On my most recent trip to Arusha, Tanzania, I was determined to photograph more of the everyday scenes, especially the way mamas carry their babies on their backs (my favourite way of carrying my toddler). Continue reading
I was asked a question this morning about something I had mentioned about baby wearing being one of the positive differences I have noticed between Tanzanian mamas and mothers in Australia. The question, more of a comment really, was that African mamas probably wear their babies because footpaths are not really up to pram traffic etc.
|Babies being worn as mamas go about their day in town|
Wearing or carrying babies is the way humans have evolved really. When you think about it, how did a relatively recent invention (the pram), that was so dangerous in the beginning become so popular, and the ‘normal’ thing to have? They are bulky, cumbersome, restrict where you can walk, separate babies from their mamas, and make you take far too much ‘stuff’ with you. Our bodies are made for babies.. making them, growing them, giving birth to them, feeding them and carrying them until they grow independent enough to walk on their own, just like every other mammal on this earth. Try going out one day with your baby on your back. You will be amazed at what you didn’t realise you couldn’t do before, you can walk wherever you like (cross roads wherever, go down narrow shop aisles, negotiate steps or doorways easily, walk on bumpy nature trails, the list could go on forever.) I know this may sound silly, but it really does make you feel free.
Another thing that will become obvious is the increase in interaction. When your baby is at adult level, they get spoken to a lot more than if they were at knee level hidden away in a pram, and they become part of the conversation. They can also see the world at a different perspective, they see where all the sounds are coming from, and they see how you normally interact with the world around you. This is an excellent video demonstrating this point.
|My baby sleeps as I work|
You’ll also be amazed at how little ‘stuff’ you need to take. Usually I have just a small handbag, and to be honest I don’t know what people pile the underneath of their prams with. An Australian friend of mine was converted to an Ergo carrier after she seen me with mine all the time, and one of her early concerns was “How will I carry all my stuff?” Her husbands reply was “well how did you carry it before you had a baby?” And also, you may be surprised at how comfortable it is, and how, with a supportive carrier (like an Ergo or Boba Wrap or similar, something that holds babies legs and hips in the ‘M’ position) you could wear them for hours.
|Baby wearing starts young here!|
I have noticed a huge difference in baby behaviour here in Tanzania, I don’t think I have even seen one baby cry in public here, they are just so happy and content. My baby has never once cried in a shop, or anywhere else while he has been worn. Babies fall asleep happily, quietly, and peacefully along with the gentle movements made by the mother going about her day. There are a lot of well researched books and articles out there which explain the reasons for this, well worth a read. I highly recommend The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff as a good place to start.
Wearing your baby is also safer. Your baby will never roll in front of a train, or into a river, or into traffic while they are safely attached to you. These may seem extreme examples, but I have heard all of these events happening in the news in the last few years. They also cannot be stolen, as crazy and scary as that idea may be.
|A mama and baby on their way to the market|
The reason I think prams have become so popular; marketing and money. Seems every new mother in the western world has been made to think they ‘need’ one, just like they ‘need’ a bouncer, a rocker, a special chair to make your baby ‘sit up’ before they are really ready, and all of the other ‘must have’ big brand stuff in the shops, and the more expensive the better it is, apparently! Baby goods companies are big business. Even I have a home based business making blankets for prams, ironic I know. I must say though I have used my pram occasionally in the last few months for taking my baby to swimming lessons, so that I can put him somewhere while I shower, but then on the way home I have worn him and used the pram as a shopping trolley.
So it could be that African mamas carry their out of necessity, but given the choice, I think mamas here would think prams are strange devices which promote mama/baby detachment, and see them as an expensive unnecessary accessory. All babies really need when they are small are clothes, shelter, and their mamas boobs and arms.. and lots of love! Oh and a great baby carrier of course!