Our Babies, Ourselves – 2
Posted by Sandra on April 6, 2009
I had intended on keeping up a series about this great book by Meredith F. Small, Our Babies, Ourselves, but got a little sidetracked! Here’s the first “installment” that I did a few months ago. I really highly recommend this book to anyone with children or planning to have children. Great read!
I was reading the chapter on the San, or “bushman” as we may call them. Here was an interesting blurb from that chapter (bold emphasis is mine):
…Women often give birth in the bush alone, witch is considered a sign of strength and achievement. Babies are never left at home when mothers go out to gather, an odd fact in that there is always someone at camp who could babysit. But the mother-infant relationship is considered sacrosant, so babies stay with their mothers at all times. Women wear a large multipupose animal-skin garment, the kaross, which functions as both a cover-up and a holding device. Babies sit in a special sling within the kaross, a soft palate lined with grass. This sling is nonrestictive and allows the baby to wiggle around, moving its arms and legs at will. It also assumes constant mother-infant contact; anthorpologist Melvin Konner found that San infants have more than twice the amount of passive contact with their mothers than do babies in industrialized societies. The sling is hung on the mother’s hip, not on her back, and so the baby has good access to the breast and sees everything from the same vantage point as its mother. …
Although San babies cry, they do not do so for long, and none of them cries excessively or inconsolably; more than 90 percent of their total crying events during the first nine months last less than thirty seconds. Babies are fed when they cry and often when they do not cry. San breasts are long and flexible, and it is up to the baby to manage its feeding by holding on to the breast and sucking whenever it is hungry – called “continuous feeding” by Melvin Konner. Interestingly, we in the West call this kind of feeding “on demand”, but in fact there is no demand being placed here. As soon as possible, babies control their own feeding and there is no conflict between mother and child over the time or amount of milk allowed, until weaning, which occurs at almost four years of age.
The chapter goes on to reiterate that Sans babies surpass their Eurpoean peers in motor skills. Babies are never placed on their backs and allowed to “flail about” – they feel the constant vertical position encourages these motor skills.
I think we have a lot to learn from the San. Now, I certainly understand that in our society, women have careers outside of the home and other obligations that would make such constant contact impossible. But clearly there is some middle ground that can be met here. Our industrialized society focuses too much on “independence” and “structural learning” that we have lost sight of the basics, which are even more crucial to the healthy development of our babies. Our society likes to call it “spoiling” when a mother immediately tends to a child’s cry. Our culture believes a child will “never” leave a parents bed if they lovingly, naturally co-sleep. We are such a narrow minded society, thinking about nothing but trying to mold babies, from birth, into adults. Mozart in the womb, Baby Einstein CDs, preschool at age 2. All these babies really need is love, and a chance to be babies.
We need to get back to basics. We must, or our society will degenerate more than it already has. A child raised with as much mother-baby contact as is humanly possible, fed “on demand”, has it’s ever single need tended to as soon as possible, and is never left to cry – ever, will grow up to be a better adult. And a better parent.
We parent the way we are parented. Let’s help continue the cycle of attachment and love.
This entry was posted on April 6, 2009 at 12:36 pm and is filed under **My Family Life**, Attachment Parenting, The Care of the Babe. Tagged: babies, baby, meredith f. small, motherhood, our babies ourselves, parenting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.