Mothering the Mother


Mother and baby in Zimbabwe
Thomas Lumpkin/CIMMYT, via Flickr

How does your community welcome a new baby? Adam Navis and Liz Waid look at traditions women and communities perform after a woman has a baby.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Adam Navis.

Voice 2

And I'm Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

During nine long months a mother grows a baby inside her. She shares the news of the coming baby with people around her. She prepares a place for the baby in her home. She takes special care of her body as a growing place for the baby.

Voice 2

Now, it is time for the baby to be born. The mother may labor a long time, feeling extreme pain. But finally, her hard work produces a small miracle. The new baby lets out a cry. The mother is extremely tired, but her baby is now here.

Voice 1

In the next few weeks and months the parents of this baby will have a new job - especially the mother. In today's Spotlight program we look at postpartum traditions from around the world. These are traditions women and communities perform after a woman has a baby.

Voice 2

A new mother has many important responsibilities. She is responsible for taking care of this helpless baby. She will make sure the baby is clean, and that he has enough food to eat. She will make sure he is warm and that he receives love. These things may sound simple. But the mother is tired. Her body has changed. It has grown another person! And she will still need to feed the baby every two or three hours. She will need to learn how to answer the baby's cries.

Voice 1

All these things can be difficult for a new mother to learn. She may feel that she has no power. She may feel as if she needs help. But many traditions around the world encourage help for the mother.

Voice 2

Many postpartum traditions recognize that labor is difficult work. They encourage the mother to take time to recover from the work of birth. Usually this means that the community around a mother helps her. In these kinds of traditions, the mother is kept away from other people for a period of time. This period can be as short as three days. Or, it can be as long as 40 days or more!

Voice 1

A popular tradition in Latin America is called "la cuarentena." In English, this means "quarantine" or the act of being kept apart from other people. La cuarentena lasts for 40 days. During this time, the mother has two jobs. First, she must rest from her labor and let her body heal. And second, she must be with her baby.

Voice 2

Female family members help the new mother so she can concentrate on resting. During this time the mother's body is considered to be open or weak. She must not have sex during this period. She must cover her head and neck with special clothes. And she puts a cloth closely around her stomach. It is called a "faja." She also may stop washing her hair.

Voice 1

Many women believe that following this tradition is important. They believe that if they do, they will have good health when they are older. But, if they do not follow these rules they may have many problems.

Voice 2

In the Punjab region between Pakistan and India new mothers and their babies stay separate from other people for five days after birth. This is said to help with breastfeeding. There is also a "stepping out" ceremony. This ceremony involves the woman who helped the mother give birth. This woman bathes the new mother and washes her hair. Then the mother eats a special meal.

Voice 1

In Somalia, a mother also stays in her house for 40 days. This time is called "afantanbah." Female relatives and neighbors help her. During this time a new mother does not do anything. She does not do housework or other work. The only things she has to think about are keeping herself clean and breastfeeding her baby. During this time the mother and baby wear special jewellery. They burn good smelling incense. This protects the mother and baby from sickness and bad thoughts. After afantanbah is over, there is a celebration. Then there is a naming ceremony for the baby.

Voice 2

Other cultures believe that it is important for a new mother to keep a balance in her body. For example, there is a balance between hot and cold. Blood is usually considered a "hot" element. When a baby is born, the mother often loses a lot of blood. So, it is believed that she is in a "cold" state. She needs to add more warmth.

Voice 1

In Guatemala new mothers sit in a hot water bath. These baths keep the woman warm. And it is said that baths are good for breastfeeding. They help to increase the flow of the milk, lower the milk into the breasts, and to prevent the milk from becoming too cold for the baby to eat.

Voice 2

In China, new mothers "do the month." During this time, they rest at home for 30 days. A woman's mother or her husband's mother will take care of her. During this time, the mother also works to bring back the balance between yin and yang in her body. They believe giving birth ruins this balance. So the mother must bring the balance back by eating yang foods like chicken, ginger, or eggs. Foods like bamboo shoots, turnips and cold water are all yin. They are not permitted.

Voice 1

In Tanzania, the Chagga people celebrate the new place a woman has as a mother. When the baby is three months old, the mother shaves her head. She cuts off all of her hair. She wears a beautiful beaded head covering. She comes out of her home and walks through the streets to the market. This is the first time the baby is in public. As the mother and baby pass, people sing songs to them. They are songs like those sung to people returning from battle. The mother and baby have survived weeks of danger. Now the baby is ready to learn about the world outside.

Voice 2

Having a baby is an important time for everyone in a family. It is a celebration of new life! All of these ways of caring for a new mother are a little different. But they all have the same goal. They want to help, guide, and take care of a new mother. When a mother is healthy, there is a greater chance for her baby to be healthy. When a mother does not have support and care, there is a negative effect on everyone. How does your community care for new mothers? Are there particular traditions that people in your community follow? Write to us and tell us! Our email address is radio@radioenglish.net.

Voice 1

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. The voices were from the United States. You can hear this program again, and read it on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called "Mothering the Mother."

Voice 2

You can also find us on Facebook. Just search for Spotlight radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What special traditions are in your country for new mothers?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
prince of persia
said on June 03, 2011

Hello
In my country when a woman is going to give birth it’s tradition that woman’s mother should take care of her and her baby.it almost lasts for one week .During this time ,her mother cleans the house ,takes care of baby and mother till mother recover again.Also family relatives come to say congratulate to them .

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Johanna Castillo
said on August 26, 2013

Hello!
first of all I want to congratulate for your program! because it is a important help for me .
In my country there’s not significant traditions that branded our culture about the   postpartum even there’s not exist important traditions during the pregnancy, like other countries apart from the commons .

I´m not very sure because in Ecuador exist ethnicities that I dont know..
And for these reason I think that the traditions that mentioned here into the program are awesome and soo strange for me !!

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vivianhuang
said on August 27, 2013

I am glad to read this program,because I am a new mother and I would love to share that special time to you.
I am a chinese woman.So we have one month long time to stay at home.It is so called “do the month”.But some places will even have a longer time such as 42 days or 100 days.During that time,the new mother is not permitted to do any housework and go outside.Just like a queen.
The new mother is suggested to lay on the bed as long as you can.You’d better not sit for a long time because it is not good for your waist.Your mother will tell you if you sit too much.Your waist will be pain after you are old.
In my community,you can not take a bath and wash your hair during that special period.You must not use cold water to wash your hands as well.But some other community is okay.So it depends on your community traditions.

The only job for the new mother is taking good care of the newborn baby and yourself.Yes,you can not drink any cold drinking and eat any cold food.Just as the passage said.
Those are only a part of our community taboos.

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Dela
said on August 30, 2013

Each community has a different size of customs during the pregnancy, birth and mothering. It’s very interesting to know more details about this theme.
Thanks for the excellent topic!

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Dela
said on August 30, 2013

Evidently, the communities around the world adhere to old traditions during the first days of mothering. In general terms, a main goal should be taking care of a mother and a born baby to keep their health and the safety too. A new mother also must afford enough of rest after the childbirth. The mother’s family really can help woman to feel good.
Greetings

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blue diamond
said on August 30, 2013

I’m not a mother yet :D But thanks for this program that make me understand how I was born :)
p.s: tks again!!!!!!! <3
p.p.s: for you my wonderful woman that I call “mom” : I love you :)

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Mrs. Van
said on January 19, 2015

In my country, the new mothers have some limited tradition activities after giving the baby. They also keep away the other people or outside activities within 30days. The new mothers must be kept warm your body, avoid wind and take care well by their mothers or husbands. They have celebration to cheer new baby with their relatives and thankgiving about safety delivery.

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on January 23, 2015

In Vietnam,there are more than 54 ethnics.The “KINH” ethnic has the most population and speaks Vietnamese.KINH people have normal tradition for caring new mother.After just bearing baby,new mother has to keep away other people within 1 month.She and her baby are cared carefully to keep health by their family relatives such as husband or mother.She isn’t allowed bathing cold water,contacting wind,eating yin food as vegetables,fruit,coffee like in China.
After full of a month,family hold a celebration for baby called the birthday moon to welcome new member.They cook ticky rice and sweet tea to worship ancestors to express gratitude.Their relative and friend come to join in this party with congratulation!

For other ethnics,people may be have special tradition for caring new baby.I can’t rememer all.

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QuangTrang
said on January 23, 2015

In Vietnam, the old generation, they still keep many traditions for new mother, someone keep the new mother inside the house, she do not permit take bathroom, can not eat something have spicy (e.g lemon) in a period three months. But young generation is now do not keep these things, they (new mother) can take the bathroom after one day gave birth with warm water, they can eat any things they taste good, they can go outside the house as long as they keep their body warm. Some traditions after gave birth I think it is good that is the new mother eat the leg of pig for increasing of breastfeeding.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on July 26, 2016

In my country, Yémen, the traditional of postpartum is looks like Somalia. {that back to the teachings of Islam} . The new mother stays at home for 40 days and not do anything especially at least in the beginning and in front of people!. Woman from her family help her; mam, sister or aunt… etc. during the 40 days the women of village or lane coming everyday afternoon, for some hours, for celebrate with mother and her family. There an official celebrate at 8 day and another at 40 day where mother wears a special clothes and sites in a special place.
Q: Why not tell us about the European traditional for postpartum ?
God bless you