My wife carefully laid down in his crib in our bedroom our napping three week old first born baby boy. She slowly tipped toed out of the bedroom carefully leaving the bedroom door half way open so she could hear the baby if he began crying. As a young new mother and housewife, she had so much to do that morning while the baby was napping. She wanted to wash the pile of soiled cloth nappies or diapers and hang them on the clothes line outside to dry. She was going to do more laundry, cook relish for lunch, sweep the house, and cook nshima before I got home for lunch. She was hardly ten steps tiptoeing out of the bedroom, when our baby son cried. My wife went back in, briefly breast fed him to sleep again. When this happened the 5th time, she was frustrated as she could not have any chores done without the well-breast fed baby waking up and crying.
Although she was American and very Western, my wife did what she had seen the millions of Zambian mothers so; she got achitenje cloth and tied our son on her back. The baby blissfully slept for next few hours as she did all her chores. I had driven my wife and our baby son from University Teaching Hospital (UTH) maternity ward three weeks before. We were living in Lusaka at the time in the early 1980s at the institute of Africa Studies.
What is the best way to raise a baby in 2015? Do you bottle feed only during certain controlled times? When do you introduce solid food? Is it a sign of being primitive and backward for Zambian mothers to carry their babies on their backs as some animals in the wild do? Can you be a strong liberated educated woman, and Managing Director of a top company, a professional, and still carry your baby on your back using a chitenje cloth? Should women openly breast feed their babies in public? Should you let babies cry before they go to sleep in a separate crib in another room away from the parents? Should mothers sleep with their babies? How does this affect marriage? What is the role of the father? How much sex and attention should the husband and the father expect from his wife as she is mothering the baby? An article: “Why African Babies Don’t Cry” by……. a friend had sent to me on facebook instigated me to write this article.http://www.drmomma.org/2010/09/why-african-babies-dont-cry.html
Credentials and Experience
Since I am going to say and suggest things about how to raise babies that some may regard as controversial, offensive, uninformed, sexist since I am a male, and perhaps unscientific, I want to disclose my life experience as well as my formal academic credentials. I will also explain why I have been motivated to write this article.
I was born and grew up in the village in Zambia in Africa. I saw perhaps how hundreds of babies were raised. I saw how my mother and father raised 5 of my younger siblings from the first day they were born and up to when they became adults. I was heavily involved in raising my own three boys from when they were a few minutes old as babies up to now when they are adults. I have also observed how babies are raised for the last 30 years in the Western or American society.
I worked with theDzithandizeni Nutrition Group in Chipata in 1971and also taught nutrition classes in the villages in rural Chipata from 1969 and 1971 in the Eastern Province of Zambia when I was a student at Chizongwe Secondary School. I also worked with the National Food and Nutrition Commission in Lusaka from 1972 to 1975. I majored in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Zambia from 1972 to 1976. While studying for my Ph. D at Michigan State University from 1982 to 1987, I was heavily trained in Cross-Cultural or Comparative Studies.
I have been compelled to write this article for a very simple reason: I deeply care about babies and children and their welfare. It deeply pains me personally when babies and children are subjected to some of the most distressful or harmful child rearing practices which appear to have been introduced to serve the interests of adults and not the babies. I hope this article will help all young mothers and fathers who want to do the very best for their babies. The Zambian baby does not cry. Their babies may gain so much from this good experience that ultimately the good practices will make raising children a joyful experience for both the baby and parents. It is gratifying to raise babies who don’t cry. How you raise your baby may ultimately influence what she or he is like as an adult.
What is the best way to raise a baby?
The best way to raise a baby is to give them that total mother’s attention everyday as soon as they are born. This means holding them as they breast feed on demand even if they are just fussing. Carrying them on the back is the most natural as they can feel the comfort of the warm of the mother’s human body. A mother’s back may be too wide for a small baby who may be only a few weeks old. In the villages and large extended family households in Zambia, there are always young boys and girls who are 8 or ten years old who have narrower backs who will more easily carry the small baby on the back using the chitenje cloth. The father and other family members can also help provide and maintain the social warmth the baby naturally craves by holding and talking and interacting with the baby.
Should you bottle feed only during certain controlled times?
Exclusively bottle feeding the baby after being born for no good reason deprives the baby of the basic immunological advantages that have biologically been passed to the baby through the mother’s milk during the first 6 months. If you have to bottle feed perhaps for medical reasons, you should be aware at least of the nutritional and health advantages of breast feeding. When I taught nutrition from 1969 to 1975 in Zambia, we taught all mothers to breast feed their babies as the best way to prevent malnutrition in babies. Bottle feeding may have become common in Europe after the Industrial Revolution among wealthy upper class elite families. The idea of feeding the baby on demand becomes very difficult with bottle feeding. My wife and I were so grateful that she was able to stay home for the most part to breast feed all our three boys with abundant supply of her breast milk.
When do you introduce solid food?
There is no need to rush. There is no set time. If there is enough breast milk that they are able to frequently feed even during the night, the baby will be very content. When they have outgrown the breast milk, they will let you know. Traditionally, mothers used to chew or masticate the solid probably hard food and feed it to the growing still toothless baby. Today we say how disgusting and primitive, exchanging mother’s saliva with the baby! Think about this; wild animals still do it and this is how we survived as human beings from 150,000 years ago. After all, Zambians and Africans are the origins of all the 7 billion people to day starting way back about 150,000 years ago. We discovered the best way to raise babies from trial and error. But of course to day we grind foods easily and can make all kinds of porridges and smooth processed foods. So there is no need to first chew the food for the baby.
Carrying Baby on Back and Primitiveness
One of the most powerful and destructive words which Europeans have used is the term “primitive”. If you live in a flat in a city, have Western education, can read and write, use sophisticated technology, then you as a mother cannot carry a baby on the back with a chitenjecloth; because that would be like those primitive native Zambian or African women carrying their babies on their back like monkeys or other wild creatures do. Westerners associate carrying the baby on the back with primitiveness. What this has done is to introduce a wedge between a mother and one of the most nurturing actions or instincts anywhere in the world: to physically be with her baby on her back or front if she needs to with a convenient chitenje cloth. This is not just a matter of convenience for the mother or guardians of the baby, but the physical closeness the carrying of the baby on the back introduces may be a biological necessity for the safety and health of the baby and later perhaps the emotional health of the child as an adult.
The Liberated Educated Woman
Should the liberated Zambian educated woman carry her baby to the office and breast feed the baby on demand while she is working? This question is provocative but it is the wrong question that really puts the cart in front of the horse. I think liberated men and women should be asking, “Since when were women banned from raising their babies and working at the same time to earn an income?” When I was growing up in the village, my mother worked in the field with us. The baby was often on her back. She would stop and sit down and breastfeed the baby and resume her work. She took the necessary breaks as needed. Sometimes after breast feeding while sitting on a ridge (mzele), she would spend a few minutes while the baby sat on her lap and briefly played. Then my mother would get up to resume working. My mother took particular pride in being able to work hard in the field to contribute to the family food while taking time to attend to the baby. Why should this be impossible to do this for today’s Zambian educated women? Why should this not be possible for women everywhere?
Should women openly breast feed their babies in public?
I was travelling in a 20 passenger minibus from Serenje to Lusaka in Zambia. The bus stopped to pick a woman passenger with a 6 months old baby on her back. As she soon as she boarded the bus, men and women moved so they would offer her a better seat. She shifted her baby in the chitenje cloth up to her front. Within minutes she was breast feeding the baby and no one was freaking out, staring, squinting at her, or looking stunned. It was normal. We live in a beautiful society that cherishes the bond between the baby and the mother.
One of the most striking and unfortunate differences between Western and Zambian women is that Zambian women can breastfeed their babies anywhere anytime 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Western women can be arrested in some cases if they breastfeed openly. If they are in public, restaurant, bus or shopping mall, they have to go to the public toilet or rest room to breast feed. The very isolated defiant Western women who try to breast feed in public will try to cover themselves and the baby in some obscure corner. They are made to feel embarrassed, ashamed and fearful. The public also act alarmed and will call the police and act very hostile if a woman is breast feeding openly.
I took for granted and was never aware of the abundant freedom that the Zambian woman enjoys to breast feed her baby openly until I came to America in the 1970s. I had not seen women breast feed in public in the United States for so many years, that the first time I returned home to the Capital City of Lusaka, I was aware of women breast feeding everywhere; on buses, on streets, in shops, and walking. After a few hours later, I didn’t notice it anymore. This is the power of culture. I am very thankful for the sake of the Zambian mother and the well-being of the babies that Zambian men and women have given women this freedom by not sexualizing and turning into sexual pornography the natural act of openly breast feeding the baby. Every Zambian woman and man should be vigilant though because the educated Zambian elite men and women can easily introduce these hostile cultural values to Zambia through internet pornography.