Mother and Child

Mai Lee - Senegal


February 27, 2013

A mother and her child. They epitomize intimacy in our society. But what regardless of what they symbolize, our modern world has built barriers between this mother-child relationship. Not brick walls nor iron gates, but baby carriages and and diapers have created barricades in the relationship.

In Senegal, the women here have not yet abandoned the habits of their ancestors, like breastfeeding. From what I have witnessed—or lack of having witnessed—of breastfeeding in America, the idea has become somewhat outdated and uncomfortable, even. At least among my peers, idea seemed weird.

“Suckling?! Who’s suckling where?”

But my thoughts on it have changed significantly since I have spent so much time here. I have watched my mother breastfeed my baby sister on a daily basis, as opposed to the baby bottles filled with powdered milk or mild the mother pumped out. I have watch my mother strap my sister onto her back with a sheet of cloth as my sister clung on, unlike the baby carriages American mothers push around their babies in.

This amount of touch cannot compare with that of modern American mothers. Of course the emotional affection isn’t lacking, but I believe that our society has lost the physical connection. Even when it comes to diapers, our society uses one once, then dumps it. Here, the babies wear cloth diapers that the mothers handwash after every use to use over and over again. Even this I find intimate—you don’t clean off the kaka of just anyone.

This is what I find so beautiful about the Senegalese world I currently live in. Everything remains so raw and natural—although the rest of the world continues to creat high-tech baby strollers and leak-proof diapers, Senegalese women keep to their ancient habits. Even breastfeeding is a beautiful thing to me now. The mother and child have an intimate bond that no one else can perfectly understand.

Mai Lee