Ever wondered what it might be like to have a baby some place other than the United States of America? For some people, the thought of having a baby abroad is downright frightening, but contrary to popular belief there are some pretty cool places around the globe to labor and deliver. The experience of pregnancy and the birth is already unique to every mother and child but when people also consider the different customs that apply to different places around the world, the whole process can look bizarrely different.
Nothing can change the way babies “come to be”, the birds and the bees all fly in the same direction, no matter where a person lives. Nothing can change the point of pregnancy and labor and delivery because everyone is hopeful for the same end result; happy healthy baby and happy healthy mom. Beyond those similarities, the sky is truly the limit.
Here in the good old U.S. of A., we consider it trendy to keep the babies sex and name a secret until birth. There are places in this world where the baby does not receive its name until several days after its birth. In America, we pride ourselves on the huge baby showers and the overhaul of baby gear swag, while in some parts of the world the mother simply receives a small cardboard box filled with baby essentials, and the baby then sleeps in the box!
What may seem flat out wacky to some, is a touchingly beautiful part of life for another. So, buckle in and take a trip around the globe because here are 7 unbelievably beautifully and 8 downright bizarre baby customs you may or may never want to try.
15 Ice, Ice, Baby - Guatemala
This might be considered a bit cold hearted (pun intended), but some mothers in Guatemala, and other parts of central America dunk their babies into ice cold water. Since Central America is a sizzling hot place to live and many people living there are familiar with heat rash. Heat rash is an itchy and annoying skin condition where blocked sweat ducts and sweat trapped beneath the skin cause a red rash with blisters.
To prevent infants and babies from getting this condition, some moms choose to dunk their little ones into extremely cold water. This can happen as early as a week or two after birth. This ancient tradition is said to be from the Mayan civilization and done to help the babies become stronger people not bothered by pesky things like heat rash and heat stroke. The babies scream during this process, but it doesn’t seem to bother the moms much. Rumor has it that it also helps the baby to sleep.
14 New Mommy Quarantine "La Cuarentena" - Mexico
La Cuarentena translates to the quarantine in English. However, this is the type of quarantine most new moms would dream of for themselves. In Mexico and many other Latin countries around the world, shortly after a woman gives birth she enters la Cuarentena. During La Cuarentena, which can last for 40 days or six weeks, she is to do nothing but care for her new baby. Everyone else in her family is to take care of the cleaning, cooking, caring for other children, and anything else a person could imagine.
The new mom is to do nothing, not a single thing, other than rest, eat, and care for her newborn child. This time holds strong traditional beliefs that in order for the new mom to be successful as a mother, she needs rest after the long pregnancy and the hard work of delivery. This probably sounds like heaven to American mommies.
13 Flying Solo - Nigeria
In Nigeria, the seventh largest country in the world, an estimated 1 in 5 women give birth completely alone. Since Nigeria has such a large population, that equals a very large number of women. It is mind blowing to think about a woman laboring all by herself, not to mention delivering her own baby. Labor and delivery, in most cases, is filled with anxiety and can have its share of surprises. Giving birth completely alone would scare the pants off most (if not all) American mothers.
The reason many women end up having their babies by themselves has to do with economic disparities. Women who are poor, uneducated, living in urban areas, with two or more children were the most likely to give birth alone. Often after delivery, family members will show up and help out but the mothers are expected to go through the process alone. Many Nigerian families do not believe in asking for outside help, no matter how much the mother may need it.
12 Her Very Own "Kraamhulp" - Netherlands
Well the Dutch have really outdone themselves with this one - Kraamhulp is the Dutch word for postnatal care and every new mother in the Netherlands has an opportunity to have this service provided for them. A Kraamverzorgster, or qualified maternity nurse comes over to the home of the new mother and child to care for them for 8 to 10 days following the delivery. Believe it or not, this care system is actually included in most standard insurance packages.
The primary role of this health care provider is to ensure that the mother heals quickly and efficiently. She also helps with feeding issues whether breastfeeding or bottles and keeps the areas that the mom and baby are in clean and sanitary. In some cases, she may cook for the family, but all these things are discussed before the end of the pregnancy. This angel of a helper also keeps in touch with the doctor or midwife should any issues arise with the baby or mother.
11 The Dai (Or "Dirty" Midwife) - Pakistan
In some parts of Pakistan, childbirth is widely considered to be an extremely dirty and even disgusting experience. Since childbirth is thought to be unclean by large parts of certain cultures, some women are required to deliver their babies in building separate and isolated from anything else. This building is known as the Bash Leni. The women give birth completely separate from their families to protect them from becoming unclean. This system also lets the men folk completely off the hook and they do not have to help at all.
The Dai is a woman, sort of like a midwife, who assists in the childbirths of the community. The difference between the Dai, is that she is seen as being unclean because of the work she performs and can even be an outcast in the community. In some parts of Pakistan, only menstruating women can assist in the “dirty” delivery because they are considered “dirty” too.
10 “You’re Not Fired!” - Germany
Germany has a lot of cool things to consider when pertaining to pregnant women. One of the top ones on the list is that once a woman notifies her employer that she is pregnant, she cannot be fired! Rumor has it that during times of economic downturn being pregnant has saved many a German woman her job. Another wonderful perk of being a pregnant woman living in Germany is that they are forbidden to work for the 8 weeks following the birth of a new child.
This policy insures that mom and baby have plenty of time to bond before the mom reenters the workforce should she choose to continue to work outside the home. One thing that should be mentioned, because it is kind of funny, is that new parents are required to make sure the name they choose for their child is acceptable before the name will be officially recorded for governmental purposes.
9 Pass The (Placenta) Tea Please - Jamaica
Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches and one of a kind people, and there aren’t many people on the planet that are not familiar with reggae superstar and activist Bob Marley who hails from this vacationer’s dream. However, most folks are not knowledgeable on childbirth practices concerning the placenta from some of Jamaica’s population.
Eating the placenta has become an increasingly trendy thing for new moms to do after the birth of their child, especially among US celebrities. January Jones, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Alicia Silverstone, and Tia Mowdery are a few well-known stars who are proud to admit their cannibalism trial run. In Jamaica, new moms place bits of the placental membrane into a special tea and feed it to their newborns! They do this to prevent convulsions said to be caused by ghosts.
8 Eggs, Candy, And Floured Brows - Turkey
There are usually no baby showers for many expectant moms in Turkey. They choose to do the celebrating after the baby arrives, and boy do they know how to make it last. For 20 days, family, friends, neighbors, and others come by the home of the new baby to drop off gifts and good wishes. During this friendly welcome committee type visit, many people are served a special drink called Lohusa Serbeti. It is a combination of red food coloring, sugar, spice (and everything nice). After this 20-day period, mom and baby make return visits to everyone that visited them and when they arrive at each house they receive an interesting gift.
The mom is handed a handkerchief filled with an egg and a candy. The egg symbolizes a healthy baby and the candy symbolizes a good-natured child. The baby is also doused with flour, which is rubbed into the eyebrows and the hairline, which supposedly will grant the baby a long life!
7 A Spit-y Situation - West Africa
In some communities in Africa, certain birth customs involve spit and spitting. The Wolof people of West Africa are one such group that uses saliva in this fashion. When a baby is born, it is said that an elder of the community, usually a woman at first, will come by the home of the new baby. When she arrives, she will give the infant a blessing by spitting on its face. She will also kiss the baby's face. After she leaves, the male elders will also come by and put spit into the child’s ears and rub spit on the child’s head.
In other parts of Africa, saliva is used in many ways. Goodness, can you imagine that happening to the average American family? Somebody coming by to say hello and spitting in the newborn’s face! But to this culture and these people this is a sign of goodwill. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
6 Pregnancy Restriction Lockdown - China
Some Chinese women are basically put on a sort of lock-down once they become pregnant. There are several traditional Chinese restrictions for a pregnant woman including food restrictions and behavior restrictions. Here are some of the things some women in China are forbidden to eat and why: cold foods, such as ice cream, watermelon, and even bananas because they are associated with poor circulation which is further associated with miscarriage and bleeding. “Wet-hot” foods like shrimp can produce a toxic energy and cause skin and allergic reactions in the growing fetus. Dark foods like cola, chocolate, and coffee are avoided to keep the baby’s skin tone from being too dark.
If that weren’t enough, some Chinese women are also expected to abstain from sex the entire time they are pregnant, as well as not gossip, talk in a loud voice, or even use scissors in bed. It’s all about keeping the ying and the yang in complete balance.
5 “Can’t Touch This” - Bali
No, we aren’t talking McHammer here. We are talking about how Balinese babies can’t touch the ground until they are three months old. It is believed that the babies are still connected with the spiritual world for the first few months of life, and because of this spiritual connection, their feet should not rest on Mother Earth. So, for the first 90 plus days, babies born in Bali are held by various people, mom and dad, of course, but also grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbors and other people in the community.
Everyone works together to assure the baby stays away from the “un-clean” ground until the time is right. It truly takes a village to keep this long standing custom alive. The Balinese are known for their many unique childbirth customs. They believe in delaying the umbilical cord cutting for hours and sometimes days, all in keeping with the spirit of gentle birthing practices.
4 Baby's First Bath - Nigeria
In some parts of Nigeria, the baby’s first bath is a very important tradition. When the baby is born the grandmothers, sometimes both maternal (the mother of the new mother) and the paternal (mother of the new father) will give the baby its first bath. This is a deeply rooted cultural tradition and it is the way the baby is formally welcomed into the family.
After the ceremonious bath, the grandmothers will often massage the babies with palm oil and mold the shape of the baby’s head and limbs. Many Nigerian women can recall watching their mothers bathe their children with looks of joy, pride, and gratitude as they bathed their grandchildren for the first time. It must be truly touching seeing one generation connect to the next as the tradition is carried on from one family to the next.
3 Twenty-One-Day Bed And Breakfast - Japan
In some parts of Japan, after a woman gives birth to her child she is supposed to stay in bed for 21 days and rest with the baby. This tradition is very similar to La Cuarentena, because it focuses on the need for the mother to rest after pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The big difference between this Japanese tradition and its Mexican counterpart, is that these Japanese women move in with their parents for this 21-day period. Most grown (American) women, probably can’t imagine moving back in with mom and dad, but the thought of doing it with a newborn might change some opinions.
New moms in America often complain of how tired and sleep deprived they are after having a baby, often missing meals, and not even having enough time to shower. So, maybe a three-week bedrest period might have its perks. Staying in bed for 3 weeks might be a little tough, but with a new little somebody attached on day and night, it might be nice.
2 Aqiqah (Or Sacrifice Party!) – Pakistan
Aqiqah is an Islamic term relating to the sacrifice of an animal in honor or celebration of a child’s birth. In some parts of Pakistan, when a child is one week old, the parents hold a large celebration. Aqiqah is a time for the community to welcome the newborn baby and show respect for the beauty of new life, which is considered a great blessing. Everybody is included in the “party” too. The poor are welcome to join and are offered food and drink. The child is also often given its name during this event. The only animals that can be slaughtered are goats, camels, or cows; and they must be of a certain age. The animals also must be sacrificed in a humane way. These are the same rules that apply to Qurbani, another Islamic tradition.
1 Motherly "Loving" - China
This is a tough one to read. The Manchu people, an ethnic group in China are overjoyed when a male child is born, so overjoyed in fact, that the mother of the new born baby preforms fellatio on the child. This is considered as a completely non-sexual act, and since the mother cannot kiss her child as the Manchu regard kissing as overtly sexual, this is the way she shows her love. So instead of kissing her son, she, well, you get the gist of it. It must be stated again, that the matter of things belongs to the eye of the beholder. Kissing is a shameful act to the Machu, it is only to be done between husbands and wives, and even then, should be kept in private. So, while the Machu’s form of motherly love is psych ward behavior in the United States, they probably feel the same way about Americans kissing in public over there.