Welcome to parenting – the time in our lives when a choice is made to be responsible as we dedicate our life to the growth and nurturing of another. Yet, this ‘rainbow nation’ of ours, this cultural melting pot, provides many ways to raise a child. It all depends on who you are, and who you (or your parents) want your child to be.
In South Africa, community parenting is an integral part of raising a child. Through the sharing and collaborating on the best methods to raise a child within our communities (neighbours, relatives, etc.), cultural practices have been passed down generations with many still used today.
Although some methods have advanced over time, such as wrapping your baby on your back to rock them to sleep; this evolved to rocking beds or chairs. You can see the cultural and traditional roots in many baby care technologies. Yet, the basic principle of these modern or advanced methods generally has cultural and historical roots.
Pampers parenting expert, Sister Yolanda Mpilo, explains:
- The bond between the parents and child can grow stronger or weaker depending on the way in which they grow up. Some cultures have ceremonies of thanksgiving and others prefer occasional naps with their newborn or toddler – we are all different.
- Most traditional doctors are also accredited with the Health Department. Parents who prefer this option for their child’s healthcare have the option to verify that their practitioner is registered with the Traditional Health Practice (THP) and also aligned with guidelines of the National Department of Health (NDoH). This verification process is also recommended for parents seeking a paediatrician for their child.
South Africa is one of the most culturally dynamic countries on the continent. Often, multiple cultures, traditions and customs are harmonised to raise a child. However, many cultural practices differ. In some cultures a pregnant woman expecting to deliver will be advised to give birth at home with the help of the eldest woman in the family or a midwife, whereas another culture may prefer the expectant mom to be near her own mother or grandmother for elder guidance and support when preparing to deliver in a hospital.
“Many South African traditional customs dictate that an introduction ceremony to the family’s ancestors be performed when a child is born. It is also customary that a newborn is not allowed to be seen by the public during their first three months of life, so this may be an important custom to follow with respect to the family and traditions outlined by one’s culture,” says Sister Yolanda.
Culture is an integral part of raising a child. With so many cultures living together in this society, it is understandable that some parents put outdated cultural practices aside in favour of their own parenting style.
Yet, cultural practices do evolve while others are cast aside until obsolete. Over the years, many cultural methods have been improved, reframed, and even joined together. In the past, our parents used reusable nappies and a warm wet cloth when changing our diapers. Due to advancements in human living standards as well as convenience, this practice is seldom used now.
The creation of disposable nappies, which companies like Pampers have introduced to the world, has made a positive impact and become an evolution of a commonly passed down method of changing a baby. When it comes to the nappy change, most parents understand that traditional methods are a sign of the times they were invented rather than a necessary cultural practise for their baby today.
“Some customs have evolved as medical science has surpassed the need for these practices. The choices we make in terms of leaving some of our customs behind and carrying others forward is a personal journey that only the parents have the right to embark on. The best advice is to take a moment and simply fact check all you need to know about raising a baby and see if these practices are either dangerous or not,” Sister Yolanda adds.
Moving towards a post-pandemic South Africa, it’s more important than ever before to regularly consult closely with your nurse or doctor, along with your traditional methods of raising a baby, to make sure there is as little risk as possible in raising your baby.