It is common practice in Ghana and other African countries to find nursing mothers trying to subtly reconstruct the heads of newborn babies by massaging them into a shape they deem more appropriate. Feeling more artistic than the Creator, they blatantly reject the God-given shapes of the babies’ heads and turn themselves into sculptors, manipulating the shape till they get their desired results. It is believed that failure to mold the head while the body is still “carvable” results in the kind of oblong and multi-dimensional heads that lead to a lifetime of mockery and name-calling.
However, is this “norm” really worth the repercussions? According to scientists, this practice distorts the functionality of the brain and causes damage to it, impairing their ability to think in later years. Neuroscientists at the University of Cape Coast during the ongoing Brain Awareness Week have cautioned mothers against pressing babies’ heads as they are very fragile and can lead to irreversible damage to the brain. Dr. Francis Djangmah with the school of physiology minced no words in condemning the act. “Their skull is very soft. If you press so hard on it, you will see a depression on the skull. So the old ladies who are made to bath the children should not press the head so as to change its shape. It has a deleterious effect on the brain of the child. If you press the head, you are going to press directly on the brain and damage the brain cells”, he explained.
“Over the years, that is what many parents have been doing to their children. Many behaviours exhibited by certain grown-ups are symptomatic of what they went through in the hands of the mothers and caregivers,” he added. He also called on husbands to desist from the habit of beating their pregnant wives or partners, encouraging rigid enforcement of the domestic violence laws. “The Ministry for Gender and Social Protection should team up with the Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit to heavily punish husbands to beat their pregnant wives. When women are pregnant whatever happens to them affect their unborn children. Their acts affect the brains of the children,” he stated.
Another neuroscientist, Prof. Francis Offei asked parents and teachers to stop hitting children on the head as a form of punishment, since the at only causes damage to their brains and affects their mental health.