The baby is here at last! The new human being you have been nurturing in your womb for nine long months. You are probably clueless on just what babies do and how you can cope with the physical, and often, emotional ravage of birth.
Do not panic if you feel clueless—all mothers find the first-year caring for a baby as a steep learning curve! The good thing is that she will not do much more than sleep, cry, and breastfeed in the early weeks.
Gladys Mategula from Makhetha Township in Blantyre is an old woman who has looked after nine of her own children, and she is now caring for her grandchildren, too. She appreciates that it would be hard for a new mother to take care of a baby without the guidance of an older woman and adds that she is always happy to advise younger women or first-time mothers in her neighbourhood.
She points out that, for instance, if a baby is crying non-stop, her first instinct is to advise the young mother to breastfeed the baby or check it for signs of illness.
“Babies are vulnerable beings who need a lot of care and it is a challenge for a woman who does not know baby care. For instance, when bathing a baby, the mother has to ensure that water does not go into the baby’s nose or ears and that soap should not get into its eyes. They also have to ensure that they are careful when cleaning its navel,” explains Mategula.
She adds that young mothers should know that it is dangerous to leave a baby’s umbilical cord bare when it is still small.
In addition to that, another woman from the same area, Ellina Chipewa, adds that young mothers should take good care of the baby’s umbilical cord once it falls out.
Chipewa says it is important for the mothers to breastfeed their babies regularly, even waking up in the night to do so.
“It is important to note that although the woman might be tired from caring for the baby all day, they still need to sit upright when breastfeeding the baby in the middle of the night. It is not advisable to just leave the breast in the baby’s mouth while they go on sleeping because the baby might choke on it, or the breast can block the baby’s nostrils, making it difficult for it to breathe. The mother also needs to eat enough to produce milk for the baby,” adds Chipewa.
On top of that, Mategula stresses on the importance of the mothers’ personal hygiene. She also says it is important to stay away from men, sexually, until when the baby is at least six months old.
She adds that child-spacing is also important.
“Things are different in modern days. I had nine children and that was not a problem in those days. Having that kind of number of children in this day would make it difficult for women to live comfortably because children need a lot of things which one may not afford,” she says. n