Did you know that newborns in Finland head home in cardboard boxes and babies in Japan partake in crying competitions? While women worldwide may share the common experience of childbirth filled with excitement, joy, discomfort and exhaustion, the way babies are celebrated after birth varies greatly in different countries and cultures. Here are a dozen unique birth customs to explore.

Photo: Courtesy of Finnbin

1. Find the Best Freebies in Finland
With one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, the Finnish government has figured out that providing cardboard boxes, complete with soft bedding, clothing, diapers and other baby necessities has been the key. Babies have a safe place to sleep and expectant mamas are given an incentive to get prenatal care, (they have to pick up their box at their prenatal appointment). It’s a win-win for all. Wish you could have one? Move to New Jersey, the first US state to hand out free baby boxes in an effort to lower the infant mortality rate. Or, buy your own cardboard baby box from Finnbox. For $450 it’s stocked with everything from Baby’s layette to toys to must-have health items like a thermometer and nail clippers.

2. Polynesian Super First Birthday Parties
If you thought first birthday parties were getting out of control in your hometown, let us tell you that first birthday celebrations are an even bigger deal in Hawaii. In Polynesian cultures this major milestone is marked with a first birthday luau, which can include hundreds of partygoers, with attendees bringing a gift of money for the guest of honor.

3. Free Help in Holland
For the first eight to ten days after the baby is born, mothers in Holland receive “Kraamzorg,” paid for by the government. Kraamzorg is when a nurse comes to the home and helps with the baby, giving tips on breastfeeding, baby care, doing laundry, light housework and preparing meals. The care giver also helps take care of other children in the house. The goal of the care provider is to support the mom while she recovers. How amazing does that sound?

Photo: Maria del Carmen Calatrava Moreno via Flickr

4. Japanese Crying Competitions
Babies are celebrated in Japan by partaking in an event called “Nakizumo.” Babies compete against each other to see who cries first. It is believed that babies who cry a lot are healthier than those who don’t and will grow a lot faster. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “cry baby.”


5. Enjoy Solo Recovery in Malaysia
Women in Malaysia experience 44 days of confinement after they give birth. It’s called “Pantang.” While they’re in Pantang, they sit by the fire, apply hot stones and oils to their bodies and bind their bellies using “benkung.” These practices are thought to aid in the mother’s healing process.

6. More Rest for Mexican Mamas
Similar to Malaysia, women in Latin America observe “La Cuarentena.” For a period of six weeks, they are prohibited from sex, physical activity and some types of foods. Family members and friends step in to take care of the household duties and allow the mom to recover and heal without worry.

Photo: Whitney Lauren via Flickr

7. Baby’s First Head Shave in India
Hindus shave their baby’s heads at some point in the first year, believing that it removes any bad luck from a previous life. It’s also believed that shaving the head helps promote brain development. A tuft of hair is left at the front of the head to protect Baby’s memory.

8.Placenta Planting in Brunei
The umbilical cord and placenta are treated with reverence and respect in Brunei. After the birth, they are wrapped in a white sheet and buried near a tree or flowering plant by a male relative. They believe the fertility of the woman is connected to the treatment of the placenta and umbilical cord.

9. A Twist on Gift Giving in Brazil
It is customary in Brazil for the woman who just gave birth to give gifts to those who come to visit her and the new baby. Usually such gifts are small like candies or small souvenirs and are chosen by the mom-to-be before her due date.

Photo: Carsten ten Brink via Flickr

10. Nicknames Rule in Bhutan
Babies in Bhutan are named by a local priest 3 days after birth. Interestingly, last names don’t exist in Bhutan and all the first names have religious significance and are not gender specific. You can imagine that this leads to lots of identical names and possible confusion. Thankfully everyone uses nicknames.

11. Baby’s Eighth Day In Israel
The “Brit Milah” is a Jewish custom that occurs between sunrise and sunset on the eighth day after the male baby is born. The baby boy is circumcised by a Mohel, with family and friends in attendance. This ritual is followed by a celebratory meal.

12. Toasting New Moms in Turkey
New moms in Turkey rely on a traditional drink called Lohusa Şerbeti to help get their milk supply going. Translated, the word means “post-partum sherbert.” It is made with sugar, cloves and cinnamon and is served to guests who come to visit the baby as well.

The ways that different cultures and countries celebrate babies is quite diverse! What are some ways that you celebrated the birth of your baby? Please share.

-Sarah Blight

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