This is a summary of a section of a document in a book I just read. Follow? The book is called The Incas: People of the Sun. Part of the reason for this entry is to say, “I, Kristen, actually finished a nonfiction book.” Granted, it’s a 184-page book with pictures, but I learned a lot about the state of the Inca before the Spanish invasion and what followed when the Spanish succeeded. I learned about the Inca way of life, including farming, religion, and government, and then how each was impacted and morphed. I also learned about Machu Picchu and its discovery. The document published in the book that was written by its discoverer Hiram Bingham was very neat to read.
I found a lot of things interesting, but particularly found intriguing the way their infants were raised. Below, I summarized a passage from a document written by Garcilaso de la Vega in “Royal Commentaries of the Inca” in 1609. I do, most definitely, note that this author was likely Spanish and writing on behalf of the crown. Easily tainted. But while the not holding thing is wild, the importance of nursing is cool….
Inca children were brought up with as little care as possible, whether rich or poor. When they were born, babies were bathed in cold water before being wrapped in a blanket. They would cleanse the baby with cold water every morning, usually in the open air. If the mother was feeling tender, she’d wash the whole baby with her saliva, except for its head, particularly the crown, which they never touched.
“They said that they did this to accustom the children to the cold and to hard work, and also to strengthen their limbs. They did not loosen the children’s arms from these swaddling bands for more than three months, saying that if they were loosened before that time, the arms would become weak. They were always kept tied up in their cradles, which were benches badly made, four feet long, and one foot was shorter than the others, that the child might be able to rock.” The cradles were surrounded by nets, so the infant didn’t fall out.
Inca mothers NEVER took their child in their arms. Not even while giving them milk. They said this would make them cry and spoil them. The mother leant over the baby and gave it her breast three times a day, morning, noon, and night and no more, lest it vomit a lot and grow up to become a glutton. They figured that’s how the animals did it.
The mother always raised her child and never gave it to a nurse, no matter her status. The whole time she was nursing, she wouldn’t have sex with her husband because it would be bad for the milk and made the child pine. A baby got no food other than milk until it was weaned.
Once the baby was old enough to be taken out of the cradle, in order to not have to carry it, they dug a hole and put the child in the ground. The hole came up to its chest, was padded with dirty napkins, and was surrounded by trinkets for playing. Even the son of the most noble man would not be held.
When the child was old enough, it would crawl from one breast to the other to eat. It had to go around the mother and could not crawl into her lap. Nursing was much more important to Inca mothers than the birth process, which they always did at home without a midwife.