Many experts in the west advise parents that a baby who gets picked up too quickly when it cries will be “spoiled.” The infant also needs to learn to sleep on its own in a separate room and eat on schedule.
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By contrast, in hunter-gatherer societies such as the !Kung, 88 percent of crying bouts get a response from the mother or other women within three seconds -- almost none later than 10 seconds.
Most babies in these societies are in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers during the day, sleep next to them during the night and can nurse whenever they want.
!Kung infants spend at most one minute out of each hour crying, mainly in 10-second bouts. They largely grow up to be secure, confident, curious and autonomous children.
The hunter-gatherer model worked well for 100,000 years, and, for Jared Diamond -- author of “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?” -- the west would do well to emulate these child-rearing practices.
I spoke with him on the following topics:
1. Raising Children
2. Caring for Elderly
3. Facing Danger
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)
Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on movies.
To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.