Of Umbrellas and Kenyan Mothers - MumsVillage

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Having a child is like getting a tattoo ... on your face. You better be committed.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Of Umbrellas and Kenyan Mothers

Earlier this week, I was on my way to lunch, to celebrate my birthday and I saw a young woman carrying a baby tied to her back.

She was holding an open umbrella over her and the baby. I assumed because it was very sunny. It was very sunny. And hot too. However, the baby was dressed in about three layers of clothes, including socks and a woollen hat.  If I asked her what her rationale for the umbrella was, she would have said, ‘because it’s hot’. Then what would her rationale for the dressing of the child be? Because it is cold? This situation often baffles me and sometimes enrages me.

Why do I bother getting angry at how other people dress their children?

  1. The mothers themselves (it is often women, presumably mothers, that I see with children), are not dressed in the same way the children are dressed. They are often in sleeveless tops and jeans, even skirts, many times in open shoes. Their children- vests, then a shirt, another shirt for good measure, and finally a thick woollen sweater. Socks and a hat are a must. There is always sweat on their foreheads and noses. This means that they, the mothers, do not believe it is cold, and yet they dress their children in contradiction with their belief.
  2. My husband and I have often been ‘advised’ more times than we care for that our baby are cold and we should dress her in a sweater. This, by people who are not cold. This by people who are not warmly dressed. Refer to my previous point.
  3. One time I was walking down the road from the supermarket with Kendi in her pushchair, stripped down to her vest because it was very sunny. The cover of the chair shaded her face. There was traffic on our little used road on that day. Every second driver had something to say about the sun being too much for the baby. Am I missing something?

We did a vitamin D test on Kendi when she was 4 months old. The thing with Kenyan babies who are exclusively breastfed is that they often have a vitamin D deficiency because breast milk does not carry it. Kenyan parents also do not let their babies soak up the sun in order to get the required vitamin D. I also read somewhere that Kenyan mothers want their babies to be light-skinned so they keep them out of the sun (but this is a discussion for another day). In essence, Kenyan babies are deficient for vitamin D. Kendi’s score was 4.7, out a possible 7. She had all the vitamin D she needed. She didn’t need any supplement.

There was no way to share this with the drivers who were yelling at me from their cars to shade my child from the sun.

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