or a halachik one?

Just because salting a newborn was a good way to treat them, doesn't mean it's the only good way. If we have better ways of treating their skin we use them. To say that the prophet deems that this is the only acceptable way to treat them requires more than just a description of good care.

Today we have much better (less harsh) soaps. Older soaps had leftover lye in them which would harm the skin. If you don't wash a babies skin well, then bacteria would start to eat the leftover vernix etc. Aside from smelling really bad this could lead to an infection, and infant mortality was already bad enough.

Salt is a preservative and would stop the bacteria, at least long enough for the skin to dry and harder.

PS. Today we use baby powder, which is not so different in theory.

PPS. I too am curious about your last question, I hope you get some answers.

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    The American Association of Pediatricians now advises against baby powder because it can get into the child's lungs. (See babycenter.com/…). Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 21:01

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