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Department of Social Anthropology


Steps in learning to become a mother among the Keshwa Lamas forest people of Peru during anthropological fieldwork included the awareness and acquisition of body-based, largely non-verbal communication skills with infants from pregnancy. Far from resulting in demanding and undisciplined toddlers and children, the overall nurturing approach of forest people seems to produce a caring and also careful group members with a highly developed inter-subjectivity. In Western Amazonia, the ‘in-arms’ phase is a time when babies actively engage in many ways with different carers, not just their mother, rather than being passively carried around. From early in pregnancy, babies learn the rhythms of daily activities and also special soothing baby rhythms in close contact with their mothers’, sisters’, grandmothers’ and, occasionally but significantly, fathers’ bodies. Fathers are involved not just in baby care but, more significantly, in the body-based practices of the ‘couvade’ with the aim of spiritually nurturing their infants.

BirthlightIn 2010, Dr Barbira-Freedman received the Newman Award for Birthlight’s Contribution to Swimming through WABC (World Aquatic Baby Congress) after showing how the Amazonian parenting practices have been adapted and translated into a format that is easily accessible to new parents worldwide.

To find out more about Birthlight, please read the Article on the origins of the Birthlight charity.