What if you come from rural Mexico where your mother gave birth to you with a midwife and breastfeeding was so obvious and commonplace you never even thought about it…and you find yourself in a culture where births are in high-tech hospitals and babies are whisked away from you to be washed, eye-dropped, and wrapped like a Christmas gift…
What if you grew up in Japan where you and your parents shared the same bed and later the same room, as did everyone else you knew…and you find yourself in a country where the newspapers are full of articles about the dangers of sharing a bed, or you find yourself in a baby group where parents talk in shrill tones about why their baby STILL cries itself to sleep in another room...
What if you grew up in the U.S. where children are assumed to be special individuals with unique gifts just waiting to be discovered…and you find yourself in a place where children are expected to downplay their talents, and if at all, to practice them in the background and NOT shine within the group...
What if you grew up in a Middle Eastern Neighborhood where modesty and family loyalty were defining values…and you find yourself raising teenagers in a place where teen sex, alcohol, drugs and gang violence is commonplace...
Motherlands in November
What Babies Want - an exploration of the consciousness of infantsSometimes we come upon resources that have been around a few years. Even if you are a technology sceptic, you have to admit this is a great advantage of the Internet. As our interests change over the years, we can turn to information online. Articles can be recycled, and sources re-discovered. I came upon this 2004 film the other day while researching something for a class I teach, and loved the film so much I watched every section without halting. The editorial frame was too saccharine for my taste, and I skipped some parts, but the interviews with well-known scholars - Joseph Chilton-Pierce among others - made me thirsty for more.
Vietnam, is someone making money off of mothers' fears? - ultrasound proliferation
Obstetrical ultrasound technology as a revenue-generating service has become so widespread in the Vietnamese capital city that women now adopt this 'new' technology at high rates even though they express great cultural mistrust of the process. Tine Gammeltoft's ethnographic study found women used ultrasound not to bond emotionally with the baby as in industrialized countries, but as an oft-repeated cold diagnostic test aimed to detect fetal abnormalities. Ultrasound testing was loaded with anxieties which mirrored a high level of fantasized fear surrounding pregnancy conveyed by neighbors and friends. For example, having a soar throat or stuffed nose in early pregnancy was often accompanied by finger-wagging stories that this would result in a handicapped child. Women turned to technology for reassurance, although the study shows the fantasized fears continued even after a 'positive' scan, leading to a new scan a few weeks later to reassure the mother yet again. Hanoi doctors' offices advertise with ultrasound pictures and in-and-out practices alter their hours of operation to between 5pm and 10 pm so that women can "stop by for an ultrasound on their way home from work". Averaging $1.30 for a regular scan up to $20 for a 4-D scan, this is affordable for many women. Although the safety of repeated use of obstetrical ultrasound imaging remains uncertain, ultrasound use in pregnancy since 2005 has become a signifier of modernity that runs hand-in-hand with three market occurrences: 1) Health care reforms and struggles to earn a decent living lead physicians to turn to the 'easy' money of ultrasound pictures. 2) A government-initiated 2-child 'happy family' advertising campaign has contributed to declining fertility rates over the past 20 years, though the preference remains for boy children. There is some speculation that ultrasound may be used prior to sex-selective abortions. 3) Consumer goods, such as baby-care products and electronics, now fill Hanoi store shelves. Glossy magazines sell "the idealized two-child happy, healthy, wealthy family." Yet, pregnancy in the capital is embedded in fear and stories 'gone bad'. [view source]
Gammeltoft, Tine, "Sonography and Sociality: Obstetrical Ultrasound Imaging in Urban Vietnam," Medical Anthropology Quarterly, vol. 21. Issue 2. June 2007, pp. 133-153
On Little Girls and Body Image
by Emily L. Hauser
"'Do you think I'll ever be skinny?' she asked in that same car ride.
No, honey, no. I do not think you will ever be skinny. . . . She is 10. She is healthy. She is strong. She is wicked smart. And she sat in my car, weeping about her body." read more, Huffington Post, The Blog
What do Beng mothers do when healthy babies just won't stop crying?
Anthropologist Alma Gottlieb conjectures how a Beng grandmother and an older spiritual advisor would handle a mother's report that her baby will not stop crying. Both assume the baby is crying for a reason, and to take this seriously. The grandmother gives biologically-based, practical advice, such as to give kami, a little bit of water. She also advises carrying the baby on the mother's back to lull him or her to sleep. If the mother is tired, she should give the baby to a lƐn kūli, a baby carrier - a young girl or niece. This way the baby will either sleep on a long walk or have many short sleeps on visiting walks through the village. The spiritual advisor, differently, bases her advice on the belief that babies bring with them memories and wishes from another previous life. She suggests the mother search for an object (ie.. beads) that the baby might be yearning for. In both cases, the Beng advisors urge the mothers to take their baby's crying seriously and to spend time and effort in discovering the clue to soothing their baby. This is encouraging bonding and empathy. [View source]
Gottlieb, Alma, "Of Cowries and Crying: A Beng Guide to Managing Colic," Anthropology and Humanism, June 1995, vol. 20, issue 1, pp.20-28.
Gotta get that sleep
A recent article on children's sleep research supports the idea that children need a consistent bedtime to allow their brains to develop plasticity, but also shows the weaknesses in mainstream media's reporting on large-scale survey-based studies. "Writing in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the authors suggest that irregular bedtimes affect the brain's "plasticity", or ability to store and learn new information. "Sleep is the price we pay for plasticity on the prior day and the investment needed to allow fresh learning the next day," the authors write. "Early child development has profound influences on health and wellbeing across the life course. Therefore, reduced or disrupted sleep, especially if it occurs at key times in development, could have important impacts on health throughout life." The study draws on information in the UK Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a long-term record of UK children who are now in or approaching their early teenage years. "Parents who took part in the MCS were asked whether their children went to bed at a regular time on weekdays. Those who answered "always" or "usually" were put in the regular bedtime group in Sacker's study, while those who answered "sometimes" or "never" were put in the irregular bedtime group." There are great benefits to large-scale surveys in the ability to identify trends, but the difficulty with such surveys is the accuracy of the individual answers. Qualitative research based more on participant observation takes into account both the answers people give willingly and the actual way people live their lives. For example, the subtle differences between the "usually" and the "sometimes" answers give great room to maneuver, yet in this study would have meant being placed in two separate groups. While these considerations may be discussed in the full academic report, mainstream media passes on only the superficial conclusions. go to The Guardian
Finnish Baby Box for Every Child
"For 75 years, Finland's expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It's like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. . . . It's a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it's designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they're from, an equal start in life. The maternity package - a gift from the government - is available to all expectant mothers [who enter pre-natal care in the first trimester]." Box contents have neutral colors, no garish Superman or neon My Little Pony logos. It includes blanket, mattress, sleeping bag, snow suit (sized according to season of birth), clothes, bra pads, shampoo, mittens, book, teething toys, and even condoms! Pointedly, the contents have altered over the years to match child- and environment-friendly scientific research. Cloth diapers have now replaced disposables, bottles and pacifiers (dummies) are no longer included, to encourage breastfeeding. The box currently comes with the subtle message that babies should sleep there rather than in bed with parents, but that will probably go the way of disposable diapers, too. go to BBC
Going hands-free in the car
"My phone was put on silent while I drove. And to help control any sudden urges to check the screen, I put the phone in my purse and placed it on the floorboard of the passenger seat where it could not be reached.
Immediately the atmosphere in the car changed. With one flip of the 'off' button, I was available to the little girls sitting in the backseat of the car. The fact that they noticed and responded to my newfound availability was evident. It became clear that my children had missed their mother chatting with them, pointing to things as we drove, and asking them questions about their day. With the phone turned off and out of reach, I was back in the driver's seat of life ... literally and figuratively." go to HandsFreeMama
Ultrasound is 100 decibels for fetus
by Eugenie Samuel
"Ultrasound examinations during pregnancy expose the fetus to a sound as loud as that made by a subway train coming into a station, say US researchers. But doctors do not think the experience causes a baby any lasting harm. . . . Neither adults nor fetuses can hear ultrasound waves because they vibrate at too high a frequency for our ears to detect them. But James Greenleaf, Paul Ogburn and Mostafa Fatemi of the Mayo Foundation in Rochester, Minnesota, investigated the possibility that ultrasound could cause secondary vibrations in a woman's uterus. . . . Ultrasound machines generate sound waves in pulses lasting less than one ten thousandth of a second. Pulses are used because a continuous soundwave could generate too much heat in the tissue being examined. The Mayo team predicted that the pulsing would translate into a "tapping" effect." go to New Scientist
Mandarin and English bilingualism
by Hao Mama
"Early on, I bought and downloaded as many Chinese songs as I could, as I was (and still am) convinced that music is one of the surest and fastest ways for children to learn language. Now that my two children are comfortably fluent in Mandarin, I have tried to wean them off the CDs, which has worked without effort for my seven-year-old but not so well for my three-year-old." go to Hao Mama