Baby snatchers may use infants to experience a ‘vicarious birthing’

2014-07-18 00:00

WOMEN who abduct babies may be using them to maintain or save their relationships with their partners.

This is according to psychologist Ishara Maharaj, who was speaking following two cases of baby snatching at the Pietermaritzburg Department of Home Affairs recently.

On Wednesday, seven-month-old Fanele Asemahle Dlamini was reunited with her mother, Phumzile, after she was abducted last week. A month earlier, baby Olwethu Madlala was found after she had been missing for three months.

Maharaj said, “Research has shown that women who abduct infants sometimes wish to ‘replace’ an infant she has lost … or experience a ‘vicarious birthing’ of an infant she is for some reason unable to conceive or carry to term.”

The infant may be used in an attempt to maintain or save a relationship with her partner or significant other. “The abducted infant is perceived by the offender as ‘her newborn baby’.” She said while many of these woman appear normal, they tend to be compulsive, suffer from low self-esteem, and may rely on manipulation to maintain their relationships.

When the baby has been found, Maharaj said a comprehensive physical and mental health examination of the child should be arranged to “determine any immediate physical or emotional needs of the child, and help ensure those needs are met”.

She said all appropriate agencies should be involved.

“Notify the child’s parents or guardians of the recovery and request they bring only immediate family members to a designated private location for the reunion,” she said.

Maharaj said parents or guardians must be briefed about the child’s condition and should bring along a change of clothing for the child and any familiar or favourite items.

She said a mental health professional must be assigned to the child and family as soon as possible.

All eyes on baby Olwethu

Meanwhile, Olwethu Madlala’s mother, Nonhlanhla said she now watches her “like a hawk”. “I don’t even leave her with my relatives. I take her everywhere I go after the last incident,” she said.

She said she had taken Olwethu for immunisations she had missed when she was missing, and that Olwethu was doing well.

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