Today, we will continue the discussion on differences between the U.S. and the Middle East. However, there are many more differences in infancy than pregnancy in each region, because there is no universal way to raise a child in our world. The other major idea to keep in mind is that there is no universal religion in the U.S., while Islam holds the primary ideals for the Middle East. Islamic views are made a part of a Middle Eastern child’s life from birth.
*This is a continuation of my previous post “All About them Babies: Part 1” where I focused on pre-childbirth differences between the U.S. and the Middle East.
- Middle East: Culturally, male children are preferred
It’s important to pay attention to that first word. There are many areas of the world where male children are preferred (Middle East, China, India, etc.), but the reasons they are preferred varies greatly. Some countries hold religious reasons for why they prefer males, while others culturally and financially prefer males. In the Middle East, it is a cultural phenomena to prefer males, not a religious one. It is stated no where in the Q’uran that male children are better than female children. Religiously, they are desired equally. In the U.S., there is no cultural majority on this view. A specific gendered child is a preference that most parents have, but they’ve formed this from many of their own personal thoughts and experiences.
- Middle East: Praying the Azan into an infant’s ear right after childbirth
The Azan is the call to prayer and it is believed that if you pray this into the ear of a newborn, they will subconsciously have the attraction to the Truth and the Beauty of the Creator instilled in them. This is a Muslim tradition, and a very interesting one. As far as I know, there is no equivalent of this in the United States, and much of that has to do with the fact that there is no one universal religion in America.
- Middle East: Mothers rest for 40 days after labor
This is a tradition held in many regions of the world including Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. Mothers are expected to rest, and by rest I mean literally rest, like do nothing for 40 days. They are not supposed to clean or cook or leave the house. They are supposed to spend time with their new child, and other women in the community come in to help with the rest, including taking care of the older children. While women in the U.S. do have maternity leave, Svea Boyda-Vikander so candidly points out (in her blog “Mothering the Mother: 40 Days of Rest”) that American women often feel the need to “work out, hop back in the sack, or . . . present a perfectly made-up face to the outside community.”
- Middle East: Care after birth
Unless there is a problem with the child, in the U.S., we don’t do much to them after birth. We cut the umbilical cord, check their vitals, and eventually, send the child and mother on their way. However, in the Middle East they wrap the baby’s stomach after birth to protect from the wind and cold. It is believed that the cold air enters through a child’s stomach. They also place the baby’s head on plates and other flat surfaces to improve the shape of the baby’s head which is somewhat soft after birth.
- Middle East: Breast-feeding for two years after birth
American children are lucky if they’re breastf-ed for the recommended six month period, but Middle Eastern children are expected to be breast-fed for two years. Now, it is true that some women have other issues with breast-feeding. Producing milk or breast sensitivity can be prominent deterrents from breast-feeding for too long. Women in the Middle East face these problems as well, but because of the expectation for the breast-feeding period, another mother will step in to provide milk. Another major cultural difference is that women in the United States usually have to get back to work after a certain amount of time and they would not be able to breast-feed for two years if they’re already back at work and away from their child. To learn more about breast-feeding, go here.
Culturally and religiously, the differences are endless, but these were the prominent ones that I found during my research. It’s interesting that children are birthed all over the world, and yet, the practices during post-childbirth and infancy are so extremely personalized and distinct among varying cultures.