His older brothers and sisters has to be taken into account in every culture. The sense of competition between the displaced child, who will now become the knee baby while his mother holds the younger on her lap, is expressed in many ways. Very seldom is the older child isolated from the mother (or long. although he may be banished from the delivery. The process of encouraging the older child to accept the younger takes many forms; some-times people act as if the older child shared the mother’s enthusiasm for the baby, making him a competitor for the new baby: sometimes outright enmity is allowed for; sometimes the older child is permitted
theatrical forms of hostility toward strange and borrowed babies but forced to be wholly friendly to the newborn. But the whole situation is seldom complicated by the long absence characteristic of today, when the mother disappears abruptly from home and children and does not return until several days later, and then with a new baby in her arms. This situation, a by-product of hospitalization and fear of infection, has been somewhat modified today by fuller preparation of the older children, greater frankness about pregnancy and birth, care about who stays with the older children, and frequent use of the telephone.
Care of the new mother after the baby is born also has varied enormously. She may be allowed to rest for a whole month, sitting with the newborn baby on her lap, cooked for and cared (or ivy her relatives. Or, her husband may come to lie down beside her to share the labor from which she is recuperating, and she may have to get up and start cooking while he stays in bed. But in most cases, whether the mother is allowed time to rest and get acquainted with her new baby or not, the baby is always near her, ready to be fed if he cries.
When she walks about, she takes the baby with her, in a net bag, in a bark sling, in a basket. on a cradleboard, or swaddled as a protection against the told. Mother and breast-fed infant are treated as a unity, although immediately after birth someone else may breast-feed the child, and later, when the child is several months old, he may often be left to the care and suckling of female relatives who have milk. The temporary separation immediately after birth that is characteristic of most western modern hospital systems did not occur in primitive societies.
Baby and mother were kept close together. and the mother had a chance to adjust the baby’s rhythm to her own, his hunger to her supply of milk. This custom Was not however, to be confused with self-demand feeding in the sense in which we speak of it today. Self-demand feeding is a very modern idea, based on our knowledge that infants differ among them-selves and that each mother and baby, as a nursing couple has a style of its own, plus the fact that we have writing and clocks. So today it is possible for a breast-feeding mother to keep track of the times at which an infant is spontaneously hungry and to be there to feed him.
And she is able to establish, with the help of clock and record, a schedule that is regular and predictable but which is peculiar to her own baby. Primitive mothers, mothers in earlier times, had neither the concepts nor the necessary instruments with which to organize such a regime.