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parenting in other cultures

(31 Posts)
stargirl30 Tue 25-Aug-09 10:28:50

Sorry - this one is not strictly about bf-ing but didn't really know where else to post and I thought someone who reads this thread might have some ideas.

I'd like to find out more about parenting in other cultures. Am thinking particularly about feeding and sleeping really.

DD (10.5 months) has always been a pretty crap sleeper but co-sleeping and feeding to sleep seem to be the best options for her at the moment. I'm quite happy doing this but obviously lots of other people in western society would not be. I'm just interested to see what the "norm" is in other cultures. Anyone know of a good website or book that I could look at?


belgo Tue 25-Aug-09 10:30:08

There's an interesting book called 'Three in a Bed' that looks at co-sleeping and different cultures.

belgo Tue 25-Aug-09 10:30:50

Author Deborah Jackson

NoHotAshes Tue 25-Aug-09 12:09:48

Have a look at Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small.

HappyChildminderBerkshire Tue 25-Aug-09 18:17:28

I'm really interested in this too. There was a sort of 12 month survey of mothers from different countries on the WHO website, but I can't find it now. They interviewed the woman regularly, asking about how they were feeding, when they would return to work, things like that. It was so interesting, and funny too how some of the questions perplexed non-Western mothers: How many times does he wake in the night? Why would I count??? The UK mother I seem to remember didn't even consider BFing and returned to work quickly, and wanted another baby right away.

belgo Tue 25-Aug-09 18:25:31

Oh yes I'm always getting that question: how many times do you bf, and how long does he go between feeds. I never have any idea of the answer!

WoTmania Tue 25-Aug-09 21:16:25

The HV last time I went asked how often DD was feeding. Erm, no idea. Also asked if (at 3 months) she was sleeping through hmm

FlamingoBingo Tue 25-Aug-09 21:17:56

Deborah Jackson, Christine Hardyment, Jean Liedloff - try those authors. And trust that instincts are usually right or we wouldn't be around today!

nicewarmslippers Wed 26-Aug-09 07:56:16

read "world of babies!"

foxytocin Wed 26-Aug-09 08:22:12

The Maya do not see parenting as something where you put your baby to bed so that you can have some adult time. So children go to bed when adults do and wake up when adults do. it means that they may take more naps during the day, right into the late evening, dozing away in adult company till bedtime. And at bedtime they bundle into the hammocks or beds with parents or older siblings.

At home I never gave a moment's thought to where we slept. Now I realise that my parents (6 children) always coslept. The baby in a hammock strung above their bed. I remember waking up in a cot in my parent's room when I was an older toddler. My mum had taken off my knickers because I had wet myself but she hadn't changed the bedding and I was in the cold wet patch. hmm

My sisters living back home also did the hammock thing for their children or brought them to bed with them.

Because most families there live in smaller houses than here, a lot of children will bedshare with their siblings right into the teen years so an older sister (teens) may be sharing with a sister close in age or an older toddler. I room shared with my younger brother off and on till I was 16 or more. He is 7 yrs younger than me. I remember one incident when he was about 10 of him jumping into bed with me during a particularly spectacular thunderstorm and the next day when he was being cheeky I asked him if he knew who was in bed with me the night before. smile

BonsoirAnna Wed 26-Aug-09 08:23:59

"The Maya do not see parenting as something where you put your baby to bed so that you can have some adult time. So children go to bed when adults do and wake up when adults do."

The Maya aren't the only ones! The adult time thing (putting children to bed at the end of the afternoon) is very British!

foxytocin Wed 26-Aug-09 08:45:47

Yes I am sure Anna. In the Spain and the Middle East I have seen children up very late enjoying the cool of the day (or night) as it was.

dorisbonkers Wed 26-Aug-09 08:45:50

I had my baby in Singapore. The prevailing Chinese culture is for very very fat male babies. My paediatrician said some mothers try their best to overfeed formula. Formula is heavily advertised and many people believe it's much better for the baby than breastmilk.

Having a docile baby is very prized also. Many Chinese parents are very strict (caning older children) and start discipline from an extremely early age.

That said, they appeared to be much less exercised with strict routine and bedtimes. You never ever saw those covered prams and would frequently see babies in foodcourts and restaurants very late at night.

I never had a clue about the British obsession with a 7pm bedtime until I moved back to London. It came as a shock -- and my friends were equally shocked I used to take my baby out to dinner with us and go to bed together at about 9-10pm.

One really nice aspect of parenting in SE Asia is how child-centered public life is. Everyone in an extended family feels responsible for that child. The phrase'he or she is good with children' doesn't exist, because it's assumed that you are.

One really horrid aspect of childrearing is the delegating of much of the care to maids. Everyone has a maid -- usually from Indonesia or the Philippines and children grow up never having made a bed/tea/sandwich and have sometimes seen their parents abuse the maid. So they consequently think it's alright. Plus, my expat friends who worked said they felt jealous of the maid's bond. I never got a maid for that reason.

My Malay friends did a lot of co-sleeping -- as late as 3 or 4. They tended to breastfeed.

foxytocin Wed 26-Aug-09 09:02:58

agree with what you said about child friendly - in the Middle East babies are welcome everywhere. dd2 got loads of adoration with m' shallah (a blessing). dd1 welcomed every where. a touching scene was at the UAE - Oman border. dd1 was on dh's shoulder in the immigration queue and 2 Emirati men in their 20's said hello to her and began to quietly play with her to relieve their boredom I suppose. It was obvious from their easy manner that they were used to it.

Also agree with the maid thing a lot of wealthy people in the ME have a 'nanny' from SE Asia for each child. DH and I also choose not to go down that avenue because the balance of power is so much in the child's hands and I would think it is too easy for children to abuse it.

flyingcloud Wed 26-Aug-09 09:07:15

Interesting thread... marking my place so I can follow.

Since living in France I have been quite shocked at the whole taking baby out for dinner thing, but my French friends are a little shocked at my baby-will-go-to-bed-at-seven-pm attitude and question how we are going to continue to lead a semblance of normal life, see other people and socialise if we maintain that attitude when baby is born (not there yet!)

I would be interested to hear your views BonsoirAnna on the differences in the cultures and what perceived parenting norms I am going to have to abandon when my little French baby is born.

funwithfondue Wed 26-Aug-09 09:23:12

I've only been in Switzerland for a few months, but have already picked up on a more flexible approach to bedtimes! DD (28 weeks) goes to sleep about 10pm, and on holiday with us last week sat up in the restaurant, in her highchair, till that time every evening.
She wasn't the only baby there napping food off her parents' dinner plates, and the Swiss were very accommodating.

Until last year we lived in Eritrea (East Africa) and similarly found co-sleeping, feeding to sleep, attachment parenting, to be the absolute norm among Eritreans. (Expats, of course, generally employ a comparitively cheap Eritrean nanny as dorisbonkers described. The nannies inevitably fell in love with their charges, and were very upset when the expat family moved on after a couple of years).

Back to attachment; the society really rallies around keeping mother and baby together, especially at the newborn stage. They have the forty-day 'lying in' period, when the new mum moves back home to her mother's house, and all of her female relatives move in too. If she has other children, they will live with her in-laws and husband for this period (usually in the same street), although they do get to visit their mummy every day. Mum and baby are not allowed to do any housework, cooking, etc, or even leave the house, for 40 days. They are to spend this time co-sleeping, bonding, establishing breastfeeding, receiving visitors (from their bed). Very strange for me the first few times I visited Eritrean friends and their newborns in their bedrooms! At the end of the 40 days is the christening, then mum and baby move back in with their husband and other children.
Co-sleeping continues until the next baby comes along I think!

As most of the country is starving, nutrition is of prime important so bf is very important. Unfortunately, some of the city-dwelling families believe formula to be better, in an aspirational way, and think spending what precious little money they have on formula shows they're doing the best for their baby. sad

Even more unfortunately, 90% of Eritrean women have undergone FGM (WHO/EU/UNFPA statistics). The government made the practice illegal last year, but no one has been prosecuted yet, and still the vast majority of little girls will have their genitals mutilated.

dorisbonkers Wed 26-Aug-09 09:46:05

oh yes, I forgot the Chinese confinement 40 period. I was regularly berated by aunties for taking my newborn out.

I must say, I've fallen into the more attached way with my daughter, but having moved back to the UK and having no family (mother not interested) I'm finding it tough. I'm on my own completely. Whereas I think AP can be much easier in an extended family culture.

This is the main reason I never judge parents who go down the routine/bedtime/CC route.

juuule Wed 26-Aug-09 09:52:44

I find the idea of a 40day confinement horrendous. Must be an idea that you have to grow up with.

However, we do seem to have evolved the late bedtime thing since our first child

WoTmania Wed 26-Aug-09 09:52:49

I think with extended family it is easier. We used to stay at my paretns a lot (DS1 was an early waker - 5am or so) my mum used to get up to DS1, bring him in to nurse then take him off again to her bad. I got sleep!

dorisbonkers Wed 26-Aug-09 10:05:46

juule - you're not even allowed to wash your hair or bath!

you have a confinement nanny do all the night feeds, make you special 'heaty' or 'non heaty' (can't remember which) foods and wines and soups.

Costs a fortune as well.

juuule Wed 26-Aug-09 10:16:02

Oh, something to be grateful for that we don't have that custom here, then.

funwithfondue Wed 26-Aug-09 11:47:26

As you'd expect, confinement is quite different in East Africa. There's no cost, no such thing as a confinement nanny: the family homes are extremely modest, most with a monthly income of around $10.

At first I thought it sounded shocking, sexist, restricting to the woman, archaic. But as time went by and I visited more friends during their lying in, I changed my mind. Houses during those 40 days felt really special. A kind of womens' oasis, full of feminine bonding, the older female members of the family rallying round the new young mum, allowing her and her baby space to get to know each other, to establish breastfeeding, to recover from labour, rest and learn from their experience.

I think it's a valuable custom, which makes the family unit (key to survival in a country without a welfare state, with a very low life expectancy) stronger and happier. After experiencing some small stresses in the first 40 days with my newborn (spent in the UK) I quite fancied it myself, but it could probably never happen in the West.

foxytocin Wed 26-Aug-09 14:28:41

In the ME both grandmothers tend to take turns helping the new mother with the house so she can bond. I know of mums living outside her home country who will have their mum come and stay for 3 months and then the MIL swaps and comes to live with her for the next 3 months. That I suppose can have its benefits and drawbacks. wink

bluebump Wed 26-Aug-09 14:38:32

This thread is great.

I recently was asked by some French friends why I had not left my DS with anyone yet (he is 12 months old), and was it some "weird parenting technique?" grin Their daughter apparently returned to work when her DCs were 8 weeks and regularly had holidays away from them at a young age too.

We spend a lot of time in Spain and love the way their whole family way of life is. We have had plenty of criticism from friends and family for not putting our DS to bed early or co-sleeping but to us it's just the way we want to do it!

weasle Wed 26-Aug-09 14:59:46

i am enjoying reading this. i often wonder about this sort of thing.

I have moved to Australia, which I presumed was very similar culture to UK. But i have found it is more family friendly, despite less-generous maternity rights.

BF is much much more common, and where i live it is the norm. very rare to see a baby given a bottle. Lots more sling use, (proper slings, not those baby bjorn ones). Fathers more involved - lots of my friends go back to work at about a year 1-2 days a week and the father drops down to 3-4 days a week work and they share looking after baby.

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