Nurturing Traditions




When you think of childbirth, what comes to mind? A big splash of water, rushing to the hospital, and lots of screaming? You aren’t alone!

As a doula, part of my job is to share a more realistic understanding of childbirth. For instance, only 15% of labors begin with waters breaking. And while childbirth is indeed an extraordinary event, hundreds of babies are born every minute. Read on to learn about birth traditions practiced across the planet.


Birth in Bali is seen as a rebirth or reincarnation, as the majority of the population is Hindu. Newborns are considered holy and are thus protected by a team of spirits. As a baby’s soul transitions to the Earthly plane, its feet are forbidden to touch the ground for the first 105 days of life.

On the 105th day, the family gathers to celebrate Nyabutan, a ceremony to thank the spirits for protecting the baby. Offerings are made, the infant is blessed by a priest, and then touches the earth for the first time.


The Colombian tradition called Cuarentena is based on the belief that a new mother’s body is vulnerable, “open,” and needs to be protected as it heals. After birth, a big support system of women take care of mother and newborn. The team changes diapers, cleans the house, cooks special meals, prepares herbal baths, holds the baby while mom naps, and makes sure mom is comfy cozy.

Mothers are encouraged to relax in bed the first week postpartum and begin to leave the house for brief periods after 30 days. At 40 days, they are ready to be out in world.


The First Nation women in this part of the world are cared for by a midwife throughout their pregnancy. Childbirth is a calm and relatively peaceful experience. Local midwives even whisper all of their directions during labor!


Stemming from an ancient Buddhist belief that labor pains must be endured as a test to prepare for motherhood, most Japanese women aim to deliver without painkillers, including epidurals. After the baby is born, the new mom traditionally rests in bed for 21 days at her parents’ home while family members take care of chores.

In Japan, loud, crying babies are believed to be healthier and thus grow faster. The Japanese even have crying contests, known as nakizumo, where the loudest baby is crowned victor!


After a baby is born, the placenta and umbilical cord are saved and planted in a sacred location by the parents. Family or friends bring a tree to mark the spot. As the child grows up, he or she will be charged with taking care of the tree—an innovative lesson in responsibility.


Rebozo is a traditional Mexican shawl, about four or five feet long, that is used during labor and is facilitated by a birth partner. This technique has been passed down through generations and can be used in many ways. For example, a rebozo is used to relax the pelvic muscles and to support the weight of the birthing person during labor.


In Vietnam, babies are potty trained from birth and are expected to be diaper-free by the time they are 9 months old! The tradition is called “Pavlovian Potty-training.” Parents and grandparents learn the baby’s unique bathroom cues and make a whistling sound when the cues are observed. By 3 months, parents prop their babies on the potty, whistle, and watch their little ones go on command!