How Different Cultures Protect New Mothers, by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett examines how other cultures protect new mothers’ well-being.

Is ours not a strange culture that focuses so much attention on childbirth—virtually all of it based on anxiety and fear—and so little on the crucial time after birth, when patterns are established that will affect the individual and the family for decades? Suzanne Arms.

As citizens of an industrialized nation, we often act as if we have nothing to learn from low-income, developing countries. Yet many of these cultures are doing something extraordinarily right—especially in how they care for new mothers. In their classic paper, Stern and Kruckman (1983) present an anthropological critique of the literature. They found that in the cultures they studied, postpartum disorders, including the “baby blues,” were virtually nonexistent. By contrast, 50% to 85% of new mothers in industrialized nations experience the “baby blues,” and 15% to 25% (or more) experience postpartum depression.

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Ken Tackett

What makes the difference?

Stern and Kruckman noted that cultures who had a low incidence of postpartum mood disorders all had rituals that provided support and care for new mothers. These cultures, although quite different from each other, all shared

5 protective social structures

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Ken Tackett
  1. A distinct postpartum period. In these other cultures, the postpartum period is recognized as a time that is distinct from normal life. It is a time when the mother is supposed to recuperate. Her activities are limited and her female relatives take care of her. This type of care was also common in colonial America, when postpartum was referred to as the “lying-in” period. This period functioned as a time of “apprenticeship,” when more experienced mothers mentored the new mother.
  2. Protective measures reflecting the new mother’s vulnerability. During the postpartum period, new mothers are recognized as being especially vulnerable. Ritual bathing, washing of hair, massage, binding of the abdomen, and other types of personal care are prominent in the postpartum rituals of rural Guatemala, Mayan women in the Yucatan, Latina women both in the United States and Mexico. These rituals also mark the postpartum period as distinct from other times in women’s lives.
  3. Social seclusion and mandated rest. Postpartum is a time for the mother to rest, regain strength, and care for the baby. Related to the concept of vulnerability is the widespread practice of social seclusion for new mothers. For example, in the Punjab, women and their babies are secluded from everyone but female relatives and their midwives for five days. Seclusion is said to promote breastfeeding and it limits a woman’s normal activities. In contrast, many American mothers are expected to entertain others—even during their hospital stay. Once they get home, this practice continues as they are often expected to entertain family and friends who come to see the baby.
  4. Functional assistance. In order for seclusion and mandated rest to occur, mothers must be relieved of their normal workload. In these cultures, women are provided with someone to take care of older children and perform their household duties. As in the colonial period in the United States, women often return to the homes of their family of origin to ensure that this type of assistance is available.
  5. Social recognition of her new role and status. In the cultures Stern and Kruckman studied, there was a great deal of personal attention given to the mother. In China and Nepal, very little attention is paid to the pregnancy; much more attention is focused on the mother after the baby is born. This has been described as “mothering the mother.” For example, the status of the new mother is recognized through social rituals and gifts. In Punjabi culture, there is the “stepping-out ceremony,” which includes ritual bathing and hair washing performed by the midwife, and a ceremonial meal prepared by a Brahmin. When the mother returns to her husband’s family, she returns with many gifts she has been given for herself and the baby. The following is a description of a postpartum ritual performed by the Chagga of Uganda. It differs quite a bit from what mothers in industrialized countries may experience. 

Three months after the birth of her child, the Chagga woman’s head is shaved and crowned with a bead tiara, she is robed in an ancient skin garment worked with beads, a staff such as the elders carry is put in her hand, and she emerges from her hut for her first public appearance with her baby. Proceeding slowly towards the market, they are greeted with songs such as are sung to warriors returning from battle. She and her baby have survived the weeks of danger. The child is no longer vulnerable, but a baby who has learned what love means, has smiled its first smiles, and is now ready to learn about the bright, loud world outside (Dunham, 1992; p. 148).

What American mothers experience

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Ken Tackett

By contrast, American mothers often find that people are more concerned about them before the birth. While a woman is pregnant, people may offer to help her carry things or to open doors or to ask how she is feeling. Friends will give her a baby shower, where she will receive emotional support and gifts for her baby. There are prenatal classes and prenatal checkups, and many people wanting to know about the details of her daily experience.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below….)

https://womenshealthtoday.blog/2017/07/30/how-cultures-protect-the-new-mother/amp/

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Even Science Agrees, You Literally Can’t Spoil A Baby, by Wendy Wisner

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“Don’t you ever put that baby down?”

“Aren’t you going to spoil him?”

“Start teaching him to self-soothe now, before it’s too late.”

Yup, these were things actually said to me when my babies were newborns. Nope, not even when they were a few months old. When they were itty-bitty babies fresh out of the womb, I had strangers, family members — and yes, even doctors — question whether I was going to spoil my babies by holding them all the time.

Looking back, I know how absurd these statements were. My boys are 4 and 9 now, and whiz by me so fast I have to beg them to sit down and cuddle in my lap like they did all those years ago. At the time, though, I didn’t know for sure that my babies would be totally independent eventually, so the critique definitely got under my skin.

The thing is, holding my babies almost 24 hours a day like I did in those months was not exactly a choice. It was a necessity. If I put my babies down, they wailed their little heads off.

Maybe I could have let them do that, and maybe they would have learned to soothe themselves somehow, but every instinct in my body told me that if my baby was crying, he needed to be picked up. And I went with those instincts, despite the fact that I sometimes received dirty looks and judgment.

Turns out, my instincts were absolutely correct. Babies do need to be held whenever they fuss — and not just because they’re sweet and cuddly and their hair smells like heaven. It turns out there’s a ton of research out there to back up the claim that you literally cannot spoil a baby. In fact, holding babies is actually vital for their health and development.

Just a few weeks ago, a study came out in Pediatrics that looked at the effects of skin-to-skin contact on premature infants. It took the long view, looking not just at the immediate effects of holding preemies against your skin in their early weeks, but also how it affected these babies 20 years down the road.

The preemies who experienced skin-to-skin had higher IQs, significantly larger areas of gray matter in the brain, and even earned higher wages at their jobs than those who did not experience skin-to-skin care. The skin-to-skin cohort also showed less propensity toward hyperactivity and aggression in school and were less likely to experience school absences.

Of course, this study looked specifically at premature babies, who are especially vulnerable and in need of TLC. But studies on full-terms babies have similar findings.This 2012 study from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register showed that full-term babies who experienced skin-to-skin care in their early days had better cardio-respiratory stability, higher breastfeeding rates, and decreased crying.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.scarymommy.com/even-science-agrees-you-literally-cant-spoil-baby/

The Dunedin Study: TV Use/ Screen time and other “habits”: Effects on Kids in later years, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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Continuing  our series of articles on findings discovered by the “Dunedin Longitudinal Study”

Every generation identifies “bad habits” in their children which they believe should be “discouraged” because of the negative effects they may cause later in life.  The Dunedin Longitudinal Study, which closely follows 1000 or so participants born in 1972-1973 in Dunedin New Zealand, has identified a number of these “habits” and then gone on to observe how far these do in fact effect people’s lives once they are adults.  The following is a summary of some of the study’s findings.

Cesarian Birth     No lasting effects.     Zero psychological significance.

article-2418967-1BC82B46000005DC-621_634x401Being left handed     No lasting effects… unless forced to write with right hand, which can cause frustration and therefore delay learning.

Bed wetting  No lasting effects.  Zero psychological significance, although other issues may be linked to this if it continues much after age 8 years.  Otherwise is a passing phase.

Age of Toilet Training   Not relevant to future psychological well-being, although other issues may be linked if toilet training has not occured by 5-6 years.

downloadThumb Sucking     A security/ self-nurturing response.  No other particular reason identified.  Usually a passing phase, few “thumb suckers” continue to do this into adulthood.  Has debatable impact on teeth… “if you don’t stop sucking your thumb, we’ll have to get braces on your teeth.”  Orthadontal need tends to be based on genetic predisposition to a particular jaw shape or “bucked teeth” going into adolescence, rather than being related to “thumb sucking”.

download (1)Amount of Sleep during Childhood     The Dunedin Study measured the amount of sleep per night  in participants when they were aged between 5 and 11 years old.  It was discovered that there was a direct correlation between the hours of sleep a child had at these ages and their body weight as an adult.  Those who had the least sleep as children tended to become the most over weight adults.  The reason for this is that sleep influences hormones which effect how hungry you become and when you feel full.  Toddlers who slept less also tended to have problems with cognitive functioning during adolescence and anxiety issues during their 20s.

13TV Watching/ Screen Time    The Dunedin Study also measured how many hours of TV children watched.  This also translates into general “screen time”.   This was the generation who began having personal computers and computer games in their home during the 1980s, when such brands as ZX81 and Commodore 64 became available and games such as “Pac Man” and “Space Invaders” were the rage.  Even those who did not have computers at home frequently had access to them via schools or to games in the “Video Arcades” which were popular in the 80s.  As well as this, the invention of VHS meant that hours spent JS44834649watching television increased dramatically… programmes could be taped and re-watched and the age of video rental shops had begun.  The results are dramatic.  The study showed that those who had more screen time were three times more likely to leave school early, regardless of their IQ or their family’s income.  This may also be because excessive screen time has been linked to self control, a majorly important component in predicting future life trajectory, (which we will examine in greater detail in a later article) and which is the case regardless of intelligence.c89c6ce15b18ce07443424fd290cb8f5

Conclusions drawn from this for those of us wishing to guide our children towards a more positive life trajectory?  1) Don’t be pushy about toilet training, most kids are toilet trained before they start school (boys tend to take a little longer than girls).  2)  Don’t make a big deal of bed wetting or thumb sucking.  3) Don’t force a child who is left handed to use their right hand.  4) Ensure your child has adequate sleep and investigate any obvious sleep issues early 5) Limit screen time… discussing and creating a “contract” with your child about this can be good and also encourages a degree of self-regulation.

“…the thing which is special about The Dunedin Study is that we have measured multiple aspects of human health and development, so we get a complete picture of people’s lives.” —-Professor Richie Poulton, study director.

The comprehensive nature of The Dunedin Longitudinal Study as well as the high rate of retention of participants (only 35% of participants still live in Dunedin, but 95% remain in the study and return regularly to participate), gives weight to the findings listed above, as well as strategies for reducing negative outcomes and increasing the chances of a positive life trajectory, through early intervention, for the children of today.

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“Babywearing”: Through History and Today, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”

1909 Maori Women FY

Babywearing is the act of carrying your baby hands free using a fabric carrier. Dr William Sears coined the phrase in the 80’s when his wife started carrying one of their eight children in a sling she’d made out of a bed sheet. She commented that she really enjoyed ‘wearing’ him, hence came the term ‘babywearing’.

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“Baby in a basket”: a traditional Chinese baby carrier.

It’s a growing trend here in New Zealand and many other Western countries, but for many of the world’s people babywearing is what they have always done and continue to do. On arrival in New Zealand the British observed Māori carrying their babies on their backs, “…an old man (if not a chief) might be seen toiling all day at his work with his little grandchild strapped on his back.” (Tregear, E. 1904). Carriers were made from muka of the harakeke (flax). It would have taken weeks to make enough muka strong enough for a baby carrier. When the old army issue blankets became readily available to Māori they mostly used these as baby carriers. From the 50’s the practice of babywearing was rare in Māori society. Dr Fredrick Truby King’s Mothercare book and nurses who worked for the newly formed Plunket society discouraged the practice of even holding your baby more than necessary for fear of spoiling them or passing on germs that might cause sickness or death.

It wasn’t until the 70’s that babywearing started to reappear in New Zealand and La Leche League played at integral part in the resurgence. LLL has always been a strong supporter of holding your baby close. With your baby secured against you in a carrier you are hands free to continue with jobs while still being able respond to your baby’s needs in the present moment, particularly that of breastfeeding.

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The Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle: a mother wearing her baby.

A pattern for the traditional Chinese Mei tai carrier was published in a NZ, LLL magazine in the 70’s. Along with the increased ease and decreasing cost of international travel, LLL being an international organization, provided information about how other cultures managed and treated their babies. Jean Leidloff’s book ‘The Continuum Concept’ was first published in 1975. After living with the Yequana people of the Venezuelan jungle for two years she questioned the way in which our Western culture was treating it’s newest members. She developed the idea of the ‘in-arms’ phase of a baby’s life. A time from birth to 9 months or more, when the ‘rightful’ place of a baby is in the arms of another human being. She believed a baby has an innate biological expectation to be held, “…just as our waterproof skin has the expectation of rain.” (Leidloff, J. 1975). Leidloff’s controversial book, still read by many expectant parents today, contributed to the return of babywearing in the West.

The practicality of babywearing for parents is just one of many benefits. A study of Canadian mothers and their infants showed that babies who were carried more, (4.4 hours per day compared to 2.7 hours per day), cried for a significantly shorter amount of time “- a 43 percent difference.” (Barr, R.G. 1991). The frequency of crying was similar but the duration far less at the peak crying age of 8 weeks. A follow on study looked at whether increased carrying for babies labeled colicky at 8 weeks of age decreased the amount of crying for these babies.It was found that it did not. It might be concluded that increased carrying from birth may have a preventative effect when it comes to crying or colic.

A recent study by Ken Blaiklock of Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland showed that there is minimal interaction between a baby and parent when they are placed in a forward facing pushchair. Interaction and vocalizing increased slightly when the baby was orientated towards the parent but not many of these prams were observed. The conclusion was that interaction between parent and baby was at its highest when the baby was facing and at a similar height to the parent, notably when in a supermarket trolley. Although Blaiklock observed babies being carried there was no discussion of the levels of interaction occurring. Suzanne Zeedyk published similarfindings from her 2008 research in the UK. She stressed the importance of being able to see your baby to respond to their needs and to facilitate verbal interaction essential for language acquisition.

Source for this photo: "Yummy Mummy".

Source for this photo: “Yummy Mummy”.

Like everything you do or use with your baby there are some safety considerations you must know. The FITS acronym covers the main points. Your baby must be Firm against you, particularly through the upper spine with the base of the newborn or sleeping baby’s head supported by the carrier. This ensures the chin is lifted off the chest allowing for an unrestricted airway. Your baby needs to be In sight, sound or feel. The carrier or clothing should not cover your baby’s face. The Top of your baby’s head needs to be up at your neck height. This allows for easy monitoring and a more ergonomic carrying position for you. You must ensure your baby’s hips and spine are well Supported by the carrier. You can read more about this last point below.

Wearing your baby helps them to regulate their heart rate, tempperature and breathing and decreases their stress hormones. This is why skin-to-skin contact during Kangaroo Care is so beneficial for a premature baby. With all this regulation done for them by their parent their immature little bodies can put energy into growing and healing. The same is true for the full term baby. The security that babywearing provides decreases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels of a baby increase during parent-child separation and intense crying. Contrary to historic belief, when a baby’s need to be ‘clingy’ is met they become more confident and independent in time. The bond and trust that is built up between parent and baby when a baby’s physical and emotional needs are met in the present moment helps the baby to validate themselves as an individual and gives them confidence that they are worthy. Babywearing allows the infant to be close to their parent who can continue with everyday chores. As baby grows babywearing allows them direct and active experience of the world from their parent’s perspective.

Bub & Dad

A father wearing his baby

Fathers find babywearing an empowering parenting tool. They have the ability to provide closeness, comfort and security from the time their child is born as well as having a way to give their partner a break and get their baby to sleep. Babywearing is a powerful bonding tool for fathers and their babies.

Carrying your baby in an upright position provides support to the immature digestive system. Gravity helps food move in the right direction. The upright position in a baby carrier is similar to the position a baby is in during biological nurturing; the main difference being that your baby is higher on your body in a carrier. In the Spring, 2012 edition of Midwifery Today, Suzanne Colson discusses Biological Nurturing, “..the approach in itself encourages mothers to keep the baby in the right place, what Nils Bergman (2008) calls the “mammalian habitat”.

It is therefore not surprising that many mothers say BN helps them get to know their baby sooner.” In a baby carrier baby’s chest is against yours, with as much skin-to-skin as you choose, knees are tucked up above the height of their hips and slightly spread. The ideal baby carrier will firmly and securely support a newborn baby in this position known as the straddle squat or M position.

Another benefit of this position is that it supports the correct development of the baby’s hips and spine. A baby’s spine is in a C shape when born. The upper spine develops its curve around 3 months when baby learns to control his head. The spine continues to develop as baby learns to crawl with the lower spine developing its curveas baby becomes a competent walker. A good baby carrier and carrying style supports the spine in the natural C shape, not forcing it straight, which may contribute to incorrect development.

In the straddle squat position the head of the baby’s femur (thigh bone) fits correctly into the socket of the hip joint. In the opposite position with the baby’s legs pushed straight together or hanging straight down the head of the femur is being pressured outwards which may cause damage to the outer lip of the hip socket. Baby’s are checked for signs of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hips (DDH) by midwives and Well Child nurses in order to pick up on this condition and correct it before it causes long term damage and effects physical development. The treatment is a harness that lifts the knee to hip height and out to the side (the straddle squat position). A baby diagnosed with DDH may have to wear the harness for 3-4 months and in severe cases may need surgery.

The upright position also takes the pressure of the baby’s soft skull. A baby who is always lying in the same position in ababywearingFTW car seat or bassinet is at risk of developing flat spots on his or her skull. As most babies sleep lying down at night having day sleeps and daytime upright in a carrier provides a break from pressure on the skull as well as providing cuddles, closeness and bonding for baby and parent.

In establishing breastfeeding babywearing provides the ideal situation of babyy being close and ideally in as much skin-to-skin contact as possible with mum. Initially it is best to remove your baby from your carrier when she wants to feed to ensure correct breastfeeding technique is established. When you are confident that you and your baby have breastfeeding sorted there are many ways you can feed your baby without removing them from the carrier.

Babywearing provides so many benefits for both parent and baby. There are now a multitude of carrier types available on the market at varying prices. This can be overwhelming for new parents. Wearing Your Baby DVD and Download is a resource created to inspire parents to wear their babies.  It has information on the safety aspectsof babywearing and includes step-by-step instructions on how to use the six most common carrier types in New Zealand. It also includes sections on wearing two babies and on improvising your own carrier, making babywearing affordable for all.

Anna Hughes

Co-director Wearing Your Baby

www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz

Past LLL member, babywearing, co-sleeping, ‘nappy free’ and breastfeeding mother of two boys.

References:

Barr, RG., Hunziker, UA. (1986) Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. May 1986. 77(5):641-8.

Blaiklock, K. (2013). Talking With Children When Using Prams While Shopping. In NZ Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Vol. 16. Pp. 15-28.

Colson, S. (2012). Biological Nurturing: The Laid-back Breastfeeding Revolution. Midwifery Today. Spring edition.

Leidloff, J. (1975). The Continuum Concept.

Tregear, E. (1904). The Māori Race.

 

My Personal Experience of Babywearing, by Anna Hughes, Co-director of “Wearing Your Baby”

 

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My babywearing journey started in my early 20’s, many years before I had my first child. I met a woman in a market place who had her new baby wrapped to her chest. I was struck by the feeling of how ‘right’ it seemed to me. I thought this is totally where a baby would want to be and where I’d want my baby. The woman gave some verbal instructions on how to make and use the wrap and I went ahead and made one for a friend who was about to have a baby. I continued to make these very basic carriers for friends and 7 years on I made one for my own baby. It didn’t take long for me to realise that the cotton lycra I was using doesn’t cut it for an 8lb baby.
Knowing it wasn’t right for baby to end up down by my belly button I had a few attempts at making the same wrap around sling with different types of material. Then my Mum bought me a woven wrap! Wahooo.
I found babywearing sooo helpful. My son had milk injected down his throat during most feeds and hated lying down with a

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Anna and baby… early days

full, uncomfortable tummy. Over-supply has its issues too. ‘Wearing’ him in an upright position really helped him to keep breastmilk down. Well, some of it! He wasn’t a great sleeper and I’ll never forget one of Brylin’s (LLL Leader for Dunedin West) first comments to me when I was reading a sleep book and commented to my Mum that Eli didn’t sleep anywhere as much as what this book said he was meant to. She said ‘It’s ok dear your baby hasn’t read that book!’ So true Brylin! I felt better knowing that I wore him a lot during the day, giving him the opportunity to rest and sleep whenever he felt like it. The sling was his mobile bed. My husband and I partied til midnight on New Years Eve with our 6 month old happily asleep in the sling.

Another moment of ‘thank goodness for the sling’ was in the middle of the supermarket when Eli 6 weeks started head butting my chest in demand of a feed. Rather than leave the half full trolley to go back to the car I loosen the sling, wiggled him down and latched him on. Unbeknownst to anyone else in the shop. Babywearing win!
At 6 months old Eli was the youngest delegate at the NZ Association for Environmental Education Conference for 3 days. I can’t say I got to hear every presentation from start to finish, but I did get a lot out of it. For years I had people say, ‘Oh yes I remember you. You had the baby attached the whole time and he was so happy.’ He loved being in the sling. He could see things from an adult perspective yet tuck himself away when he’d had enough. Being a big boy I quickly learnt to wear him on my back where he could look over my shoulder. It was an even better view from there.
Mantasmall

Anna “wearing” her second son.

Babywearing was invaluable with our second child, Niwha. Life is so much busier with two. Feeding on the go as well as being able to help the older child without making the baby wait was important to me. As we know babies don’t do ‘waiting’ well.

There were very few babywearers in Dunedin at the time we had Eli. I really wanted more people to experience how helpful, fun and snuggly babywearing is. So I found someone to run a workshop on babywearing and raising a nappy free baby. I got some funding from the Council to run the workshop and out of this created a parenting group focused on supporting parents in practicing these techniques. By the time I had Niwha there were babywearers in town that I didn’tknow!
I was still surprised at how few parents were babywearing, outside of my little bubble. I decided it was time for more action. I formed a Babywearing specific group, including a carrier library started with second hand donated carriers. I was itching to challenge my brain alongside the challenge of raising two boys and decided that I’d write a book on Babywearing. A chapter into it I realised that it made far more sense to utilise my husband’s skills as a media producer, allong with my background as an educator and outdoor instructor to create an instructional DVD/Download.
We questioned our sanity a number of times over the years it took to produce Wearing Your Baby. They’re not kidding when they say never work with babies and animals.
I was determined to create something to inspire and educate parents, educators and health professionals to support the practice of babywearing. Babywearing may not be for everyone but I’m certain that secured to Mum or Dad’s chest is where most newborn babies want to be.
I could write many more pages on the benefits, reasons and ways you can wear your baby. In fact I’ve started and you can

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old blanket (to show that baby wearing needn't be expensive either).

Anna with her family, wearing her two year old in an old sheet (to show that baby wearing needn’t be expensive either).

read them at www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz. Wearing Your Baby is presented by 4 babywearing families, covering 6 different types of carriers; Mei tai and Podaegi, wraparound slings, pouch and ring slings and soft structured carriers. It also shows a few ways you can wear two babies of the same or different ages, breastfeed while babywearing and my favourite section shows ways you can improvise a carrier, often based on how different cultures carry their babies.

La Leche League New Zealand has ‘highly recommended’ the DVD for their group libraries so if you would like a copy ask your LLL Leader to get one, purchase yourself or gift it to a pregnant friend and inspire more babywearing parents. It’s now available through the LLL catalogue.
Happy babywearing 🙂
Anna whanau

Anna Hughes and family.

 

About Anna…

Anna Hughes is the Co-director of Wearing Your Baby http://www.wearingyourbaby.co.nz. She is a former LLL member, mother of two boys who experienced bedsharing, being raised nappy free, breastfeeding and of course babywearing. She says she is also a wanna be writer!  (“The Forever Years” thinks she writes very well).

The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep, by Stephanie Meade

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We have a weird relationship to babies and sleep in the West. I was reminded of this when I spoke to my German sister-in-law recently. She had just arrived back in Germany from Spain, where she was visiting her little sister who had just had a baby. My sister-in-law commented that the baby was great, except “she doesn’t sleep in her bed, only in the arms, so that’s a little hard.”

The sleep of babies is a very profitable empire. We have many books and experts on the topic—Dr. Ferber, Dr. Karp, Dr. Sears and Dr. Weissbluth, to name a few. I’ve read them all. I may have even taken notes in the margins. Seriously. I had a colicky first-born, so in desperation I poured over every book I could find. The empire extends way beyond books, though; we have built a whole industry around the sleep of babies—creating the nursery (don’t get me wrong—I loved that part) and buying the crib, the crib set, the mobile, the rocker, the swing, and all the other gear. I remember my husband almost throwing up on himself on our first trip to Babies-R-Us in the U.S. when I was five-months pregnant. I insisted we needed the $300 five-piece crib set (bumper, blanket, sheet, ruffle and I can’t even remember the fifth item—oh yeah, diaper bag—who has time to be refilling a diaper bag?) and he thought I was out of my mind. I remember feeling quietly devastated we couldn’t agree on buying it because it was ESSENTIAL, couldn’t he see that?

In the majority of non-Western societies, babies sleep with their parents–if not in the bed, then in the same room. So do young children. It is only in industrialized Western countries that sleep has become a compartmentalized, private affair. In one study (Barry, H., & Paxson, 1971) of 186 nonindustrial societies, 46% of children sleep in the same bed as their parents while 21% sleep in a separate bed but in the same room. In other words, in 67% of the cultures around the world, children sleep in the company of others. Even more significant, in none of those 186 cultures do babies sleep in a separate place before they are at least one year old. The U.S. consistently stands out as a country where babies are routinely placed in their own beds and in their own rooms.

In the rest of the world, babies don’t need their own cribs and rooms because everyone expects babies to be close to the mother after birth—they only just came out of the mother’s body, after all. But the majority of Americans expect them to be in a bed all on their own, rather than snuggled up close to the same body they were inside of for nine months. Seems odd doesn’t it? Most of us are taught this is the way. Because there doesn’t seem to be any other way, we have developed different methods within that way—no cry, cry it out, modified cry, etc. With my first child, I was both annoyed and baffled when she wouldn’t sleep in her crib. I assumed there was something wrong in my sleep training method or in my sleep routine even though it was flawless, just like all the books instructed. I didn’t think there was something fundamentally flawed in the entire approach.

Read more at the following link:

http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/08/the-wests-strange-relationship-to-babies-and-sleep/