With the arrival of a bundle of joy, we all have certain things from our childhood that we want to bestow our children; traditions and rituals that we believe will aid in their physical, emotion and spiritual growth.
Depending on where you live and what you believe, these practices can differ greatly. Something that may be completely normal to one person may appear weird, absurd or even disgusting to another.
The fragility of a baby makes many of these conventions hard to swallow. Because we are not familiar with them, they can seem harsh or perhaps even cruel. But to the parents participating, they feel that they are doing the best for their baby.
There are many customs that parents do with babies with the hopes of starting them off on the right proverbial foot. The choice is the parents’—it is up to you to make the best decision for you baby.
Maybe this list will inspire you to start a new tradition. Or perhaps it will traumatize you.
Nordic parents expose their babies to outdoors from the very beginning. The cold, clean, air is supposed to help the baby sleep and make them eat better, as well. It is also considered a preventative measure; the fresh air is thought to keep them from catching colds. Even day care centers will place the children outdoors to nap, giving them space from the other children and the cool, calming vibe of nature.
The babies spend a lot of time outside on the daily, as parents tend to park their babies on sidewalks and balconies, stepping inside various stores and cafes to relax. I’m having a hard time imagining this in the US, because someone would call CPS on you in heartbeat. But I love the idea. I may be considering the move to Sweden.
The Wolof people of Mauritania in western Africa commonly spit on their young. It is thought that saliva can retain words so when a blessing is spoken, it is also common to spit on to the baby so that the blessing sticks.
There are tribes in Nigeria that practice this spit-blessing, as well. The baby is taken to the ancestral house where a relative who specializes in storytelling chews on alligator pepper and then places it into the baby’s mouth. It is thought that the good skills of the chewer will be passed along to baby.
We all have that uncle that gets excited and spits a lot when he talks. Normally we all try to duck out of his reach. But just think, in some cultures he is consecrating an oath on you. Yummy.
10Can't Touch The Ground
In Bali, ancient customs dictate that an infant's feet should not touch the earth for first three months of it's life (or 105 days to be more exact). The belief is centered around the idea that babies are fresh from sacred realm and should be eased into the world and treated with adoration.
The infants are seen as holy visitors, and thus they should not be placed on a dirty floor. Anthropologists have found a correlation between hygiene and infant mortality rates, so this may have also helped mold the ritual. Due to the fact that many babies would succumb to death at an early age, the hope is that by treating the baby with the utmost dignity and respect that they would choose to stay on the earthly realm.
9Bathing In Frigid Cold Water
Bathing a baby can be tough; if you don’t have the temperature just right they act like you’ve placed them into a torture chamber.
However, an ice bath is thought to be a way of fighting off the heat in countries like Guatemala where the temperatures can be brutal. Mothers must worry about their babies catching heat stroke or contracting a rash, so they bath their young in frigid cold water to prevent illness.
It is not necessarily a pleasant experience for baby; they tend to scream the entire time. But mothers agree that babies sleep well after and that it is an essential deterrence to warmth. We all know that there are sometimes unpleasant duties in parenting that you have to do to maintain your child’s well-being—and compared to the havoc that a heat rash or heat stroke can cause on a newborn, a cold bath may not be worst idea.
8Baby In A Box
Have you seen the photos lately of a baby laying in a cardboard box? It has been trending on social media and in the news, and can be traced back to Finland. The idea has caught on, so much so that many other countries are considering this practice as well.
The custom started to help low-income families, and to provide them with a maternity package that would give every baby basic supplies. For over 75 years, Finland has been sending their new mothers home from the hospital with a box for sleeping and a baby starter kit that includes toys, diapers, sheets and clothes.
The box has a mattress in the bottom, which is usually baby’s first bed. No matter your social status in Finland, most babies will sleep in their box. It has four walls, can be moved easily from room to room, and is cozy so baby feels more comfortable. Another bonus—it is also significantly cheaper than a crib.
7Cake On The Baby's Forehead
Most of us have heard of the tradition of saving a piece of your wedding cake, freezing it, and eating it on your first anniversary, right? Well one Irish Christening tradition mimics that with a little bit more pizazz.
The traditional Irish wedding cake is very sweet and rich and is known as a “fertility” cake. After the wedding the couple doesn’t just save a piece—the whole top tier of their cake is preserved until the Christening of their first child. The cake is served to the guests at the reception, and they also sprinkle bits of the crumbs on their newborn’s forehead for good luck.
(Traditionally it was customary to save a bottle of champagne and open that as well, using it to wet the baby’s head. It seems the Irish are having a lot more fun at their Christenings.)
6Eating The Placenta
The baby and its placenta are both birthed together. There are many cultures that view the placenta as holy and traditional medicine recommends that the mother eat it to gain strength after birth.
There are also schools of thought that the placenta can relieve stress and help to prevent postpartum depression. This has become a new fad today, with an array of companies catering to new mom’s placenta needs. They will take the placenta for you and encapsulate it into tiny pills for you to eat after the birth of your child.
As one of my close friends put it, “I’ve heard it helps you heal quicker, so I’m willing to try just about anything.” And she did.
Science has been quietly shaking its head, unable to prove anything for or against the practice.
5Place The Baby In A Sieve And Gently Shake
While this might sound like a form of child abuse, it actually isn’t as horrific as it sounds. In Egypt, the baby is placed into a sieve during the traditional naming ceremony, Sebooh. Dressed in a white robe, the newborn is gently rolled in the sieve, which is supposed to prepare them for hardships that await him in life. The baby is then placed on a blanket, where parents will put a knife on his chest to ward off evil spirits. Guests are encouraged to scatter gifts around him; think gold and grain.
It may sound like a strange tradition, but I like to think about how Egyptians might view some of our baby customs. Take the Catholic Baptism-- I can just imagine them saying, “Wait, so you sprinkle water across a baby’s forehead and read to him (sometimes in another language) from a book? Then you name people to be his god parents in a sometimes hour-long ceremony?”
4Umbilical Cord In A Wooden Box
There are many baby items that parents love to hold on to, to treasure as a keepsake. I’ve kept special pieces of my kids’ clothing, or their first pair of shoes. In Japan, they hold on to the umbilical cord.
The umbilical cord is presented to the mothers as they leave the hospital, packaged neatly into a wooden box. Sometimes it is carefully wrapped in small kimono. The mothers cherish the cord, and will typically show it to the child as they grow older. Symbolically, the cords are thought to be linked directly to the good fortune of the baby, which is why it is treated with such love and respect.
It may seem like an odd tradition but so is holding on to baby’s first hair cut or your child’s first tooth. Us parents are a strange bunch of wackadoos.
Lest thee not judge…
The Manchu are a minority in China whose borders are loosely defined. Depending on the perspective, their region of Manchuria shifts from Northeast China to a large province between China and Russia. The Manchu commonly show their affection on a child’s genitals. The act is not meant to be sexual act. A Manchu mother will do so for her son, while girls will receive tickling. Insert the awkward emoji here.
This practice is also found in some parts of India, Thailand and Japan.
The Manchu DO believe that kissing is a sexual act. So giving your child a kiss on the cheek as they go out the door for school would be considered abuse towards the child. The Manchu adults would never even kiss each other in public.
2Getting The Snip
For Jewish culture, it is a no-brainer; circumcision is embedded in ritual, tradition and prayer and has been carried out for over 6,000 years. During the Jewish bris ceremony grownups sit, chat, and eat, while a professional removes the baby's foreskin. In the olden days the practitioner would suction the extra blood from the wound by mouth, believing that this was the most hygienic route. (This is generally not practiced today.)
Those who oppose circumcision say that it is a form of genital mutilation. Many think that the foreskin actually protects from various STDs and STI's but the results vary. There are several studies that do credit the foreskin with warding off the transmission of the HIV virus. (It should be pointed out that these studies dealt with male-to-female transmission and in places like the United States, most cases of HIV are within male-to-male couplings.)
1Piercing The Ears
BLING! Ear piercing is an ancient tradition and one of the oldest forms of body modifications. It is common-place for adults, but in many parts of the world it is also a conventional practice to perform on babies.
The parent message boards are filled with heated debates over the issue; some parents reason that the newborn will not feel the pain. Moreover, in Latin countries it is a cultural tradition of great importance.
Critics of the act argue that the baby’s immune system is still developing and that a piercing leaves them open to infection. Furthermore, opponents cite that it should be the child’s choice whether they get bejeweled and should be something that they can elect to get done when they are mature and can take care of the wound themselves.
Sources: Listverse, Oddee, Classroom Synonym, BBC, Wikipedia, NYMag
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