Each year approximately 130 million babies will be born; and wherever you welcome a baby into the world, comes a lot of cultural traditions, superstitions and customs.
Some babies will be born via planned C-sections on the 25th floor of a hospital and others will be born in the kitchen of their future home. Some babies will get dunked in freezing cold water, some will have their heads shaved and others will have their ears pierced. One thing we can always count on is that birth will never be boring and neither will the traditions! Continue reading for pregnancy and birth rituals around the world.
In rural Indonesia women give birth with the assistance of a Paraji. Paraji’s live in most villages and are interwoven into the fabric of the Indonesian culture. Beyond serving as a birth guide and expert, they are the go to resource for remedies maternity related. For example, if the new mom has a headache, the local paraji can whip something up to fix her right up!
In Bali, a newborn is not allowed to touch their feet to the ground until 105 days after birth. This practice is taken from Hinduism; making sure baby’s spirit is kept intact. Newborns are thought to still be a part of the spirit world and are treated like little gods. When they fully join the earthly realm a feast is held, where the parents are purified, the baby’s head is shaved, and a naming ceremony takes place.
In Zimbabwe, weeks before their due date, expecting mothers go home to their family. It’s here that they’re loved and supported during the final tired and drawn-out weeks. Traditionally they’re fed local concoctions derived from bark and herbs. This steady diet will help fortify and purify her in preparation for the upcoming birth. After the baby arrives she will continue to stay with her family for several more months. The last ritual is guided by the grandparents, who bury the umbilical cord near their village or family home.
In China Pregnant women are supposed to steer clear of eating rabbit or the baby will be born with a cleft palette. Shrimp is also forbidden or else the child will have bad skin, and spicy food will make your baby ill tempered.
There are ancient texts going back 2000 years that refer to ‘zuo yuezi’ or ‘sitting of the month,’ which is a very strict set of postpartum instructions. Women are not allowed to leave the house or bathe; they must stay in bed for the first few weeks and keep warm at all times. While their diet is composed of a very tight regimen of healthy, but bland foods (mostly soups that are made with lots of protein and organ meats.) Visitors are severely limited and moms are not allowed to carry the baby, climb stairs or clean. Postpartum centers are springing up all over the China, where new moms now have the opportunity to spend their 30 days in 5-star luxury attended by nurses, baby experts, chefs and assistants.
Native American traditions around pregnancy are quite diverse. The Navajo Tribe requires both parents to wash their hands and feet each day of a nine day festival. The expecting mother is given special foods, gifts and ceremonially cleansed. The Hopi Tribe has a twenty day postpartum lie-in (during which their home was kept very dark) that is culminated with a feast and naming ceremony on the nineteenth day.
Pregnant Cherokee women are believed to be so powerful, that even their touch is thought to be a direct line of strong energy. During labor a female family member tells the baby scary stories to frighten them out of the womb. Most tribes believe in drinking teas made from a variety of herbs and plants to speed up or slow down labor, these included: rose hips, raspberry leaves, or wild cherry.
In Russia a mother is given a birth certificate at 30 weeks, this is in essence her ticket to have her baby at any public hospital for free. One of the more interesting trends that some Russian women have been stepping into lately is sea births. These take water birthing to an entirely different level. Forget a warm tub in a heated room, sea birth is giving birth IN the actual open sea!
Russian mothers will most likely be advised by her babushka (mother or grandmother) not to cut her hair for fear of a premature birth and to resist raising her hands above her head, to keep from wrapping the cord around the baby’s neck. Breastfeeding until six months is common and grandparents are typically very involved.
Dutch prenatal care starts with a midwife as the primary point of contact. Home-birth is fairly common compared to other industrialized nations, and all women have the services of a ‘kraamverzorgster,’ who is there to provide postpartum support. She will often cook, clean, tend to the family and the baby if needs be, and just generally get the family off to a good restful start.
The Dutch celebrate a birth by passing out treats known as ‘beschuit met muisjes,’ which are a crispy dry biscuits topped with butter and colored sugar coated anise seeds (blue for a boy and pink for a girl). Families will announce the birth of their baby by putting storks up on their lawn or in their windows.