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Giving birth around the world

How different can becoming a mum be? Find out with these weird and wonderful parenting traditions from around the world


Posted: 25 October 2010
by Kimberley Smith

Baby looking at births around the world
Worldwide, a baby is born every 5 seconds

You’d think that when it comes down to it, the experience of being pregnant, giving birth and being a mum can’t be all that different wherever you live. But actually, our traditions and beliefs, superstitions and expectations surrounding pregnancy, birth and motherhood couldn’t vary more widely.

Jumping after giving birth in Senegal

Mums giving birth in Senegal don’t expect their work to be over once the baby pops out. Research by Pampers and UNICEF “one pack = one vaccine” campaign has discovered that just after giving birth, a new mum here must perform what’s known as a rite of jumping over a fire in four different directions before she can sit down. The midwife then holds the baby out to the mum three times before she is allowed to take him. It might sound like torture, but the tradition is believed to prevent madness.

Meat for new mum in Kenya

Perhaps a more enjoyable alternative would be to give birth among the Maasai in Kenya where the other members of the tribe make a big effort to thank the new mum for going through the pains of labour. Two male sheep are killed for a huge feast and celebration - but only the women in the tribe can eat the meat. Quite right too!

Dad stands guard after birth in Indonesia

Most Indonesian women do not go out of the family compound (traditionally a cluster of homes for extended family, set among beautiful gardens) or resume their regular responsibilities until the baby is 42 days old. On the 42nd day, the baby is named and a feast is held. For the first 3 nights postpartum, a Muslim Indonesian dad must not sleep; he must guard his wife and baby.

New parents stay with the in laws in Japan

A Japanese custom states that mum and baby stay at the mum's parents for a month after leaving the hospital, or sometimes longer. The new mum stay in bed with their baby for 21 days. while friends may visit to greet the arrival and eat a celebratory meal with the family of red beans and rice, called osekihan.

Wrapping the placenta in banana leaf in Cambodia

In some places, like Mali in Africa, the placenta is thought to be linked to the moods and health of the baby and is often washed, dried, buried or burned by the father. In Cambodia the placenta is wrapped in a banana leaf and buried after three days and in some of South America and Korea the placenta is burned after birth to neutralise connections to the spirit world.


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