New Beginnings Doula Training

New Beginnings Doula Training
Courses for doulas and online childbirth education

Friday, May 13, 2011

Culture Competency-Chinese Birth Customs

As a part of my course, I needed to do what is called a cultural assessment.  I'm just sharing a part of it that came from a friend of mine that is Chinese.  I'm just including the answers that are different from the dominant culture.

Ice in water pitcher or mug? Ice in a mug (but most Asian people will prefer room temp and probably in a water pitcher).

Prohibited foods: Specifically after giving birth I think you're suppose to avoid spicy foods and things cooked with sesame oil.

What healthcare/folk medicine practices will you/do you follow related to after birth or newborn care?

Ever heard of the Chinese month long ritual after birth? The theory is that after giving birth all the pores in the mother's body is wide open and very suspectible to toxins. You're suppose to avoid the outdoors, takes ginger baths (a bath with sliced ginger in the water), not wash your hair often, drink lots of chicken soup to help with your breast milk. The mother is suppose to take it easy the first month while the rest of the family helps with the household duties and takes care of the newborn. There are Chinese birthing centers in California that specifically provide these type of services for the mother and newborn.

"After delivery, Chinese women "sit the month."  The first month is considered an intense healing time for new mother. She is freed from household duties and sits in her bed alone to look after her new infant. In strict households, even the husband stays away. Chinese mothers may fill a baby's pillow with rice or beans to give the baby's head a proper shape. And to encourage a strong step, Chinese mothers once bound their child's ankles loosely with a wide ribbon to keep the feet in an upright positions. Ancient Chinese once believed demons used small children to reinforce the foundations of bridges. As an antidote, mothers and fathers made arrows from the wood of a peach tree to place near the cradle. Parents also tied golden bells tied on the child's wrists and ankles to keep away the bad spirits. In Southern China, a charm is pinned onto a pair of the father's trousers and place near the child's bed in hopes that the spirits will be attracted by the charm and miss the child. It was also believed that nervous children could see the evil spirits unseen by everyone else. To protect these children, Chinese mothers placed small amounts of vermilion in red pouches and pinned them to the child's clothing. For a rich, healthy life, the Chinese will also tie coins together with a red strings for their children to wear. When a baby is born frail, the parents may ask friends for bits of cloth to sew into a patchwork coat to disguise the child as a poor beggar and trick the sprits. During times of epidemic or contagious illness, mothers protected their children by stitching red cloth in their clothing. And since tigers are consider the protector against demons, many Chinese boys will have embroidered tigers on their shoes. "

"Childbirth in Chinese Culture
Guest Author - Caroline Baker

As in most cultures, having a child is an important social and family event. The Chinese culture is rich in various rituals and beliefs around this important time of any family's life. One of the most commonly followed practices is the one-month isolation of mother and child immediately after birth.

Once the mother has given birth, the health of the child and mother are at the most delicate state of their lives. Many women in olden days would lose their lives to childbirth and many child died during this critical time… in all cultures. Thus for the Chinese, this became a period of careful monitoring and care.

During the month after the child is born, the mother would often remain in bed or at least confined to the house. She would be given many rich foods, like pork and eggs. These high iron and protein foods would help her replenish the blood she had lost. And consumption of foods like liver would help to cleanse the body of any remnants of the birth.

For the baby, this is a time not only to bond with the mother but also to be protected from many of the viruses outside. Even in today's busy world, the first month of a child's life is the most critical. Their immune system has yet to kick in and even a simple cold could kill them.

After the month has lapsed, the main dangers have passed and mother and child can come to the public. This is often culminated with a celebration of the child's birth and a formal introduction to the child's extended family for the first time.

In today's busy world, few women still follow this tradition. Most must return to work as quickly as possible to help support their families. And modern medicines and vaccinations help to keep the babies healthier.

Still, the beliefs around this one month period persist. Some Chinese women still eat certain foods after birth to help cleanse and strengthen their bodies. And it is not uncommon to have a celebration at the one-month-old birthday of the child.

In fact, with people's busy schedules today, the one-month-old birthday is the prefect time these days to celebrate the birth of a child. The parents are mostly over their initial shock and the baby is finally starting to settle into a routine. And this special event in any family's life is one that is rich in customs and traditions."

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Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.