Dominican babies are kept indoors almost exclusively during the first few months, protecting their precious tots from sun, cloud, wind, viruses, or the evil eye. If life necessitates taking a babe outside, he’s always fully covered to protect him from the elements, normal or paranormal.
When Swedish parents have a fussy, over-tired, sleep-resisting baby, they use the ultimate weapon: “buffing.” Parents lie their baby on his bed, stomach down (many use a baby-sized apnea sensor for safety) and then “buff” the baby’s bottom, patting it firmly in a rhythmic motion until the child drifts off to sleep. The rhythmic bum patting is thought to mirror in utero movement and provide a sense of security and safety, which allows the baby to sleep the whole night through.
Serbian babies spend a lot of time on their backs. According to folk wisdom, placing a baby younger than six months in a seated position will harm her hips. In fact, all across the former Yugoslavia, you can spot infants in hip braces preventing them from moving into a seated position.
After delivering their babies, South Korean women eat endless bowls of miyeok guk, or seaweed soup. Seaweed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. High in calcium and iodine, the dish is believed to be essential for restoring the postpartum body to full health, and it’s said to help stimulate milk production. It is often eaten on the anniversary of a child’s birth as a sweet (or salty?) reminder of his very first day.
Chinese parents are the true originators of the diaper-free baby trend. When babies are just a few weeks old, mothers hold their babies above the commode and teach them to do their business on command. Sensitive to tiny bladders and the need to rush when it’s “go time,” Chinese moms dress their tots in split-crotch pants, even when on the go. Pee-pee emergencies can be handled swiftly as the mother holds the child in a squatting position, with no need for unbuttoning, unzipping, or un-tucking.
New mothers must complete a month-long confinement period. If the new mom’s own mother is unavailable, she might hire a pui yuet, or confinement lady, who looks after everything from diaper changes to dishes. The recovering mom’s only responsibilities are eating and sleeping. Still, there are tradeoffs. It’s called confinement, after all, and a new mom must spend 30 days in a warm, dark room. Oh, and for the entirety of the month, no showers or baths are allowed as women need to prevent feeling chilled so soon after having a baby.
After delivering her baby, a new mother undergoes a pantang, or confinement period lasting about 44 days. Designed to preserve the health and femininity of the mother, there’s lots of pampering involved. Hot stone massages cleanse the womb. There’s the lulur, a full-body exfoliation treatment that is said to smooth, soften, and lighten the skin, and chase away the postpartum uglies. And finally, some women hire a bidan, or postnatal attendant who cares for the new mother and administers therapeutic massages. All I can say is that if I get knocked up again, I’m moving to Malaysia!
Mayan women traditionally bathe their babies in frigid water believing that cold baths calm heat rash and promote restful sleep. Unperturbed by the infant objections, Mayan moms expect babies to scream in the bath.
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