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Babies Don’t Cry In Africa

Attending To Baby’s Needs

“African Parenting Styles We Like,” expands parenting as a cultural framework, and not an individual concept.   The US creates parenting guidelines that do not necessarily meet the cultural views or practices of many communities or cultures that parent in America.

Comparison

In “African Parenting Styles We Like,” African parenting is compared to American parenting; with a look at why African babies cry less than the American babies. We have heard for years, “that babies don’t cry in Africa.”   Is it true?

Here are some of the reasons why African babies cry less than American babies:

  1. In Africa, everyone helps with childrearing.
  2. The baby is wrapped in a blanket when going out for protection from negative energy.
  3. Baby is always wrapped on the mother.
  4. Parents respond to baby’s needs immediately.
  5. African babies are not on a nursing schedules.
  6. Babies self-soothing is not practiced in Africa.
  7. Children may live with others, to help the mother.

My Visit In Africa

I visited two countries in West Africa, and I enjoyed watching how tentative the parents were to their baby’s needs. I also witnessed how everyone responded to a crying baby.  Everyone worked together to make the baby happy.   The babies were not allowed to have crying spells. Their needs were met immediately. It was a beautiful sight.

Cultural Parenting Beliefs

Here are some why reasons American babies cry more than African babies:

  1. Americans believe that babies held too much become spoiled.
  2. Babies are held less in American culture.
  3. American babies are left to self-soothe.
  4. Americans babies often sleep in their own room by three months.
  5. American babies are on a feeding schedule.
  6. American parenting is an individual responsibility.
  7. American babies get delayed responses when crying.
  8. American parents believe it is OK to let babies cry.

The US Birth Movement

The US is relearning its birth cultural and that is wonderful. At the same time, we must protect the US birth movement from becoming elitist, culturally insensitive, or shaming to culturally diverse families.

 Areas to Consider

  1. Undisturbed Birth: Undisturbed birth is defined as the laboring woman/person being left alone to guide herself through her birth, based on her hormonal blueprint. It is a great practice. Providers speak to the laboring person through whispers, close to her ear.  She is encouraged to push, not told to push, and other practices are included. You can learn more with Dr. Sarah Buckley.

2. Baby is immediately is put on mama’s abdomen.

A. Cross-Cultural Knowledge inMaternity Care

An undisturbed birth is not culturally appropriate within all cultures. Many cultures talk loud in the birth room, sing, use humor, tell their birth story, and/or tease the laboring women.  Many cultures have the maternal mother or elder females give suggestions, pray, and sometimes give orders to help the mother manage her labor. With these practices undisturbed birth does meet the cultural needs of the family.

  1. Many cultures want the baby washed before being placed on the mother.
  2. Other cultures wrapped the baby first and then place baby on mama’s abdomen.

 The Newborn Hat Ban

  1. The US birth movement is saying “No Hat”
  2. Many cultures believe in placing a hat on the baby
  3. Many cultures will wrap a blanket over their baby’s head.

Delivery of Care-The 4th Cultural Competency

How people view and participate in birth is based on their culture.  As America reclaims birth as a rite of passage, respect must be given as others honor their birth culture.

Call to Action:

Reduce infant crying in America

  • Share African parenting practices with families.
  • How do we shift the culture to reduce infant crying in America?
  • What role will midwives, doulas, and IBCLC’s play in this?
  • How will we ensure that the US Birth Movement remains respectful of other birthing cultures?

Resources

African Parenting Styles We Like

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

Cultural Competency Training

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Shafia M. Monroe, DEM. CDT, MPH
Office Number: 503-927-8357 | Email: Shafia@shafiamonroe.com