Miao Baby Customs: Childbirth and Child-rearing

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Written by John Murphy

Are you familiar with the culture of the Miao people? In the West, you may have heard of the Hmong people; the Hmong have the same roots as the Miao. Today I want to share with you the beliefs and customs the Miao people have toward regarding child-rearing and pregnancy. Long before a newborn baby leaves the mother’s womb, Miao parents consider many things about a newborn baby’s future. It is customary for Miao people not to widely discuss a pregnancy with others, fearing that if word gets out the baby is at risk to be harmed by evil spirits. So, it is common for an expecting Miao mother not to make any announcement until it is physically apparent that she is pregnant. During childbirth, mothers and mothers-in-law help out, while the father helps cut the umbilical cord and washes the newborn. Just like in the West, having a baby is a big event in a family’s life and requires participation from many members of the family.

Another belief prevalent among the Miao people, is that a child must be born on a “right” day in order to have an auspicious future. For the Miao, this means girls being born on even days (e.g. 2, 4), and boys being born on odd days (e.g. 1, 3). The Miao calendar follows a lunar cycle and begins with an odd day until 29 or 30 days, when it resets. The Miao people aren’t the only ones to follow the lunar calendar– in fact, all ethnic minorities in China celebrate their traditional holidays in accordance to the lunar calendar.

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But after a child is born, what is his or her future growing up in Miao society? Well, traditionally, the Miao people follow gender roles, where the man is expected to provide the material and spiritual needs for his family, and the woman is expected to raise the kids and maintain the household. Parents often hope for a male child because a son is able to continue the family line and provide sacrifices to ancestors, as well as take care of his aging parents. For spiritual reasons, Miao custom dictates parents are not allowed to live with a grown-up daughter and son-in-law, and so parents fear they will lack a sanctuary to reside in at old age if they do not have a son. This is why if a Miao woman’s first child is a male, it is said she has brought her family good fortune. Of course, times are changing, and we do not know what the future will look like in Miao society. It may seem like some of these traditional beliefs are limiting, but it is important to acknowledge the role of tradition in fleshing out culture. And it is clear that the culture of the Miao people is very fascinating. If this interests you, you can check out more information about the Miao people on the Interact China website, or in other posts on this blog!

 

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About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


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How to wear Mei Tai Baby Carrier

For most people if they have never worn a mei tai or baby carrier it appears that the most tricky part is how to put on the carrier with the baby. For mothers of ethnic tribes living in China who use mei tai or baby carrier as their way of parenting, this task is considered as a natural motion and just another part of daily life. They do not seek and would certainly politely refuse any offer of assistance with this task.

The baby carrier is placed inside up either on the bed or any available safe surface. The baby is placed on the carrier, facing up. The mother tightly tucks the straps of the carrier into her right hand so that the baby is then securely wrapped in the carrier. Then she leans over dropping her left shoulder and with her right arm slings the baby and carrier over her left shoulder and onto her back. While still leaning over she very quickly secures the straps.

 

Step-by-step guide to wear a Chinese mei tai or baby carrier

Baby Carrier

1.Lay the carrier on a flat surface. Place the baby on the carrier so the top of the baby’s head is roughly even with the top of the carrier. Fold the soft bottom panel up over the baby’s feet.

Baby Carrier

2.Put the straps over your shoulders and cross them behind your back, so that each hand is holding the opposite strap.

Baby Carrier

3.Lean forward towards the baby, pulling on the straps and taking up the slack.

Baby Carrier

4.Pick up the baby and the carrier together and, while supporting the baby’s bottom, continue pulling the straps tight. (Don’t worry if the bottom panel becomes untucked at this stage.)

Baby Carrier

5.When the straps are comfortably snug around your shoulders, cross them in front of you, just under the baby’s bottom. Check to make sure the baby’s arms and hands are tucked inside the carrier and not twisted.

Baby Carrier

6.Keeping the tension on the straps to support the baby, wrap them around your waist and behind your back.

Baby Carrier

7.Tie the two straps together in a single knot behind your back…

Baby Carrier

8.and tie again to make a double knot. (The knot should be secure enough so it won’t come undone by itself, but not so tight that you can’t undo it!)

Baby Carrier

9.Reach in through the sides of the carrier and lift the baby up to make sure he or she is placed comfortably. Support the baby’s bottom with your hand and pull on the back of the carrier to settle the baby back into position. Check that the straps aren’t too tight, and adjust them so that they support the baby’s weight. (They should rest just under the baby’s bottom, so as not to place pressure on the baby’s back or knees.)

Baby Carrier

10.Check the position of the soft bottom panel. If it has come loose, tuck it back around baby’s feet to form a pocket between you and the baby. Check that the baby’s legs and feet are in a comfortable position.

Baby Carrier

11.Once the baby is settled, hook your thumbs through the shoulder straps and pull them down over your shoulder blades. This distributes the baby’s weight more evenly over your back.

Baby Carrier

12.Finished! The baby is held upright, with straight legs, but without taking any weight on his or her feet. The baby’s neck is supported as his or her head rests on the back of the carrier. (If you are walking fast, it helps to place one hand on the baby’s head so it doesn’t bounce with your footsteps.) The curved side panels sit snugly against your body, protecting the baby from the wind, and offering relative privacy if you need to feed the baby in public.

Baby Carrier

13.My son is now three months old, and he loves being able to peer over the edge of the carrier and watch what is going on. He feels very safe and secure there (though he can’t quite understand why we want to take all these photos of him, rather than taking him for a walk!)

Baby Carrier

14.The carrier also works well to rock the baby off to dreamland. This photograph was not purposely staged – by the time I had walked back into the house, he was sound asleep! If you untie the carrier carefully and support the baby against your chest as you pull the carrier away (don’t forget to untuck the bottom panel first) the baby will often stay sleeping peacefully long after you have stopped carrying him or her.

I hope you have found this guide useful, and that you get as much pleasure out of using your mei tai or baby carrier!

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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