Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Traditions Around the World

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Becoming a mom is celebrated by cultures around the globe in numerous and intriguing ways. Discover pregnancy practices, birth customs, and baby traditions around the world. Based on the book, On Becoming a Mother, let’s explore babyhood and new motherhood from before birth through the first year of life. 

Pregnancy, birth and baby traditions around the world

Pregnancy, birth and baby traditions around the world (Photo credit: HayDmitriy, Depositphotos.com)

Global Pregnancy Customs

Pregnancy is universal, but the traditions related to expecting a baby vary greatly from culture to culture. In Bangladesh, for example, pregnancies aren’t announced formally until the seventh month of development. According to Shabnam Shahnaz, a Bangladeshi, “Our belief is that by this time the baby is strong and will survive any sort of ‘evil eye’; it’s also scientifically true that by this time a baby is viable and can often survive on its own if the mother gives birth early.”

I imagine many neighbors and friends have a serious hunch that someone is expecting long before the announcement since hiding a burgeoning belly by month seven could prove difficult. Personally, I could barely wait out the standard American 12-week tradition to announce my two pregnancies — I was too excited to keep the good news to myself!

Birth traditions around the world vary greatly

Birth traditions around the world vary greatly (Photo credit: Anna_Bortnikova, Depositphotos.com)

Childbirth Traditions

Midwife Suzanne Stalls tells a childbirth story about a Mexican woman who gave birth in New Mexico. Stalls said, “A lively, funny person by nature, she walked and walked around the room quite seriously, until she was ready to give birth. With every contraction, she would put her arms around her husband, hugging him so tightly, and she would murmur endearments in his ear: ‘Mi querida, mi amor, mi vida’ (my dear, my love, my life).”

I wish I could say I whispered sweet nothings to my husband during labor. But I was more stoic and silent throughout the process. Meanwhile, when another laboring woman in the hospital started crying and shouting in pain, I started crying too because she sounded so distressed. My husband found this amusing since I had been in labor for 40+ hours with zero sleep by that point!

Moms all around the world share a love of their children

Moms all around the world share a love of their children (Photo credit: serezniy, Depositphotos.com)

Post-Birth Practices

One intriguing post-birth tradition in On Becoming a Mother takes place in Vietnam. There, families sometimes give babies a repulsive name for their first month of life, like “rat” or “ugly.” This wards off evil spirits. A half-Vietnamese grandmother explained, “We believe in waiting until 30 days after the birth for any celebrations. In our tradition, we believe that the unborn child has a guardian angel, who is the previous mother of the child. If we celebrate the pregnancy publicly, the spirit of the previous parent might come and reclaim her child — so that the new mother loses her baby!”

Doljanchi celebration of the first birthday in Korean culture

Doljanchi celebration of the first birthday in Korean culture (Photo credit: sayfutdinov, Depositphotos.com)

Baby Traditions Around the World

Many baby traditions around the world involve protecting the child from harm. In Northern Spain, for example, babies are placed on mattresses for El Salto del Colacho (meaning the Devil’s Jump). Someone dressed as the devil jumps over the baby to cleanse the new child’s soul.

Other baby traditions prepare young children for their futures. In Korea, Doljanchi is a celebration of a child’s first 100 days of life. The baby is presented with a variety of objects, all within reach. Whichever item the baby selects foretells the child’s future. For example, if a coin is chosen, a life of wealth will follow. Or, if the baby chooses a pencil, a life of scholarship is predicted.

Instead of following the Western tradition of throwing a big first birthday party for either of our kids, my husband and I celebrated this rite of passage at Disneyland with our babies. I guess we were preparing our children for a life filled with travel and magic!

On Becoming a Mother - A Book about Pregnancy Traditions, Birth Traditions, and Baby Traditions Around the World

On Becoming a Mother (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Why Read On Becoming a Mother

Written by award-winning journalist and film maker Brigid McConville, On Becoming a Mother reminded me of the unique specialness of new motherhood. These stories sparked memories of growing a precious baby within my own body, how gently and sweetly others treated me as a mom-to-be, and how amazing it felt to first hold my babies in my arms. This book will help readers feel a part of a global community of moms around the world.

On Becoming a Mother would make a lovely Mother’s Day or baby shower gift. Pregnant mamas will enjoy armchair traveling around the globe while their bellies grow. This is the kind of book an expectant mom will want to flip through as she delights in first kicks and ultrasounds, imagining a life with her child. 

Proceeds from the book support the White Ribbon Alliance, a non-profit organization that strives to uphold the right for all women to be safe and healthy before, during, and after childbirth. Buy a copy of On Becoming a Mother now!

 

Learn More About Pregnancy and Babies

Want to travel while pregnant? Take a look at these babymoon tips for parents-to-be.

Air travel can be very stressful for new parents. Read our tips for flying with a baby or toddler.

I voraciously read every pregnancy book I could get my hands on when I was expecting my first child. After my eldest was born, I read parenting books on how to do everything from sleep training, to toilet training. In fact, this appetite to learn all I could about babies and parenting inspired me to write my own book, The Travel Mamas’ Guide on how to vacation with babies and children…and stay sane! Get your guide today.

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Traditions Around the World

Save These Baby Traditions Around the World

For future reference, save this collection of pregnancy, childbirth, and baby traditions. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

What pregnancy customs or baby traditions are part of your family? Let us know in the comments below! 

A Note from The Travel Mama: I received a copy of On Becoming a Mother for this review. After reading it, I donated the book to a local charity. All opinions are mine, as always. 

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Interesting to hear about baby traditions around the world! As an ESL teacher, I’ve heard about many of them from my students. The universal is that babies are the pride and joy of all parents, no matter the culture. 🙂

  2. This was such a great read. I always love learning about how different cultures celebrate important moments in their lives. This was really cool.

  3. Wow, what a great article about pregnancy birth baby traditions around the world. I had no idea about Vietnamese Post-Birth Practices.

  4. I think it’s fascinating that there are so many different traditions! I wish I would have seen this when I was pregnant!

  5. Yudith Napitupulu says

    In my culture also has pregnancy birth baby tradition, We will invite the close family to come, prepare some foods and all together will pray for the couple and baby.

  6. This was such a great read! Thanks for sharing all of this — I learned so much on your article today.

  7. I learned so many new things reading this blog post. Thanks for sharing x

  8. Autumn Murray says

    I loved learning about all of the baby traditions around the world. Some of these are so very sweet and thoughtful. We all should celebrate a new life coming into the world.

  9. I had no idea about so many of these traditions and after birth care! This was so interesting to read. I love how they are all different, yet still celebrate the life of the new baby.

  10. Emman Damian says

    It’s so fascinating to learn different child birth and pregnancy traditions all over the world. There’s so many to learn about it. Great resource!

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