Kenyan Doctor Shares Why African Babies Don't Cry
Kenyan doctor Claire Niala shares her interesting African perspective on why African babies don't cry as much as Western babies do.
When Claire Niala got pregnant, she did exactly what many expecting mothers do. She began reading parenting books, trying to prepare herself to be the best mother she could be. And the majority of those parenting books all seemed to say the same thing – African babies don’t cry. Or more accurately, they cry less than European babies.
Was this true? Claire decided to test the claim for herself. She took advice from her African grandmother – breastfeeding whenever her baby was upset, co-sleeping and taking a flask of warm water to bed to keep her milk flowing.
It wasn’t an easy journey. Whilst her contemporaries’ babies were being introduced to solids, her child continued to feed as a newborn, which meant she needed to wake up almost every two hours. But at a wedding reception, the people at her table commented on how “easy” her baby seemed to be… even if she did feed a lot.
Here is Claire’s grandmother’s wonderful philosophy:
- Offer the breast every single moment that your baby is upset – even if you have just fed her.
- Co-sleep. Many times you can feed your baby before they are fully awake, which will allow them to go back to sleep easier and get you more rest.
- Always take a flask of warm water to bed with you at night to keep you hydrated and the milk flowing.
- Make the feeding your priority (especially during growth spurts) and get everyone else around you to do as much as they can for you. There is very little that cannot wait.
- Read your baby, not the books.
- Breast-feeding is not linear – it goes up and down (and also in circles). You are the expert on your baby’s needs.
This worked for Claire although extremely time-consuming.
It’s okay if your baby cries, even if African babies, don’t cry.
However other mums have tried the same methods and don’t believe the theory holds true.
“When my girls were babies, I did almost all of the things that any African mother would do with her baby…” says mum and blogger Kate . She breastfed on demand, “wore” her babies instead of using a stroller and wouldn’t even watch television.
“But, I have to tell you, my babies have cried. Oh, they have cried,” she confesses. “I get sort of annoyed when I see that meme floating around Facebook about African babies crying less.”
With the plethora of parenting resources out there that all claim to have the answers but seem to contradict one another, how can you possibly know what’s best for your child?
There’s a tip that Claire’s grandmother gave her that we consider invaluable – “Read your baby, not the books.”
At the end of the day, every baby is an individual. Don’t look for a “one size fits all” approach to parenting.
If you’re struggling to produce enough milk to satisfy your child, breastfeeding may not be the answer for you. Or perhaps your baby prefers to self-settle instead of co-sleep. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent. It may mean you need to adjust your ideas of what being the perfect parent means.
But if you have any concerns for your baby’s feeding or health, make sure you consult your family doctor.
Also read: Exclusive Breastfeeding Tips For New Mums