A World of Babies

A World of Babies

Finally we have “manuals on child rearing” from other cultural perspectives. A new book, by Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb is a collection of such manuals. The authors of the different chapters of this book, A World of Babies. Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies, Cambridge University Press 2000; present a number of prescriptions on the care of the pregnant woman, for delivery, and for care of the newborn baby. Also, they have a lot of material on the health beliefs and cultural practices, rituals and their rationale taking the perspective of members from those specific cultural groups. One surprise is that there is a section dedicated to “Puritan practices”, where the researcher wrote down what the immigrants from England to New England would have prescribed for child care, dealing also with the work ethics and the strict moral principles that still resonate strongly in the US. There is a section that is illuminating about some Islamic practices in Turkey, one from an African group and one from Polynesia as well. In the section on a Turkish village, for instance, the reader would learn what swaddling the baby means. Beyond purely having the child not startle himself (or herself) with hand movements, the idea is that the baby is “spoken for” as he or she is carefully covered. It is a way of manifesting love for the baby, and that the baby is “covered by care”. In their culture, very valuable things or symbols are carefully wrapped or covered, as they are objects of desire. Also, a blue bed is attached to avoid the effects of the evil eye.

Every chapter is written “from inside” that culture and giving prescriptions and advice as it were self-evident that this is the way to do things. People will surely enjoy reading the different perspectives, as the book is very well written and fun.

Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb: A World of Babies. Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies, Cambridge University Press 2000.