What do African mums do to prevent their babies from crying—and does it really work?

When Claire Niala got pregnant, she did exactly what many expecting mothers do. She began reading parenting books, trying to prepare herself to be the best mother she could be. And the majority of those parenting books all seemed to say the same thing: African babies cried less than European babies.

Was this true? Claire decided to test the claim for herself. She took advice from her African grandmother—breastfeeding whenever her baby was upset, co-sleeping and taking a flask of warm water to bed to keep her milk flowing.

It wasn’t an easy journey. Whilst her contemporaries’ babies were being introduced to solids, her child continued to feed as a newborn, which meant she needed to wake up almost every two hours. But at a wedding reception, the people at her table commented on how “easy” her baby seemed to be . . . even if she did feed a lot.

However, other mums have tried the same methods and don’t believe the theory holds true.

“When my girls were babies, I did almost all of the things that any African mother would do with her baby,” says mum and blogger Kate who breastfed on demand, “wore” her babies instead of using a stroller and wouldn’t even watch television.

“But . . . I have to tell you . . . my babies have cried. Oh, they have cried,” she confesses. “I get sort of annoyed when I see that meme floating around Facebook about African babies crying less.”

With the plethora of parenting books/shows/experts out there that all claim to have the answers but seem to contradict one another, how can you possibly know what’s best for your child?

There’s a tip that Claire’s grandmother gave her that isn’t often quoted in references to her article: “Read your baby, not the books.”

At the end of the day, every baby is an individual. Don’t look for a “one size fits all” approach to parenting.

If you’re struggling to produce enough milk to satisfy your child, breastfeeding may not be the answer for you. Or perhaps your baby prefers to co-sleep instead of self-settle. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent. It may mean you need to adjust your ideas of what being the perfect parent means.

But if you have any concerns for your baby’s feeding or health, make sure you consult your family doctor.

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