Why African Babies Don’t Cry

why African babies don't cry

I was born and grew up in Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire. From the age of 15 I lived in the UK. However, I always knew that I wanted to raise my children (whenever I had them) at home in Kenya. And yes, I assumed I was going to have them. I am a modern African woman, with two university degrees, and a fourth generation working woman, but when it comes to children, I am typically African. The assumption remains that you are not complete without them; children are a blessing which would be crazy to avoid. Actually the question does not even arise.

I started my pregnancy in the UK. The urge to deliver at home was so strong that I sold my practice, setup a new business and moved house and country within five months of finding out I was pregnant. I did what most expectant mothers in the UK do—I read voraciously: Our Babies, Ourselves, Unconditional Parenting, anything by Sears—the list goes on. (My grandmother later commented that babies don’t read books and really all I needed to do was “read” my baby). Everything I read said that African babies cried less than European babies. I was intrigued as to why.

When I went home I observed. I looked out for mothers and babies and they were everywhere, though very young African ones, under six weeks, were mainly at home. The first thing I noticed is that despite their ubiquitousness, it is actually quite difficult to actually “see” a Kenyan baby. They are usually incredibly well wrapped up before being carried or strapped onto their mother (sometimes father). Even older babies strapped onto a back are further protected from the elements by a large blanket. You would be lucky to catch sight of a limb, never mind an eye or nose. The wrapping is a womb-like replication. The babies are literally cocooned from the stresses of the outside world into which they are entering.

My second observation was a cultural one. In the UK, it was understood that babies cry. In Kenya, it was quite the opposite. The understanding is that babies don’t cry. If they do—something is horribly wrong and must be done to rectify it immediately. My English sister-in-law summarized it well. “People here,” she said, “really don’t like babies crying, do they?”

It all made much more sense when I finally delivered and my grandmother came from the village to visit. As it happened, my baby did cry a fair amount. Exasperated and tired, I forgot everything I had ever read and sometimes joined in the crying too. Yet for my grandmother it was simple, “Nyonyo (breastfeed her)!” It was her answer to every single peep.

There were times when it was a wet nappy, or that I had put her down, or that she needed burping, but mainly she just wanted to be at the breast—it didn’t really matter whether she was feeding or just having a comfort moment. I was already wearing her most of the time and co-sleeping with her, so this was a natural extension to what we were doing.

I suddenly learned the not-so-difficult secret of the joyful silence of African babies. It was a simple needs-met symbiosis that required a total suspension of ideas of what should be happening and an embracing of what was actually going on in that moment. The bottom line was that my baby fed a lot—far more than I had ever read about and at least five times as much as some of the stricter feeding schedules I had seen.

At about four months, when a lot of urban mothers start to introduce solids as previous guidelines had recommended, my daughter returned to newborn-style hourly breastfeeding, which was a total shock. Over the past four months, the time between feeds had slowly started to increase. I had even started to treat the odd patient without my breasts leaking or my daughter’s nanny interrupting the session to let me know my daughter needed a feed.

Most of the mothers in my mother and baby group had duly started to introduce baby rice (to stretch the feeds) and all the professionals involved in our children’s lives—pediatricians, even doulas, said that this was ok. Mothers needed rest too, we had done amazingly to get to four months exclusively breastfeeding, and they assured us our babies would be fine. Something didn’t ring true for me and even when I tried, half-heartedly, to mix some pawpaw (the traditional weaning food in Kenya) with expressed milk and offer it to my daughter, she was having none of it.

So I called my grandmother. She laughed and asked if I had been reading books again. She carefully explained how breastfeeding was anything but linear. “She’ll tell you when she’s ready for food – and her body will too.”

“What will I do until then?” I was eager to know.

“You do what you did before, regular nyonyo.” So my life slowed down to what felt like a standstill again. While many of my contemporaries marveled at how their children were sleeping longer now that they had introduced baby rice and were even venturing to other foods, I was waking hourly or every two hours with my daughter and telling patients that the return to work wasn’t panning out quite as I had planned.

I soon found that quite unwittingly, I was turning into an informal support service for other urban mothers. My phone number was doing the rounds and many times while I was feeding my baby I would hear myself uttering the words, “Yes, just keep feeding him/ her. Yes, even if you have just fed them. Yes, you might not even manage to get out of your pajamas today. Yes, you still need to eat and drink like a horse. No, now might not be the time to consider going back to work if you can afford not to.” And finally, I assured mothers, “It will get easier.” I had to just trust this last one as it hadn’t gotten easier for me, yet.

A week or so before my daughter turned five months, we traveled to the UK for a wedding and for her to meet family and friends. Because I had very few other demands, I easily kept up her feeding schedule. Despite the disconcerted looks of many strangers as I fed my daughter in many varied public places (most designated breastfeeding rooms were in restrooms which I just could not bring myself to use), we carried on.

At the wedding, the people whose table we sat at noted, “She is such an easy baby—though she does feed a lot.” I kept my silence. Another lady commented, “Though I did read somewhere that African babies don’t cry much.” I could not help but laugh.
My grandmother’s gentle wisdom:

1. Offer the breast every single moment that your baby is upset–even if you have just fed her.

2. 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.

3. Always take a flask of warm water to bed with you at night to keep you hydrated and the milk flowing.

4. Make 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. Breastfeeding is not linear—it goes up and down and also in circles. You are the expert on your baby’s needs.

Want to read more from this author? Then check out Why African Toddlers Don’t Have Tantrums and her blog, Everything is Possible: Secrets from an African Mama.

-Originally printed in the Natural Child and reprinted with permission.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay


  1. Loved this article! And I am an adoptive mother of an Ethiopian girl. She is now nearly 3.5, but we became a family when she was not yet 1.5. I did not have the experience of breast feeding, but I absolutely relate to and support the idea, “Read your baby, not the books.” I always feel compelled to hold her when she cries, and always have felt that way. When others counseled to let her cry, or give her a time out, my instincts told me to hold her, comfort her, do whatever needs to be done to allow her to feel safe, loved, and nurtured. It has worked. Our daughter is an astonishing well adjusted, happy, independent child, who loves preschool, dressing herself, and yes, rocking with her mommy before bedtime. Bravo, J. Claire K. Niala. You are a fortunate woman to have had such a wise grandmother and keen sense of self, and the courage to follow your instincts.

  2. This article is well written, and a fascinating read. In the US we advise against co sleeping for safety reasons, and we encourage “back to sleep, tummy to play” to safeguard against SIDS. How is the SIDS rate in Kenya? Do their co sleeping statistics reveal any preventable infant mortalities?
    Patty Puline, Injury Prevention Coordinator

  3. What a brilliant piece! This is exactly it, when babie’s needs are met, they have no reason to cry. And what better way to meet their needs than at the breast. Breastfeeding goes beyond food, it’s the main mothering tool.
    I am Algerian, and get the same reaction from my mum, even now I have my third child. At every whimper she would say: “Offer her your breast!”, and it works. Whereas people here in the UK would go “Gosh, she feeds a lot!”…

  4. And slings, let’s not forget that slings go hand in hand with breastfeeding, allowing mum to respond to her baby’s needs while getting on with her day-to-day life. I works for me, anyway.

  5. @ dina – thank you for your kind comments

    @ patty – it is relatively difficult to compare SIDS statistics across countries due to the strong social and cultural influences of co-sleeping. however i refer you to the following article as a strong case for co-sleeping in preventable infant mortalities: Why babies should never sleep alone: A review
    of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS,
    bedsharing and breast feeding
    James J. McKenna* and Thomas McDade
    University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, IN 46556, USA (printed in peadiatric respiratory reviews)

    from a kenyan perspective until the influence of international culture it was never considered appropriate for a baby to sleep alone for safety reasons.

    @ souad – i totally agree about slings and baby/ toddler carriers of all kinds

  6. I am a Brazilian living in USA, and years before I thought of having a baby I read “Our Babies, Ourselves; How Biology and Culture Shape the Way we Parent” by anthropologist Meredith Small. From that book I took what was common practice in raising babies among indigenous cultures across the world, and I decided if I ever had a baby I would co-sleep, carry it as much as possible and feed it on demand.

    As Niala says, you offer the breast and the baby is happy, safe and comfortable. My daughter is now almost 14 months and still wakes up once or twice at night for nursing. Despite all the criticism I get, I don’t let her cry, I give her the breast as soon as possible. She just had a cold, the first time she was ever sick, and spent most of 3 days on my breast. I am sure it made her more comfortable.

    I hear comments from people all around: what a happy, easy, sociable, extremely intelligent baby you have. People stop me at the supermarket to mention an interaction they had with her, and are surprised by her young age.

    I went to weddings and noisy parties and traveled overseas (10 hours inside an airplane) with her wrapped to my chest in a fabric carrier, and strangers came to comment how could she not cry a single time, even when other babies nearby were screaming loudly.

    I just wish I had somebody to help around. Yes, the house has been a mess, and when my husband gets home from work I put a meal together while he takes care of the baby.

  7. I had the same instinct. I had people trying to get me to put my son on a feeding schedule when he was only 4 months old. I just nodded and ignored them, and kept feeding him on demand, even though he went back to newborn demand at surprising intervals. I held him almost all the time. He breastfed until he was 3 (only at bedtime at that age), and decided for himself that he was done. Now he is 6, and one of the most engaging, content, curious, articulate kids I know. He is emotionally secure, comfortable in his own skin, kind and curious with other people.

  8. Smart grandma!! LOVE IT! I am a Canadian mum who had and still has these instincts. If mums listened to their instincts and their babies more than others they would know that this is what babies need. Lots of contact with their mamas, sleeping right beside mama, nursing whenever baby wants and lots of love. Claire, I am so glad you listened to your grandma and your baby and ignored the others. I have 4 children all born at home and who have been extended breastfed (currently tandem nursing my 5 year old and 23 month old). We co sleep with our babies and toddlers and I wear my babies as much as possible. Sounds like Kenyan babies have the smartest mamas around! 🙂

  9. I loved reading this article! I knew this wisdom, learned it slowly with my first thanks to La Leche League here in the US where these ideas are not part of our culture.
    I am so glad I tuned into my children’s needs and nursed often and all the time.
    I love your Grandma! Everyone needs a grandma like that. Mine said quite opposite things to me. Thank goodness I knew not to listen to her but to my babies. My oldest is 13 and so self confident and I attribute much of it to nursing for 6 years. My third child is just 2 now and so this wisdom is a good reminder. I have wonerful memories of all three of them, especially the younger two, just nursing whenever they had any need. I have had many others comment “how good they are” like at church or a public event- and they usually did not realize I nursed them during the event:)
    Good for you for listening to your grandma, and your baby!

  10. I very much enjoyed this article and agree with it and those others who have commented. My 1st child was premature and it took a little while to be able to put her to the breast, however by the time she was 2 weeks old I was exclusively feeding her with breastmilk and by 4 weeks old exclusively breastfeeding. I never set a time limit on when we would stop. I was so scared by her early arrival and my illness that preceded it that I was just determined to offer her the best possible start in life, whatever anyone else told me. It can be hard when people make comments about, ‘surely he/she is too old for that now’, however my concern is how many in the Western world seem to think formula milk is the norm.

  11. Thank you so much for this wonderful article. My youngest sounds a lot like your daughter. She nursed every hour on the hour. Even before she weaned at 3, when other mothers were either finished nursing or were only nursing at night, she nursed avery 2 or 3 hours. I questioned whether I was doing the right thing everyday (being in a place where people also questioned me). I just kept listening to her.

    A little while later, she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Because of her constant nursing, she never suffered from the disease. Her growth remained steady and hearty. Her bowels are fine. She knew she needed all that nursing — not just for comfort, but for her health. I am so glad I listened.

  12. Bonjour !

    I too grew up in Côte d’Ivoire and had wondered about the babies who seemingly didn’t cry as much as toubabou babies. We’re moving to Senegal and I’m four months pregnant with our first. The timing of reading this article is perfect. Thank you.

    PS – My husband is an osteopath as well. Looking forward to passing this article on to him.

  13. I will caution that this is not an end-all solution. I do this with my son, as I did with both of my daughters, and the fact is that he had some allergies and would sometimes cry inconsolably, even at the breast. Also, as babies get older, they cry for other reasons. He’ll scream when my husband leaves the house, and he’ll scream when he falls and hits his head. So don’t think you’re child will ‘never cry’, because that’s unrealistic. But if you do this and find your child is crying a lot, please talk to your doctor about it – that’s how we found out about his allergies.

  14. I breastfed my daughter until nearly 2 despite all the pressure and looks! Even when my GP told me she was “manipulating” me!!! She was such a happy baby and I agreed, if she cried it was for a reason and the breast comforted her. She is 5.5 now and has never in a day been sick. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  15. My baby too cried all the time, he was either held, walked, or carried constantly…or fed constantly. While I agree the culture is different in africa, there are still plenty of babies that will cry no matter what you try to do with them.

  16. I loved reading this! My first (now almost 20 years old) nursed over 2 years, and my 2nd (now 17) nursed until she was 5 years old. They’re both healthy, happy girls. I agree, listen to your baby, he/she knows what she needs.

  17. I think this is fab, my daughter is 21 Mnths, still bf and I have no plans to wean however with number 2 on the way I wonder how feasible this is with a second child. I guess I will find out but would be interested in anybodys experiences of responding to child no 2 in this way.

  18. Especially to Emma – it took me a while to do this, as it wasn’t what I was being taught – but by babies 4 and 5 (twins) I had thrown away the books. Of course with 3 other children (7, 5, and 21 months, there were times when a feed had to be cut short or even delayed a minute, but on the whole, I was too busy to deal with a crying baby any other way!

  19. Emma, my girls are 28 mos. and 3 mos. and I’m nursing them both. 🙂 I know the article says not to read the books LOL but actually I can recommend Adventures in Tandem Nursing. It does NOT tell you what to do, which is why I think the rule doesn’t apply. It DOES give stories from other moms, which is what you asked for. It’s absolutely feasible, and my older daughter adjusted so, so well to life as a big sis. I think that being able to provide her this comfort was a big help in that. She loves her baby sis so much! The only sign of any jealousy was that she nursed a lot more in the very early days. I felt like I was nursing non-stop between a baby and a slightly needier toddler. 😉 It passed quickly, though, and I absolutely love being a mommy of 2.

    Congrats on your new babe and good luck to you!

  20. I also have a baby that doesn’t cry – but this is (in my opinion) not the solution. With all due respect I find this article disturbing. A baby cries to communicate something. This might be hunger, but it also might be that he/she needs the toilet, or is cold, or is trying to tell you something else. If all you do is feed him, how exactly does that teach him to communicate? We should listen to our babies, observe them, learn about them. We should give them every opportunity to communicate with us and we should feed them long enough each time that they do not need to eat for longer periods as they grow up. Although I believe that a baby should be a very high priority in a family’s life, he should not grow up feeling that he is the centre of the universe – he is another member of the family and mum’s health is important, too.

    Finally, the very latest research has shown that babies who are weaned later than 4/5 months have more allergies. It is known that African people are more likely to be intolerant to a whole host of foods – can this be why?

  21. None of my babies have ever really cried. I’ve always followed my instincts with them so when my instincts have told me to go to them, I have. I can’t imagine doing it any other way. My youngest is 15m and is still treating me like an eat all you like buffet lol! Long may it continue! Loved reading this!

  22. I think this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing the wisdom. At times I felt self-conscious that my children were wanting to nurse so frequently… like it was wrong when I put myself in the place of the society around me. Of course I enjoyed nursing my babies and rarely let it affect my actions. But this article will definately help out women feeling the same uneasy tug from their society.

  23. HI everyone, I found this article intersting too. I breastfed my first 4 children until about 2 years old using the ‘demand feeding’ schedule. My 5th, for health reasons, couldn’t feed effectively and after 3 months of intense intervention I decided to bottle feed both for her nutrition and my sanity. I used a sling with her, which some of you have mentioned, which may have contributed to her being my most settled baby, even with her ‘timed’ feeds. I would just caution against the absolute advocation of breastfeeding. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and this can leave mums feeling very sad. Don’t forget to support the bottle feeding mums 🙂

  24. Jackie, One word for you, Clown. Read the article again, you might pick it up this time round. And as for the allergies thing, rubbish. African babies are much happier and contented for this one main reason. Breastfeeding! Its not the cure all for everything but it sure as hell works wonders on most things.

  25. Jackie I also disagree with you.

    I love this article as it sounds like something I also went through. I read many many books and had so many plans before my son was born. The main two being that he would be in his own room the day we came home from the hospital and that I would stop breast feeding at twelve months. This did not happen. We have co-slept since birth and he is a demand fed baby. Like many of you on here, I too have a son that doesn’t cry. He is very happy and loves life and all it has to offer. He had reflux for the first eight months of his life and for the first four I couldn’t even lay him on his back to change his nappy. He would start choking on vomit instantly. That being said, he and I slept together, with me sitting up and him over my right shoulder. The only time he wasn’t in my arms for the first 4 months was when I gave him to his father. He is still demand fed and doesn’t eat much food so he still feeds very often. He is 15 months and has been wearing three year old clothes since he was 12 months as my husband and I are both tall. People are surprised that he is pretty much only given milk as he is so big and healthy.

    I do not agree with Jackie for these reasons:
    communication- My fifteen month old son is bilingual and has a combined vocabulary of over 170 words. He has no difficulty in communicating with me or anyone he comes into contact with.
    toilet- he is currently toilet training and has been able to tell me before he pees or poos since he was 11 months old.
    He was also crawling at five months so it didn’t effect his physical development either.
    feeding- I disagree that we need to learn to go longer periods without eating as we grow as I believe eating small amounts at regular intervals is much better for your health and promotes a faster metabolism.
    Priority- I do not believe that feeding your baby whenever they want is saying they are more important than anyone else in the family, simply that you are aware that they need you and that you are there for them. There is time for them to learn things such as sharing, waiting their turn and so on when they are a little older and psychologically capable of digesting it ( certainly not at three months, or six…)
    Weaning- I do believe that the latest research on weaning is a little unreliable as it seems to be in a constant state of change. The reason why they are still doing so much research in this area is because they are still trying to discover what the best age and method is. I am unaware about Africans and allergies, but could it be that they are allergic to all the processed foods and preservatives in American foods when they move there?

    In conclusion, thanks for a wonderful article and I am so happy to hear that there are people out there who are strong enough to stand up against those who tell you to leave your baby crying with hunger until the next scheduled feed.

  26. Good article – great to see this kind of information going out there. I home-birthed, am co-sleeping with my 6 month old and have done since his birth and am breastfeeding… whenever he tells me he wants to. My son doesn’t cry – he makes noise and I give him what he wants so he does not become distressed. We are all very happy, calm and healthy!!!! 🙂

  27. Jackie: “Finally, the very latest research has shown that babies who are weaned later than 4/5 months have more allergies. It is known that African people are more likely to be intolerant to a whole host of foods – can this be why?”

    Aren’t you working for a formula manufacturer by any chance? Was that research you have referenced a formula company sponsored by any chance?

  28. First, I should apologise: I am a clown because I did not read the article in context. I found it via Google search and I simply read the content and comments without considering the cultural emphasis. I do not disagree that the article is a beautiful and fascinating insight into another culture. As for the other comments……I guess we all have our own viewpoints and what works for me wouldn’t work for you. But to put it in perspective, I home birthed my baby and I would never let a bottle of formula pass his lips, such is my dedication to breastfeeding. He is 16 months old and I am still breastfeeding. I was determined not to wean him until 6 months because that is the British recommendation, even though in Norway, where I live, the recommendation is now 4 months. He has never seen a jar of baby food and wouldn’t know what it looks like, all his meals are prepared fresh. So no, I am about the last person on earth who would work for a formula company. However, last week some research was published which backed up the stance taken by other countries such as Norway, showing that babies who are weaned later have more food intolerances. That comment was a fleeting one and really “just a thought” – a very high percentage of Africans are unable to process lactose and many of the African people I know in Norway (my father married in to an African family) have food intolerances. But that is probably genetic and caused by moving to another country later in life, where everything about the food culture is different.

    As for the demand feeding. My mother was a member of La Leche League and breasfed all of us until we were 2. She joined LL in desperation because she wasn’t coping well with the demands of breastfeeding and having 2 and then 3 children under 5. I will never forget what a nightmare it was for her and when I had my own children I decided to look into other options. So despite my overall “crunchy” approach, that route was not for me. It doesn’t make sense to me either. If my baby cries and I simply give him the breast, then I feel as though I am not listening to him. So many of my friends demand fed (the Scandinavian way)and they were exhausted. When the babies were 10 months old, we put him down at 7 and he woke the next morning at 7, fresh and happy to start the day. My demand-feeding friends were up on Facebook all night, mostly 4-5 times, tearing their hair out and exhausted. Actually, because of that I am the only one left who is breastfeeding. They had to give up out of sheer exhaustion.

  29. Jackie, the study you reference…The authors consult for baby food companies. So, yes, they are going to encourage early introduction of solids. When something like that comes out which defies not only most research but also good common sense, you must ask yourself the same question someone asked you–do they have an ulterior motive for their position on the issue?

  30. I think this is a wonderful experience and thank you for sharing it. I would agree that the most important “advice” in this article is that you know your baby best! Yes, better than any other parents or doctors. I find it quite sad that in many western cultures women don’t seem to have the confidence to trust themselves and listen to their intuition. What a beautiful gift we have as women. I encourage all women to embrace their gift! I exclusively breastfed my two babies for 12 months at which point they showed interest in solid foods. I continued to breastfeed both of my babies until they were 24 months. I found the benefits of breastfeeding my babies to be endless. It worked for me and for that I am extremely grateful! Best wishes to all beautiful, powerful and wonderful mamas around the world!

  31. I can truly say I never read any books and was very clam about the whole process, what will happen, will happen and this is the routine we fell into. Lead of course, by my baby 🙂

  32. @ dani – it is good you found out about your child’s allergies. the article says to read your child not the books and that means too understanding the cries might not all be about feeding.

    @jackie – i would love the original quote on african people and allergies as i have done a huge amount of research on allergies as i suffer from them. with regards to lactose intolerance everything i have ever read has not been able to substantially link it to weaning so please do share your sources. also with regards to your friends who got exhausted by demand feeding i can completely understand that. the very tough choice i feel we have to make daily as modern mothers is are we able/willing etc to slow down enough in order to keep up.

  33. Thank you for this article. I have to tell you its making me cry. With my first child I did all the things that we in the west are told we Must do to keep our babies from growing into little entitled monsters. I ignored my instincts. Gave up breastfeeding far too early after nurses insisted I supplement him & my own mother was disgusted at the act of me breastfeeding my child.

    I had my 3rd child 6months ago, some 16years after my first child was born. With this child, I’ve stopped listening to everyone else. This child gets wrapped tight to my body & is offered the breast at the first sign of trouble. We co-sleep, and cuddle & feed round the clock. I wear jewelry designed to catch his eye & give his hands something to do & braid my hair for him to hold & suck on.

    People comment all the time, what a happy baby I have. He’ll be making the little noises that tell me he’s wearing out & needs to go nurse & cuddle & nap and I’ll say something about getting him fed & down to sleep before he’s super fussy & people look at me like I’m crazy & ask me what fussing, but I know my baby and see no reason to leave him frustrated & unhappy.

    What can’t be fixed at the breast, can be fixed by wrapping him up on my back or my hip & going out for a walk, or doing some dishes.

    Thank you again for this article. Its so nice to read I’m not the only crazy one. To hear my sister tell it my son will never stand on his own feet. I know better. African babies grow up to walk tall, my son will too. Thank you again.

  34. O.K. this may have worked great for you. I had premature twins who could not nurse. I also had a 2 1/2 year old. I wore the twins as often as possible, especially when out in public. We started solids to help them gain weight not just for convenience or longer sleeping time. So my point is each family dynamic is different. What worked for your child may not work for others, it may not even work for your second child. The true wisdom in this article is not the method but the “reading” and responding to your child.

  35. @ heather: thank you for your lovely message: much appreciated

    @ kin: thank you for re-enforcing the message of the article about reading your baby and am glad that you found something that worked for your family – maybe others would benefit from hearing more about your personal experiences, my article was simply to share mine.

  36. This is all very interesting! I am past this time in my life – am a grandmother – so cannot experience this. However, the thing that I noticed the most, when reading this article, is that there is no mention of a father/husband. Really sad, I think!

  37. @ jean: i am intrigued as to why you would find it sad that there is no mention of a father/husband in the article.

  38. It’s actually uncommon for ANY non-westerner to tolerate lactose. Most Asians, Africans and many South Americans are lactose intolerant. It has nothing to do with full-term breastfeeding. Adults simply do not need milk as part of our diet; babies do. I have a little sister adopted from China who is lactose intolerant, as are most Chinese. (When’s the last time you’ve seen cheese dishes on a Chinese menu? Exactly.) Actually many of the allergies attributed to Africans make a lot of sense: Shellfish, for instance, would likely have been avoided for centuries due to high toxin levels, thus leading to genetic intolerance and allergies.

    Secondly, no world or paediatric health organization advises breastfeeding for less than 6 months minimum, 12 months ideally, and 24+ months as desired by mom and baby. The single study published by the British Medical Journal was published alongside a far more comprehensive, detailed and favorably peer-reviewed study — which many ignored. The only evidence in the study was that children of parents with peanut allergies have a lower instance of peanut allergies if they are introduced to solid foods before 4 months — hardly valid advise for ALL babies of ALL parents with ALL medical histories. (http://www.foodsmatter.com/allergy_intolerance/peanut_treenut/research/early_weaning_reduced_risk.html) . Lastly, I find it kind of disturbing that anyone would automatically follow the guidance of a government without actually demanding the research results themselves. As my father always said, “The facts will say anything if you beat them hard enough.”

  39. @ Clair Niala – What a beautiful article. I appreciate that it confronts the western traditions that often (not always) are shaped for the convenience of our society. It is sad that no father is mentioned as all human children need and are benefited by the love and support that both parents of each gender provide. Not to mention, the help that a mate offers while a mother is nursing. I am not able to keep the schedule and energy levels that you seem to have and wish for anything that I could. I am thankful and blessed for the love and support that my husband offers. I have noticed that when he wraps her tightly to him that she will often stop crying. The bond that is being formed brings tears to my eyes and she is his pride and joy! On a side note – I’ve seen women’s expressions of jealousy that a real man would hold her as he does which makes me giggle! Thus the sentiment that that a lack of father is sad. Does that make sense?
    @ Emma, Dani, Jackie etc – thank you for posting your experiences. I am sorry that others have not seen your comments for what they are – balance. No child is the same and sometimes life intervenes is such ways that though a method is preferred we are unable to circumvent life and apply the very method we would like. Your comments let women know not to feel guilty about the choices they are forced to make regarding the health of their children.
    @ Mama Wrench – you go girl! We are the only mamal that drink animal milk longer than early growth years. Interstingly lactose intolerance is not a bad thing as the “protein” in milk is not effectively absorbed and is not the actual protein we need. However, I admit a love for cheese, crackers, wine and chocolate as an occasional social experience – tee hee.
    On anther note, I have often heard that a child’s love of foods is often determined by what the mother eats during her pregnancy, though not always of course.
    @ all mothers – reading your baby becomes an art AND benefits you by learning to read people in general as well as your husband! Giggle! May you all be blessed as mothers!!

  40. dear heatherlynn,

    i think it is wonderful that your daughter and husband have such a great bond. i don’t really wish to get into the debate about whether or not children need parents of both gender here. however, i thought i would point out another possible (and i am not saying that this is the case) reason that no father is mentioned.

    the internet is a public space and not all partners of those who blog want to be mentioned. it is easy to make assumptions about a person’s life from a piece that they write but remember that it is only a slice of their life and not the whole picture that you are being presented with.

  41. I am a white South African, living in England, and i absolutely loved your article!

    Last year, when i was in South Africa visiting family, i was in a rest room with my three year old who was bursting, and my 8 month old was screaming for her milk. I had to make the choice and chose the child who was about to wet herself. Some African ladies behind me in the line took one look at my screaming child and looked at me, grabbed her left breast (for emphasis) an said, ‘give her the boob!’. I smiled and said ‘As soon as my other daughter has gone to the toilet! Trust me!’

    I absolutely loved it that they simply assumed i was still breast feeding my 8 month old baby, if i had been in the same situation in England (and that is if an observer had gotten involved) they would have told me to give her a bottle. (p.s. i was and still am breast feeding my now 21 month old, no two ways about it! breast is best!)

  42. Thank you so much for sharing this! I have always offered my daughter the breast for every peep and she still feeds what feels like around the clock at 13 months. But I’m okay with it because she’s a very happy little girl and rarely cries (unless she gets hurt). I’ve always followed my instincts and respond to her when she needs me. Thankfully I have a very supportive mother, but it is so hard in a culture where everyone I know “trains” their babies and make comments about her nursing too often. I know the second time around I’ll be a more confident mama, and I love reading articles about others who feel the same way as I do about caring for their babies. Thank you!!

  43. My mother used to tell me that my babies would be spoiled because I nursed frequently and did not leave them to “cry it out.” The result was that by the time they were each 8-10 months old, I had babies who cried only if something was truly wrong They played happily, slept soundly, and were a delight to be around. They grew into toddlers, children, and adults that are mature, responsible, and kind. It’s an incredible investment of time and energy to care for your babies this way in the first year but the dividends outweigh the investment by far.

  44. Great article! It reminds me of nursing my daughter, now 21 months. When she was around 6 months, it was like the world expected me to be done nursing, and I would get comments about it: “Wow, she sure nurses a lot!” But then the same people would see me nurse her when she was fussy, and how her temperament would immediately shift after a feeding. They were amazed at how easily she felt better, and it surprised me that they didn’t understand that most babies (not all, of course) get hungry within a few hours, need comfort and familiarity, are in teething pain, or have growth spurts, plus so many other reasons why nursing makes them feel better. If we avoid nursing them at these times, we are communicating to them that they are alone in their discomfort, and trust is broken. Until other forms of communication are strengthened, nursing is such an effective parenting tool, not to mention all the other health benefits and bonding between mother and child.

  45. […] Demand breastfeeding – an interesting article I stumbled across this article last evening and since I'm constantly being criticized for nursing LO on demand, reading it brought tears to my eyes and made me realize how important it is to listen to my 'Mommy intuition'. I just wanted to share with others who also nurse on demand and are beginning to doubt themselves due to criticism from loved ones. Why African Babies Don't Cry […]

  46. I can definitely relate! I am American but have raised my 7 1/2 month old the same way — he didn’t have rice cereal added to his diet until 6 months and we currently cosleep because he still likes to nurse throughout the night. I am also one to breastfeed wherever and whenever 🙂

  47. Thank you for sharing your insights and experience. I’m a first time mother of a 7 week old daughter and am breastfeeding on demand. Some days it feels like I do nothing but feed and i’d been feeling like I was doing something wrong and wondering if I should give up. You’ve made me realise that feeding on demand is as time consuming as i’ve found it to be and that my experience is normal! Because of this you have inspired me to carry on and on. Thank you again.

  48. i loved this article,well detailed and informing,am doing a project about comparing different styles of raising children in different worlds and i think this oe answered my questions,do u mind if i used some of your thoughts?thank you

  49. Nice article. People would save so much money reading it, which is why it’s not “The American Way”. Nobody makes much money off breastfeeding and co-sleeping, is why we hear so little about it. After being convinced by advertising to spend real money on crib, stroller, swing, bottles, baby’s room, bassinet, baby food, etc; many feel compelled to use try to use it. All that stuff is really only needed for babies and moms who have difficulty with the normal things. Happily I had hand-me-down equipment for my baby to reject, and only used a stroller because my upper body strength failed to keep up with my baby’s growth. I passed it all along with the advice, “buy nothing until you see what your child needs.” Makes for a dull baby shower (of gifts), but it’s hard to even tell what a baby will be willing to wear. I wondered why they even make sleepers with no feet, but some kids wont tolerate their feet being covered. I bought people nursing shirts, but some kids wont nurse; so now I’m down to gift cirtificates at stores that sell used baby and nursing stuff.

  50. this is also what i found out by myself: my baby did not cry because i kept her at my breast a lot! and this is what i advise all the future moms i meet: keep your baby at your breast as long as they want to! if they eat, it’s fine, if they just want to be there, that’t fine too! and remember: time flies, you won’t have these moments again soon… or ever. so enjoy them now!

  51. This was really great to read! I’m at 3 months and I think I’ve been trying to follow one ‘rule’ or another because I do still feel like someone else must be the all-knowing professional. LOL… My baby’s an absolute angel but she still has her moments – I’ll just try the breast first next time. Thanks again!

  52. I live in canada and I have been dealing with all the rubbish looks and people telling me to wean.
    my son is in the 100th percentile in weight, and height all his life.
    ebf and still not eating solids regularly @ 18 months. I trust him over doctors and books and parents inlaws etc.
    I think I need to move to kenya so I can fit in.

  53. Very touching story but I think it is deserving to disseminate such view as others might take it as an example to be followed.
    During 20 years I have been living in different African countries and it is true that African babies cry less than Western babies. Babies can cry for many reasons and breastfeeding them is not the panacea. Babies can be sick or willing to express something frustration for which getting milk might just conceal something more serious to be taken into consideration.
    I believe there are also cultural explanations as to why African babies cry less. It has to do with the level of attention that they receive. In many African societies, babies are not considered as completed human being and they are kept secluded from the outside world as long as they become completed. Many get less attention and less stimulation than in the West… quickly African babies adapt and learn that they have to comply with expectations…

  54. So what if African babies don’t cry. Africa is by far the least successful continent, and people, on earth.

  55. My grandma said the exact same thing to me. I grew up In Zimbabwe and at even in the bus or at the baby clinic if your baby whimpers for more than thirty seconds everyone tells you to give him the breast. While he is feeding then find out any other reasons he/she might be crying eg nappy etc. It worked and I have a happy and well adjusted baby.

  56. I have kept my name for my own protection a secret. Essentially from my experience I had my son for the first week he had slept by himself in a baby swing after nursing and I would sleep on the couch which my partner did not like. At one point I was nursing my son in our bed and I fell asleep on accident due to exhaustion I suppose. I woke and I panicked until I realized that my son was just fine and sleeping happily by my breast. This happened a few times until I was told by my partner to just let him sleep with us that he missed sharing the bed with me. I held out for another week or so and I eventually caved in around a month after my son was born. Eventually I wound up babyproofing the bed and window just so I could sleep a little more soundly at night. Here lately he’s been sleeping in his toddler bed at night until he wakes up and nurses back to sleep in our bed. His sleep pattern is a near mirror of our own with two good naps during the day in addition to his night sleep cycle. I live in America which considers co-sleeping to be dangerous for the child and I think it’s more so that the danger lies in if the parent is in some way intoxicated and unable to respond to their child when they move or otherwise are at risk. I was adamant about nursing my son despite having little birdies in my ear telling me that I should wean him early (my adopted mother) that it wasn’t healthy for me to nurse him for too long and that I should just sit back and let him cry it out when he’s laying in the playpen unable to get to sleep. I think that children go through a stage where it’s okay if they can’t get to sleep on their own easily for the first year, it’s nature’s way of keeping the mother and child from separating putting the baby at risk. Overall I think that parent’s should decide what to do based on their particular child’s needs and act according to their child’s specific temperament. That and don’t feel shy about nursing the baby to soothe them when they are feeling frustrated or scared.

  57. I have been breast feeding my first child for nearly 6 months now. My mother insisted if she cries or seems distressed just feed her, and it has given me a calm baby. I am a British born Hindu Indian girl but my parents were brought up in Africa and forced to leave at the IdI amin era… But breastfeeding has made my baby stronger. She had a cough and I gave her no baby medicine just hourly feeds and she recovered in 9 days. I would like to feed her for 2, 3 years, but it would be too demanding on my lifestyle so I am aiming to at least feed her till she is one then I will give her cows milk. At 4 and half months, I ran out of milk in me some evenings around 11pm so now I also give her boiled semolIna around 7pm then a feed and she loves it. She also sleeps 7 hours through the night and occasionally wakes for a feed for 5 mins which is fine. I let her sleep with me when she has a blocked nose or seems quite and sad because I know something is up but she can’t say, and I am really conscious that she is next to me so end up having lots of broken light sleep which is exhausting but comforting for my baby. When my baby sleeps in her cot and cries out I feed her straight away and she drinks with her eyes still shut from being asleep. So cute. I think from the first article this is co sleep. Not sids! My baby likes toys but get bored easily with them but she loves playing with me most of the day and its exhausting but her childhood and my motherhood days won’t last too long so I’m making the most of it. We bring a baby that eat sleeps and excretes whenever they want into this world so its only fair that we meet their criteria for just a little longer until they grow aware of there surroundings and have their own mind. so to conclude, babies don’t cry for no reason. Books are a waste of time and motherly instinct is best if you want a bouncing happy baby.

  58. […] Then I moved away from Canada to Mongolia, where my husband was conducting a wildlife study. There, babies are kept constantly swaddled in layers of thick blankets, tied up with string like packages you don’t want to come apart in the mail. When a package murmurs, a nipple is popped in its mouth. Babies aren’t changed very often and never burped. There aren’t even hands available to thrust a rattle into. Definitely no tummy time. Babies stay wrapped up for at least three months, and every time they make a sound, they’re breastfed. […]

  59. I raised mine bottle fed (problems with milk) and iet her sleep with me for the first month or so then let her sleep alone, in a crib, next ti the bed. I meet her needs and hold her. But i will leave her alone and let her cry when i need to do something. She is now 2 years old and perfectly happy, independent and loving! This method does not work for every child. But iy can work for some!

  60. Hola! I’ve been following your site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the good job! I enjoyed the post on InCultureParent | Why African Babies Don&.

  61. “Are you reading again?” Yet you’re producing material for people to “read”. There are great things that are useful to adapt from African cultures in terms of child rearing but on many things they are behind, especially when it comes to corporal punishment. Anyone who has experience or was raised in Africa knows that “spankings” (beatings would be a more appropriate description) are a major issue in families. And not hearing babies crying is anecdotal idiocy.

  62. @Jan – of course! re the reading/ producing something to read – sorry my afro-british sense of humour was lost on you 🙂 I would challenge your comments on corporal punishment though (a) because it didn’t happen to me in my family but also (b) because I know it happens a lot more than is admitted to in the West.

  63. What if your baby is in the car and he/she cries? I am torn between listening to my mother and my hubby: Do not take the baby out of the car. How could I offer my breast to my son if I am not allowed to remove him from his car seat?

  64. I love your article. In the 1970’s, when I was having my babies, I was a breastfeeding mom, and it was rare in those days. I didn’t have experts telling me what to do, so I nursed my babies as they needed, and they did not cry all the time. I held them and didn’t believe that carrying them to stop crying would spoil them. I applaud the newer ways of parenting that are often older ways of parenting. A great read. Thanks.

  65. Dear Writter,.. I am an 89 year old, mother of 11, Grandmother of 35, and great grandmother of 29 with #30 coming in December. When my first one was born in Alabama ( I am from NY State) I was not near any family so depended on friends from the church My husband pastored.a Church. Members were friendly with the things I should do but I soon learned that none of them agreed. So i just did what my gut feelings told me. If my baby cried I knew something was not right. So, they were picked up and tended to whether it was feeding time ,diaper change time, or just comforting time. I breast fed most of them as long as I could keep the milk coming, But ,breast feeding was not popular then but I did it any way. By the time my last one was born more people were breasting. feeding. No one knew how to do it so I was given the wrong information. Most of my children’s babies were breast fed for a while. one was nursed till nearly three years old, I have always felt it was best to start them out that way. My last one was cesceran and I mever got any milk, so he missed out, I was happy to read you notes and most of the feedbacks.

  66. I smiled so much when reading this article. The two main comments I had about my son as a baby was “oh, he’s such a happy baby” and then something about his being a grazer/feeding a lot. People seemed to judge the former as luck and the latter as inconvenient. I don’t think they were unrelated. I’m very glad I ignored the health visitors who told me I should be feeding less frequently.

  67. It is strange that there is no mention of the father. My understanding of African families in general and Kenyan families in particular is that they are very traditional. Fathers and mothers both have very clearly prescribed roles. It would be nice to know more of the father’s role and response to this process

  68. Doubtful. the baby doesn’t cry just for feedings. they cry because of a need for change, gas or discomfort. and everytime u offer the nipple, it wont accept it. so this theory is questionable.

  69. After living in half a dozen African countries for more than 15 years I can honestly say African babies do cry. All babies cry when they have needs. Some babies cry more than others. Some African babies who are fed on demand and never put down cry and so do some non-African babies. Such articles contribute to some urban myth fantasy that babies are crying because people are doing something wrong. Crying is a physiological response and some babies will always have greater needs than others.

  70. I read this when looking for support after a hard few nights of my 8 month son needing to nurse endlessly at night. I demand feed my reflux boy, I follow my instincts and allow him to ‘graze’ as it is what he wants to do. I feed him anytime anywhere really. Unfortunately that includes just as regularly at nights, which I occasionally find hard. His wakefulness and need to nurse so often may be reflux related, it may be habit – who knows? Both probably. Especially noticeable when unsettled (we are in prices of moving house) when my boob is his drug that he can’t be without. While I am happy 95% of the time with my choice to nurture in this way, I don’t always feel confident that I am doing the best for him and us – perhaps some sleep training will reap benefits in terms of more sleep for us both once through the short term pain? Anyway, my point is that I do everything short of swaddling my baby to me 24/7 ( including co-sleep same bed for the second half of the night ) and my baby still cries. Regularly. So I love the sentiment in the article to trust instincts and use breast feeding to the fullest extent but just because you DO doesn’t make it a walk in the park. My son is happy, adventurous, switched on, advanced in many ways. This may or may not be down to breast feeding in the way I do. He also cries a lot, hates to be away from me if we are in the same room, wakes ridiculously regularly to nurse etc. And this may or may not be as a result of breast feeding the way I do too. Or perhaps just because he is an infant overwhelmed by the enormity of the world. The truth is that it doesn’t matter, because I know no other way.

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  72. I definitely don’t agree with the info in this article at all. Feeding a baby every time they make a peep will lead to obesity as well as a spoiled child. Co-sleeping can contribute to poor sleeping habits down the road. There’s no such thing as an “easy” baby.

  73. I simplyly loved breastfeedn my girls are wonderful and amazing. I still breastfeed if I could they awesome as.babies teens and adults. We are insync we get our peroids together and I believe as a result of breastfeedn. They are in their 20’s now. I loved breastfeedn.

  74. I have 5 kids, 4 of whom were born naturally. This was in the 70’s when we were trying to “get back to nature”. I totally breastfed for 8 months before introducing solids. I also breastfed for 2 to 3 years apiece. This is what we were made to do. YES…listen to the babies! They will tell you!

  75. this was a beautiful article thank you. My baby also wanted to feed very often…we co -slept and I got used to waking a little to do it. She is now six and has asked for her own room and sleeps in her own bed, all led by her. I breast fed until 4 and half years old for 2 years we were public and i didnt care but then we would be more secret about it as society in the UK is still under some particular ideologies. The average age for weening in the world is 4.5. However I do know some people who’s circumstances have not allowed them to even feed for a few months and it can be very hard on them. i guess it is easy to judge but when you are a new mother all you need is support and care regardless of the choices we can or cant make.

  76. Lovely post! I nursed all four of our boys on demand and couldn’t wrap my head about the whole scheduled feedings thing. We coslept and I did wear them a lot. With the twins, I sometimes felt like all I did was nurse but I don’t regret a minute of it.

  77. Hi, I am 28 without children… I just like to read about medicine and various women’s topics relating to it. I do not have any personal experience with breastfeeding. My question is aren’t you concerned about weight? What about fat and cholesterol content or too much lactose? Have any of you struggled with having an overweight baby? I have to say, from an outsiders perspective it does seem excessive. If we all ate whenever we felt the slightest hunger imagine how we would look, at least if it were all milk! Is breast milk high in sugar as well? I just wonder if babies start to eat out of habit, or make the connection with comfort and food. I would think that would present a problem later. I’m sad, stressed, I eat. Or eating just to be close to the mother when holding would suffice? I am always disturbed when I hear of a 3 year old breastfeeding. It seems like it is more for the mother who doesn’t want to let go, like they’re breaking the bond with the child, and not so much for the benefit of the child, who could benefit from some independence. This is just what it looks like to me. I am aware of all of the benefits, antibodies, etc from breast milk, I don’t need a run down of that. I am just curious about weight and any negative consequences of… some say overfeeding, some say it’s just enough 🙂 I am not trying to pass judgment on anyone. I was never breastfed by my mother’s choice, she ‘didn’t like it,’ and our relationship is lousy, lol doubtful that is the primary reason, but I’m just saying I know one can go too much in the opposite direction too.

  78. I also need to comment that SIDS is only given that name as cause of death is undetermined. It can be that a baby just stops breathing, their body doesn’t alert them, and we don’t know why. There are possible neurological causes that aren’t fully understood. I will be the first to say the old, ‘I always slept on my stomach.’ My neighbor’s daughter too, screamed and cried every night until she finally flipped herself on her stomach. Then mothers were told the baby could choke if they vomited and we’re on their back. Now they are told to side sleep? With these weird contraptions that look like neck pillows 🙂 The ‘wisdom’ always changes, but anyone can read about SIDS that it isn’t well understood and I believe is falsely automatically associated with sleep position and smothering.

  79. A birth in india. Would seem like a lot to take on. Indian. Have nautral cuts. I use senses and ear power during energy. Nutrients. Milk baths . If I ever visit Kenya. I would see for sure the schools and family actitvy of prayer. Praise work ship. They have beauty eye colors that I created in spirit. But following the roots. Leave me strong. Clean . Earth

  80. Your grandmother sounds like a very wise woman. I have 3 children and while it’s a bit of an adjustment I have realized that things like babywearing, co sleeping and frequent nursing really are key to a calmer, happier baby.

  81. I can relate totally. There is a point where one can adjust what read but what you read May not work at all. Mostly, it’s going back to heart centered awareness not the mind that determines the best outcome for each child. The hints your grandmother gave you are exactly how my son was raised. Never was a fussy baby, now at five he’s sometimes FUSSY! Perhaps I should try swaddling,lol!
    Great article!

  82. I work in an emergency department of a hospital and have learned through sad experience that co-sleeping can be deadly. This is often true when a parent is exhausted and sleeping too deeply to realize that she has rolled onto the child or that the child has rolled under her. It has even happened when baby and a slightly older sibling sleep together. These incidents happen far more often than one would believe. You can remain very close but still have the baby secure in a bassinet or other device that keeps the child out of the sleeping parent’s way.

  83. I smiled as I read this article. I grew up in Romania, and moved here when I was 18. I had my first child at 29 and my second 5 years later. Somehow, maybe because of my upbringing, or maybe because I listened to my instincts, I did exactly the same thing with both of them. It seemed I breastfed them around the clock, and while at times I got tired, I am so glad I read my kids (I did read plenty of books, too). We coslept, breastfed till they weaned themselves (years), and I am lucky I have a supportive husband (American) who saw the benefits and trusted what we were doing. Every time the kids had a cold, I was happy they were nursing. It was a comfort to me to know I could comfort them at my breast. It was best for all of us. Thanks for this beautiful article, and I just wish we could support more (all) mothers in their journey through breastfeeding.

  84. I thought I would throw out another viewpoint…I have three children. My older two NEVER cried. Seriously, I never heard a peep out of them and they were both bottle fed. My youngest was breastfed for the first three months and I had to stop for medical reasons. Along with being breastfed she also cried non stop. I am a firm believer that every mother needs to make the decision that will work for their baby and themselves. If I see a mother breastfeeding in public I say more power to you, and if I see a parent with a bottle I say the same thing.

  85. I so relate to this article. We allowed our children to breastfeed as long as and whenever they wanted. If the baby cried, i went through the routine of finding out what was wrong and fixing it. There was always something I could do to help them. My son stopped breastfeeding at 4 years old. There is a reason their milk teeth last that long. And the result? They never ever sucked their thumbs or soothers or had a security blanket. They are extremely bright, and have been shocking people around from the youngest age with their confidence, deep insights, verbal ability, etc. etc. I’m convinced that if you follow the natural course rather than know-it-alls you will come up trumps time and time again.

  86. Great! How it should be. And, thank God, mostly how I did it. More than 1,5 year of breastfeeding my son whenever he wantef to. A very fairhair Dutch boy who was just easy. I think the Lotusbirth that he had, has also got something to do with it. Great having African wisdom be poored into the minds of people everywhere.

  87. J C Niala,
    Thank you so much for this article. I am glad to see that you thought to write this.
    You hit the nail right on the head by drawing attention to the fact that African babies do not cry or throw tantrums. There are too many people reading books and not listening to there babies or their natural instincts out there, even in Africa.
    I am a grand mother who was born in Kenya and I have been blessed to live in several different countries in Europe, Africa & North America. I have been giving the very same advice to my daughter here in Canada. Her baby was born a big guy and is breast fed often, day and night, even at 6 months. Having used the same methods when I had my own children, I have shown her how to apply all that you have described and it works. You should have seen her face when I told her to co-sleep with her infant! Anyway, she did it and he is a happy little camper.

    By the way, none of our kids accepted pacifiers and we found that they were not at all necessary for any of them. Besides looking very odd, I have the feeling that they stop babies learning to speak early or expressing verbal communication. Maybe you could write something on this?
    Continue the good work and be blessed.

  88. I love this article. I get comments every day, isn’t your baby happy, doesn’t he ever cry? I breast feed and he is now 6 months and we co sleep, I sleep better this way!!! I ignored all advice from midwives etc, I got told off in hospital after the birth as I refused to put the baby in the cot and let him sleep on me. I am British my husband is ethiopian so I think I am following the African culture but mainly because it feels right to me. Breast feeding is very tiring sometimes especially at the beginning but I love seeing my baby really enjoying hs feed.

  89. While I enjoyed the article and the idea of reading your baby is exactly how you should do it, I don’t think that the author was following this at all. Becoming a full time walking zombie human pacifier will of course work, for the baby. The stress it can put on the mother may effect milk quality and who knows what else. Mums health is just as important. My babies rarely cried because they wanted milk, because I knew when they wanted to feed and when they wanted something else. If you use your breasts to pacify a baby you can’t stop easily and will be stuck to your baby full time. Most babies will let you know when they want solids as everyone’s milk is different sometimes the milk is not enough. It doesn’t matter when you do it, if the baby is ready or not, it takes days or weeks to get them to get used to solids. Sounds like the author gave up too easy. It’s not that the baby is not ready it’s more they are getting used to something new. Most babies that are ready for solids will take to them after a few days and once they work it out they get annoyed if you don’t give them any. Again… back to reading the baby. Sometimes they aren’t ready. Wait and try again. A baby that is not cluster feeding and seems desperate for milk all the time is usually ready. My 3rd went on solids at 7 months, my forth went on solids at 4 months, after three weeks straight of her feeding every one or two hours we tried solids and she slept several hours. Obviously she was ready but I didn’t think so because it was so early. I even tried formula be a use I thought my milk was inadequate.

  90. I had a baby boy the 13th of May 2015…. In a private hospital, verrrry western! One night the Baby was crying and crying… Non stop … Nothing I did worked!! I was in a ward with 3 other woman, I felt so bad! There was a African Sister… She got very annoyed with me… She said… “Just give the child boob and keep him there, let him drink!” First I got soooo annoyed with her cause my nipples is so saw…. Now I am thanking her… I think that was the best advise I got – since having a baby! LET HIM DRINK!!!!!!

  91. […] Why African Babies Don’t Cry In the UK, it was understood that babies cry. In Kenya, it was quite the opposite. The understanding is that babies don’t cry. If they do—something is horribly wrong and must be done to rectify it immediately.  As it happened, my baby did cry a fair amount. Exasperated and tired, I forgot everything I had ever read and sometimes joined in the crying too. Yet for my grandmother it was simple, “Nyonyo (breastfeed her)!” It was her answer to every single peep. My Grandmother’s gentle wisdom: […]

  92. I had the same comments (she/he’s such a “good baby”!) from putting them all to breast. Babies whose needs are met before they need to cry about it are naturally “good babies”. Only very rarely did they not want to feed. I get that some moms don’t want to be walking pacifiers, but before today’s ‘rush-about’ and sometimes self-centered lifestyle, it was done this way for thousands of years.
    They are now 6, 9 and 11 years old. Co-sleeping *can* be dangerous. Educate yourself on how to make it safe!

  93. I know this is a very old article but I had to chime in. Mom’s mental health matters also. It matters ALOT! I could never keep up with a schedule like this woman did. To each their own. I tried to BF; could not produce. Ended up switching to formula when he was three weeks old and it was the very best decision for US. He thrived beautifully and is a happy, healthy, incredibly intelligent three year old now. Motherhood is not one-siz-fits-all and differing degrees of breastfeeding, from EBF and around the clock to bone at all, are all acceptable.

  94. Thanks for this article. I learned a lot and saw many similarities with my own life. I co-sleep and have been breastfeeding my baby until he is 2 years old. He is a happy, smiling baby. We’ve only recently introduced solids as I am now expecting another child and my milk is not like before. It’s also a real shame as to people’s perceptions of public breastfeeding in the UK and other “developed countries” 🙁 Thanks again.

  95. I noticed that some mothers wrote, “I fed my child constantly and he/she still cried a lot!” Well, bottle feeding and breastfeeding are completely different. Did you “breastfeed” your child constantly? Probably not. You probably bottle fed. A bottle fed child will cry. If you give a kitten cow’s milk, it upsets his stomach, and it will not thrive. I don’t care how good your formula is. I have raised 4 babies. I have cared for other people’s bottle fed babies and become frustrated at the crying. My babies never cried. I know that formula is not as good.

  96. Hi there! Once you baby gets past the 3 month mark, it sounds like you still should wear or carry them?! Do you just not bundle them up as much or how do you wear them? Do you have any pictures 🙂 my little guy loves being closed and carried.. Wondering what way is best to wear him!! Thanks!!

  97. This is a fascinating article, but I am wondering why you did not mention potty practices in Africa and how that can also contribute to less crying? Many babies cry when they feel the urge to eliminate, and in much of Africa, babies are held over clay pots to eliminate rather than soiling against their body. Babies natural squirm and push away when they need to eliminate. By 6 months, babies can be dry overnight with Elimination Communication training (or they communicate with Mom that they need to potty in the night), and this has been reported in the book “The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene” among a tribe in Africa. EC has been postulated as therapy for colic, and relieves constipation issues, prevents delayed potty training and later bed-wetting issues, etc. I believe this also has a lot to do with the lesser amount of crying, and I am curious why it was omitted in the article.


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