Pregnancy and baby care customs around the world

by Melissa Jaramillo

Worldwide pregnancy customsEach of the over 7000 recognized languages throughout the world has its own word for mother.

While the words differ, all moms share a common desire -- to have a safe, easy pregnancy and birth a healthy child.

The customs and precautions vary from culture to culture as you cross the borders.

Read on for a look at pregnancy and baby care customs around the world -- you'll definitely learn something new! Have any you want to share? Add yours in the comments!

Pregnancy customs

Japan: Moms often receive gifts of shriasu, a tiny white fish high in calcium. During pregnancy, women take special care to increase calcium intake. The daily diet almost always includes shirasu, rice, miso and nori.

Bolivia: Women don't knit while pregnant, because they believe the umbilical cord will become wrapped around the baby's neck.

Inuit: If mothers begin a sewing or knitting, she should finish it so the labor won't be long.

China: During pregnancy, mom's mind and body strongly influence the personality and disposition of an unborn child. For this reason, Chinese women try to control their thoughts and actions, avoiding gossiping temper tantrums and hard physical labor.

Polynesia: The entire community nurtures and pampers pregnancy women throughout their pregnancy. A midwife visits regularly and offers massages.

Birth rituals

Niger: In the Moslem tradition, a woman's genitals are touched by only the husband. The midwife aids the laboring woman by offering herbal drinks to stimulate contractions, sprinkles herbs over the woman's abdomen, and recites prayers for a speedy, safe birth.

Inuit: Everyone in the household greets the newborn with a handshake, even the children.

Cambodia: The placenta is carefully wrapped in a banana tree leaf and placed beside the newborn. After three days, it's buried.

Malaysia: The bleeding postpartum woman is considered polluted and polluting and vulnerable to evil spirits. She's forbidden to leave the house or participate in cooking and cleaning.

Native American: Early American-Indians used a mixture of blue cohosh root and water to speed up delivery.

Sri Lanka: Influenced by the Buddhist belief that suffering during birth is linked to sins committed during previous lives, woman try to go through childbirth without expressing pain.

Mom and baby care

Jordan: New moms avoid cold foods and drinks after giving birth. According to traditional belief, the bones are still open. Exposure to cold could cause problems later in life, including rheumatism and arthritis.

Western Africa: Parents give their child a name referencing the day of birth. They may be named based on who was present, the weather, or anything that recalls their special day.

Mexico: A 40-day period of caring for the mother and child is considered essential to prevent diseases and complications.

Dominican Republic: Babies are kept indoors almost exclusively, protecting them from sun, cloud, wind, viruses, or the evil eye. If taken outside, the baby is fully covered to protect from the elements, normal or paranormal.

Guatemala: Mayan mothers expect babes to scream in the bath. Little wonder -- they traditionally bath their babies in frigid water, believing it calms heat rash and promotes restful sleep.

Greece: A child's birth brings great joy to the entire community. A newborn may receive customary gifts from her family and friends, including silver and gold coins or special stones to help ward off the "evil eye."

Even within the same country, different customs guide moms and moms-to-be. Have you seen special precautions and customs in your area?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.