Outdooring of a Mother of Two

On the 21st of July I was made a mother of two: the girl I already have and another girl born almost on the hour three years later! We are all well and I think my self imposed blog break is now over.

I missed all of you!




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Social Theory: Taking My Daughter to Work

This semester I have taught Social Theory – Ashesi University College‘s introduction to Social Sciences and the world!

It has been a good ride, I especially have enjoyed the news presentations and ensuing panel discussions – my colleagues and I encourage critical research and creativity – and have been rewarded greatly by imaginative and interesting presentations. The course also teaches a history of political ideologies from Plato to Putnam, more or less.

Yesterday, I decided to show my daughter and her nanny what my work is like and they spent the day with me. We took the tour round the campus (here you can too) and when my first class was about to start, she took a marker and started scribbling on the white board to the amusement of the 60 member class: ” Look at, Mamma!”, “Mamma, mamma, make a carrot!”

I smiled and remembered the many, many times I went with my mother to her teaching job…scribbled on something, ran around in the classroom, watched my mother teaching…will my daughter be a teacher too?

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How to Carry a Baby Ghana Style: Video

I have written on this topic before, here for YouTube tips and on when I met a Ghanaian mother who carried her baby like a European, in front, but I have fogotten to post the video I made myself about a year ago with my daughter and nanny playing the lead roles.

Of course my clip is better edited, music included, and explains this West African wisdom better than all competitors out there on the web, or what say you?


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Back in Ghana

Our daughter is now 13,5 months and everyday with her is like a month. She learns a lot, she is so funny and also runs around with a speed that makes me feel tired after just a few minutes. I have been asked how she dealt with the travel this summer.

The answer is that she took it very well even though we visited many new places and people. We were on the road for a month, and upon our return to Ghana she needed just a couple of days before she was fully reintegrated into Ghanaian everyday life, see below!

Click on pic to see it in full!

Edited with Pixlr.

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Fante + Swedish = Fandish

Our Swedish Ghanaian child is soon one year old. Time flies when you are having fun! She has now uttered her first word of what we call “Fandish” – that is combination of her father’s Fante, one of the Ghanian Akan dialects/languages and her mother’s Swedish, a Germanic language from north of Europe.

What was her first combo word? I am proud to say my child is polite. I believe she pronounced a mixture of the Swedish and Fante words for thank you.

“tack” (Swedish) +

“meda woase” (Fante)

“ta’ssi” (Fandish)

Ta'ssi for the cereal!


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International Women’s Day: A Personal Reflection

Last year around this time, I was pregnant with my first child. It was an amazing and literally nauseating experience. It was a reminder of what it is to be a woman.

Being a woman is at times a very bodily experience – growing breasts and hips, learning how to dance, coordinating movements in some nice shoe, climbing trees or other remote places for solitude.

Being a woman is filled with pain – headaches from trying to remember everything, cramps from the monthly period, silent but sharp stings of betrayal, the shockingly forceful pains of child labor.

Being a woman is joyous – growing in your mother’s shadow, learning to express yourself freely in words, feeling the cold water on your body as you dive in, being someone’s mother.

On a day like this, I think of everything that unites us women. I think of everything that separates us. Clearly, there is not a single experience of womanhood, however there is an attitude I feel is common to all women. An attitude I find it heard to put words on, but something along the lines of “change is inevitable”.

We change. We grow. We transform. The world changes.

This is a BloggingGhana universal post. See others take part in the discussion here. Female sign borrowed from Zazzle.com

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Breastfeeding, Part 2

After posting on my experiences of breastfeeding in Ghana, I got many comments. Most of them were long and very informative, so I thought I’d share with you some of the issues that came up. Here is Breastfeeding in Ghana and elsewhere, Part 2.

Nsoromma described breastfeeding as something very natural when growing up in a Ghanaian community in London:

As common as drinking water, women would whip out their breasts and feed a baby that needed feeding. There was no shame and it was not sexualised. When I grew up slightly and saw more White English families I realised it was Not The Done Thing. I remember being surprised to hear quite openly negative remarks about how disgusting it was for women to breastfeed…particularly outside of the home! This view pervades British society to such an extent that in my current job I often hear that raising breastfeeding rates (initiation, through to 6 months) is a massive public health priority.

So going back to Ghanaian women (at least in th UK), I think its a misguided case of copying what the ‘West’ do.

I think Nsoromma’s story is a good illustration of that attitudes vary and that they matter. Maybe sexualizing babies’ food/ breastfeeding has much more to do with the issue than I first thought…

Fiona Leonard stressed that pumping and bottle-feeding is possible, but that your workplace needs to be supportive.

Going back to work certainly makes it hard. I went back to work at four months and was exclusively breast feeding which meant I had to express, including at work. To be able to do that you need a very accommodating workplace. It’s not impossible though. I continued breast feeding (not exclusively) through to twelve months.

I can imagine expressing/pumping daily is a chore! I invested in a simple but high-end pump and have used it a total of three times…many parts to wash, pumping for 10-15 minutes (now I know why baby is sweating while eating) and I have been lucky to be able to stay at home until now which means I just bring baby with me instead of the pump!

My Intercultural Communication’s professor Pam wrote a long comment that I am too proud to cut down in any way. She also shared a link to a historic so-called usenet group FAQ that she had put together on the topic back in 1996! Still worth a read, though!

This is a fascinating article not only on cross-cultural attitudes about breastfeeding but also about how these attitudes are changing (and not always in good ways). Here in the US when I was breastfeeding nearly 20 years ago, I would discreetly breastfeed in public (restaurants, benches), and although many people found it odd, few if any people criticized me for it. However, now, I cannot remember the last time I saw a breastfeeding mother in public. And apparently there has been much controversy about it: see this article: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/kasey-kahne-target-nurse-ins-public-breast-feeding/story.

Where I found much more dissension was in breastfeeding my child after he was a year old. Very few American mothers continue to breastfeed older infants and toddlers and tend to wean them rather young. I continued until my son naturally weaned himself, which happened about 18-20 months. This was back in the very early days of the internet (before the WorldWide Web and I was a participant in a great support group called misc.kids via usenet groups. In fact, I just located the archives of the FAQ I compiled on this topic at http://www.faqs.org/faqs/misc-kids/breastfeeding/toddlers/. Enjoy!

I find it interesting that when breastfeeding in public is “breaking the norm” – actually nothing much happens if one does!

Maya Mame suggested that the comments I have gotten when breastfeeding in Ghana are more class related than anything else:

  I was going to raise a point, but realised mentioned it later in your piece. I doubt the surprise at you breastfeeding has to do with your colour, I think it is mainly something that you don’t see “affluent” people doing in Ghana. (I too received many “you’ve done well” comments and there’s nothing white about me! ;-)

The same commenter also shared some particulars for Ghanaian mothers that makes breastfeeding more difficult that it need to be:

In addition to that, as you and Fiona mentioned, going back to work (and here, let’s remember, as I was harshly informed, there are extremely limited part time jobs in Ghana, so going back to work means full time, with approximately 45 minutes journey in and out) means most women will be away from home for 10-12 hours a day. It is practically impossible to pump enough to feed a baby for those hours.

In addition, what I noticed we lack in Ghana is advice on breastfeeding and stimulating milk production. Unless you get traditional tips from aunties (eat groundnuts with their skin on, or drink palm nut soup, there’s not much advice or places to go to for advice if your milk production were to slow down. I, who’ve somehow become the breast milk guru among friends, managed to help two friend who would most likely have stopped completely, if not given the tips I learned at the Swedish child care centre.

It is so common that milk production slows down, whether due to lack of sleep, stress or change in diet, and it is sad that something that can easily be increased would completely end, because people don’t know where to get advice from. Looking at those around me, ALL the mothers I know had the intention to breastfeed, but sadly, probably more than half stopped by three months, due to slow production or work commitments.

When I read the comment, I thought of Amningshjälpen, a Swedish breastfeeding support organization, and how it might be much needed globally.

Kinnatold her story of breastfeeding in Ghana and concluded that motivation to breastfeed might be lacking in Ghana.

Having lived most of my adult life in the US where breastfeeding is a problem for working mothers, I took full advantage of being back home to breastfeed my second son well past 12 months. Yeah, I got the “you’ve done well” and “isn’t it time to wean” talk but I just refused to do it any other way except the way that I had chosen. Of course, I have an accommodating workplace but nonetheless, I pumped and all that to make it work. It seems in Ghana that most parents, working or not, affluent or not, just don’t want to make time for the children that no one forced them to have. And the non-breastfeeding issue is a part of that.

Swedish blogger Nina Ruthström saw similarities in the Ghanaian breastfeeding situation to attitudes prevailing in Sweden in the 1970-1980s. She also shared her personal feeling on breastfeeding in public.

Gällande det sexuella så skulle jag vilja slänga fram tutten precis som om den vore en termos, men det vågar jag inte. Jag är alldeles för pryd för det. Och indoktrinerad bröst=sexuellt. Jag skulle gärna hjälpa till att avsexualisera brösten. Men jag är diskret.

(Concering the sexual, I would like to put forward the boob as was it a thermos, but I do not dare to. I am way too much of a prude. And indoctrinated that breast=sexual. I would like to help de-sexualizing breasts, but I am discreet).

Swedish friend Maria who have lived many years in the US also too interest in the debate. She commented on the need to cover up when breastfeeding in the US and said she prefer the more “relaxed” attitude to breastfeeding in Sweden.
 Vet inte riktigt var denna trend kommit fran i U.S.A. men tror kanske att det delvis har att gora med den i ibland bara tva veckor langa mamma ledigheten men ocksa i en oversexualisering av brost och i feluppfattningen att modersmjolksersattning ar nyttigare for barnet. Mycket intressant amne!
(I do not quite know where this US trend has come from, but think it is partly due to the sometimes only two week long maternity leave, but also a sexualization of breast and the misconception of that formula is healthier for the baby. Very interesting topic!)

I must say I was surprised at the interest my blog post on breastfeeding generated, but I am happy and grateful to have learned so much from my readers on the topic. Recently a reader of Nina’s blog , Sofia, suggested blogging is the womens’ forum of our time. I thought it was a bold and alluring statement. However, the discussion above seems to be the perfect illustration of its validity.



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Breastfeeding in Ghana: Statistics, Misconceptions and Formula

Beautiful mural from my neighborhood of a breastfeeding woman.

Since I returned to Ghana with our daughter, I have gotten many comments about me breastfeeding her. Most often, I am met with surprise, raised eyebrows and reassuring comments such as “you have done well!” Many of these reactions seem to come out of the misconception that “white people do not breastfeed”. Nothing could be more wrong!

In my native Sweden, there is extensive education on breastfeeding both for parents-to-be in preparatory courses and at the hospital when your infant is just born. Breastfeeding is highly encouraged, and initially 97% of mothers breastfeed. When the baby is 2 months 88% breastfeed partially and 69% exclusively. At 6 months the share of breastfeeding mothers is at 65% (Statistics from Swedish national board for health and welfare for children born 2009. Additionally, there is stats for babies’ breastfeeding of 9 months as well as 12 months!)

Surviving Life in Sweden blog (written by an American in Sweden) has some experience on breastfeeding and is surprised how openly Swedish mothers feed their children:

“In Sweden, the attitude toward the boob is different. Seriously, they are everywhere – in often very non-sexual ways – and it’s not a big deal. You will be stared at if you wear a nursing burka USA style. If you are shy and your child will oblige lay a small cloth over your shoulder/baby – but nothing dramatic. And no – it’s not because Swedish ladies want the world to see their boobs, it’s because they just wanted to keep their baby fed and not be chained to the house all day.”

I guess this goes to say that when it comes to attitudes on breastfeeding, there are also differences in the Global north.

Moving onto the attitudes to breastfeeding in Ghana: some of the Ghanaians I have talked to about this topic have informed me of a new trend in Ghana where Ghanaian mothers do not breastfeed their children. Some not at all, some very briefly.

I was surprised when I heard this, had I not seen many mothers feeding their children in Ghana? When water security is a problem, why not breastfeed? I decided to do some research and realized this is not a new trend, but a major health problem for Ghana. The Linkages Project summarizes the situation like this:

“Nearly all mothers initiate breastfeeding in Ghana. However, sub-optimal breastfeeding practices begin on the first day. Only 25 percent of women initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. Approximately 20 percent of mothers nationwide practice exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended period of the first six months. The low rate of exclusive breastfeeding is largely due to the introduction of water and other liquids at an early age. The Ghana Health Service estimates that sub-optimal breastfeeding practices contribute to about eight percent of infant deaths or about 3,300 infant deaths each year.”

Only 20% of mothers breastfeed exclusively? I continued my search and found some more assuring data. According to World Bank data the rate of mothers practicing exclusive breastfeeding to children under six months is 62,8%. However, considering that this number likely comes from health providers and the indicator on children under 5 seeing a health practitioner is only half the population or 51%, the 20% stated above might sadly be about accurate.

The good news is that education really seem to help. The Linkages Project reports big jumps in numbers of breastfeeding mothers after sensitization.The Breastfeeding Week (!) might also help bring awareness. So education seems to be step one.

But one friend was insisting that also well-educated Ghanaians refrain from breastfeeding. Can an explanation to this behavior can be found in the relatively short Ghanaian maternity leave of three months? Compare with the recommended breastfeeding time of 6 months and you see the discrepancy.

Or are there other reasons? Vanity (“I do not want stretched out breasts”), corporate miseducation (“formula is better”) or something else?

What do you think?

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My Blogging Year 2011

Photo: Mattias Wiggberg

It is getting late. The year is almost ending. The time has come for bloggers to summarize the year. We all do it differently; I enjoyed  MsAfropolitan’s love letter, the book lists that hyper-readers Accra Books and things and A Fork in the Road shared and Africa Is A Country’s West African club hits!

My summary of the blogging year 2011 might not be possible to dance to, still here it is:

The year started out on a strong note. In January, I learned about Free and Open Source Software for Academics and analysed the Ghanaian “happiness culture“.

During February, I realized  in Swedish media Ghana is often portrayed like a success, economically, democratically and technologically. A more recent text buttressing my point is the top African success stories 2011 at Connected Africa.  This month I also celebrated my 30th birthday and my 500th blog post!

In March, I was inspired by DUST magazine and wrote my own You Know You Are In Accra When – jokes.

April was the month I got more serious and wrote about the mental health crisis in Ghana, sexual harassment and the unrest in Ivory Coast.

On Mother’s day I announced I was becoming a mother myself. At that point in May, my belly was so big everyone who saw me IRL knew. It was not like you needed to be an investigative journalist…  really is there just one investigative journalist in Ghana?

In June, I left Ghana for Europe. First stop was Marseille.  Then it was time for debating homosexuality. A debate that also made it to Global Voices.

In July, our daughter was born. What an experience! What a miracle! What a sweet soul!

In August, she was Virtually Outdoored. So was the Ashesi Berekuso Campus.

In September and October I was spending every hour of the day with our baby in Sweden. Taking walks, breastfeeding and blogging only sporadically.

Second week of November, I returned south and my daughter saw the green leaves and red soil of Ghana for the first time. And the green hoopoe!

In December, we had no water and I wrote about the EU Blue Card. And that was my 2011 year of blogging!

I am sure in the days to come, we will see many more chronicles of 2011 at Ghanablogging.com (soon to change name to BloggingGhana, but that is a story for 2012!)

Gott Nytt År! Afehyia pa! Happy New Year!

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What Do You Do with a Baby All Day?

What shall we do?

Yesterday, I got the question:

– But what do you do with your baby all day?

The short answer is sleep, eat (her mostly, me in the space between) and play.

The long answer is this:

02.00 She wakes up with a wiggle and a yawn. I manage to give her my left breast before she screams or even opens her eyes.

05.30 She wakes up with a smile. I give her my right breast and when she has eaten (drunk?) decide it is time for a diaper change. After playing in the baby gym and saying some nursery rhymes, putting on a new outfit we go back to bed.

08.32 Grandma comes to take her before dashing off to work. I go back to sleep.

09.00 Grandpa brings her back. She is hungry.

11-ish We wake up and do the diaper-thing. I decide to dress her in an outfit that matches mine.

11.30 I have breakfast and read a wonderful blogpost about tossing the hunt for productivity out while grandpa tries to get her to sleep.

15.15 We go out for a walk after she has slept and ate. During the walk she sleeps.

16.12 We enter a café. She wakes up. She looks around the place in amazement. I hurry to order coffee and gulp it down before feeding her again.

17.14 We visit my brother. She screams until I pick her up and then she burps. I need to remember that babies (almost) always cry for a reason.

18.40 Back home. We play for a while. She looks at things, that is I say “What are you looking at? A flower? The sun rays?” Then she is suddenly hungry and after that needs a diaper change. I optimistically put on her pajama. She is all smiles at the changing table.

19.30 Still trying to get her to sleep. As soon as I sit down she cries. I put her in the BabyBjörn and start to sing. When she is asleep, I have dinner.

20.55 She is up again. Can she really be hungry? She sits with my parents and “talks” to them before coming back to me. I feed her to sleep.

23.00 Time to blog!

The second question I got was,

– Is it fun?

Well, it is a different tempo, a changed way of life, an exhausting and at the same time relaxing task, many times it is scary, but also exciting and yes, maybe even fun!




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