|13 Jun 2005 @ 22:39, by Raymond Powers|
BREAST IS STILL BEST, EVEN IF IT IS DAD'S
By Alexandra Frean
June 13, 2005
A man's nipples are perfectly suited to soothing a crying baby until it can
be fed, according to a report on fatherhood.
It names the Aka Pygmies, a hunter-gatherer tribe from the northern Congo,
as the best fathers. When the mother is not available, the father calms his
baby by giving him or her a nipple to suck.
Aka Pygmy men do more in the way of childcare than fathers in any other
society, according to the FatherWorld report, published today by Fathers
Direct, a British charity.
Aka fathers may hold their baby close to their bodies for a couple of hours
at a time, according to Barry Hewlett, an American anthropologist who has
studied the tribe for more than 20 years.
On average, Aka fathers hold or are within reach of their infants 47 per
cent of the time. They beat Swedish fathers, who are number one in the
developed world, and who, on average, do 45 per cent of parental childcare.
British fathers are the fourth-most involved in the West, and do a third of
parental childcare, according to the report, which is based on a review of
existing research literature.
Caroline Flint, the former president of the Royal College of Midwives, said
that she had come across many examples of men in Britain ³suckling² their
babies, even though it might not be something they talked about very much.
She said: ³It¹s not a case of the man saying to the baby, ŒHere you are,
have my booby¹, but usually of the baby snuffling along the father¹s chest,
finding the nipple and sucking. The men are usually very surprised, but the
babies seem content.²
Sebastian Kraemer, a child psychiatrist at the Whittington Hospital in
London, said: ³It is possible that in prehistoric societies this was a
normal way of fathering.² He said that it would be wrong to assume from the
past 10,000 years of history that our prevailing model of mother-based
childcare was the right one.
Of 156 cultures studied for the report, only 20 per cent were found to
promote men¹s close relationships with infants, with only 5 per cent doing
the same for a father¹s involvement with young children.
The report estimates that fathers worldwide contribute between a quarter and
a third as much time as women to childcare, but it notes that active
fathering is on the increase. In Britain the amount of time that fathers
spend with their children has risen by eight times in the past 30 years.
Michael Lamb, professor of psychology at Cambridge University and a world
expert on fatherhood, said: ³Internationally, over the past 20 years, we
have seen fathers who live with their children spending more time with them
and doing more diverse activities, not just in Britain but in every known