The Eastern Cape health department has warned new mums off traditional healers who claim to be able to stop a birthmark from spreading to the brain by means of an incision, as this causes infections and possibly death.
"Doctors and paediatricians are concerned, and dismiss this as a lie and child abuse," department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.
He said the lore for some people was that if a baby was born with a birthmark on the back of its neck, the mark would spread to the fontanelle, the soft spot on a new-born baby's head, and cause death.
Birthmarks are not dangerous
The "cure" was an incision to stop the birthmark's movement, Kupelo explained.
"We are urging people to stop the practice. A birth mark does not kill. It is a myth that is being motivated by greed," he said.
The first consultation for the procedure costs R200 and the follow-up R100. The dangers to infants included HIV/Aids, other infections, dehydration while fighting an infection, and possibly death.
He said 13 infant deaths in the province last year were linked to traditional incisions.
"A baby at that age is very vulnerable. To put that into the bloodstream of an infant may result in various medical complications. We urge people to stop the practice."
Mothers should rather take their babies to clinics if they had concerns, and attend ante-natal clinics for monitoring before their baby's birth.