The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: birth
caption: suckling
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: When a new-born child has been washed and the mother has washed and eaten and changed her clothes, the old woman takes up the child in a cloth 'lest it should be cold' and gives it to the mother to feed. If the baby is not hungry, then it is allowed to wait until it is. The baby is put to the right breast first, as this is the 'good' or 'clean' side, but it is not allowed to empty it, and after it has sucked for a little while it is put to the left breast. if the mother is ill or her milk fails, some other woman who is suckling will sometimes feed the child. If the mother dies and no foster-mother can be found an effort is made to keep the baby alive with sips of weak zao kasang; but suck children rarely survive.
text: There are no settled times for feeding, and the baby sucks whenever it likes. After the child has been taken out and the ceremony has been performed for it, the mother may go to the fields if she is strong enough, and the child is left behind in the care of an old woman or other children, who give it weak zao kasang or pulped boiled rice if it gets hungry, but until the baby is a month old or more the mother never goes far and does not absent herself for more than half a day. When the child is a little bigger, the mother leaves a chunga full of rice which she has chewed to a pulp, and then goes off to the jhums, leaving the child to be fed with the pulp by whoever looks after it. She gives it the breast when she comes home in the evening.
text: When the child is big enough to sit up it is fed with boiled rice which the small girl or whoever else looks after it shews a little and then puts in the child's mouth. When it is old enough it is given food in a leaf plate to eat on its own, but unless the mother becomes pregnant earlier the child is not weaned until it is about three years old. When the child is old enough to ask for a cloth it is given one, a new cloth if the parents can afford it, an old one if they are poor. No ceremonies are observed with regard to the first cloth.
text: A woman who finds her milk too scanty to feed her baby goes to a wild fig-tree, sits down before it with bent head and weeps, or pretends to weep, and says: "Help me, be kind to me, my baby is not getting milk. Please show me kindness". By this the milk is increased.