Quirks in Infant Care in Tanzania

July 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

What is a mother to do when a baby needs to suck on something to be soothed and there are no pacifiers to be had?

Well, she lets her baby suck on her tongue!

The first time Khadija did this with Sabra(Khadija is a matron at one of our orphanages and Sabra is her three month old biological baby), my thought process was something like, “Why is Khadija licking Sabrah’s mouth? Ohhh.. whaaaaa?? Hmm.”

Usually babies don’t get anything to suck on, a move I think is very wise in sometimes unhygienic east Africa. Since the babies aren’t used to self-soothing with a pacifier, they don’t need it or seem to miss it. But sometimes, babies just need to suck to be soothed.

In these cases, at least with Khadija and Sabra, there’s some tongue sucking involved. It shouldn’t shock me, I suppose, since her mouth is a lot cleaner than her fingers were at the moment and there’s nothing actually strange or wrong about what she’s doing. I bet it’s actually some pretty awesome bonding for mother and baby. Still, as a Westerner, it’s a bizarre sight to see a mother hold her crying, upset baby up to her face and start flicking her tongue against the baby’s lips. But hey, it works!

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