Saturday, March 20, 2010

International Influence on American Parenting

           Every cultural group has their own values and traditions that they apply to infant caretaking. Americans may sometimes find these customs odd and couldn't imagine implementing them in their own lives (like genital mutilation as mentioned in earlier posts). However, Americans aren't completely closed minded when raising their children. After picking and choosing the aspects of parenting methods seen in other parts of the world, America has seen a growing popularity in these infant caretaking customs.
           One example of international influence on American parenting is babywearing. The term may not be familiar, but it isn’t uncommon to see these mothers carrying their infants in a sling around their body. Babywearing has only recently become popular in America, yet it has been a prominent part of childrearing across the world for centuries.
• In China, mothers have been wearing their babies for thousands of years, including in the traditional Mei Tai carrier hold.
• Native Americans on United States soil wore their babies during the busy day of cooking, cleaning, preparing animal skins, and more.
• In many nations, babywearing is still a vital practice of parenting, part of cultures dating back centuries.
           Another everyday international method being used by American parents is Lamaze birthing. Most likely if a woman were to go into labor, even somebody not trained in the Lamaze method would tell the expecting mother to breath in and out. “The method isn’t quite this simple, but includes childbirth education classes, relaxation, breathing techniques and continuous emotional support from the father and a specially trained nurse”. The French Dr. Fernand Lamaze was credited after formalizing the method, but the first people to use these techniques were the Soviets. It wasn’t until the 1960s that this method was embraced by parents across the nation.
           Even things as common as name choice for babies in America are showing an increase in foreign origins. Parents are moving away from traditional Christian names like John and Mary to more names like the Irish Aiden (the most popular name given to boys in 2009 in America) or the Persian Jasmine (ranked #100 in most popular names given to American girls in 2009).

Some interesting questions to think about…

1. How often do you notice mothers babywearing in a given week?

2. What are the benefits of babywearing?

3. Do you know somebody who has practiced Lamaze? How can this method ease the birthing process?

4. Which names would you be likely to name your children? Do they have a traditional English/Latin/Christian origin, or do they fall outside this realm?

5. Common names from the 1950s are predicted to soon become popular again, do you think names like Gary and Deborah will be making a comeback?


Post provided by Karl Daruwala, Annika, Ecklund, Carolyn Kaufman, Elissa May, Sally Pitcher, and Stephanie Vassillion.


  1. One thing I wanted to comment on is how you touched upon the topic of 'babywearing'. Living in Thailand last year where this technique is most often the only method, strollers are seldom seen, was very awakening for me. Upon first returning and starting up jobs again (I work as a nanny) I was struck by how strong the bond of family inter-connectedness is with the baby in cultures where they are always physically with a member of the nuclear family. Most likely a woman such as grandmother, mother or sister.
    Thanks guys for all the topics!

  2. It is interesting to read about the topic of 'babywearing' because I do not often see it. Out of all the children I have babysat for in the past, I have not seen their mother use the 'babywearing' process. I asked my mom if she used 'babywearing' as well and she did not with any 4 of her children. Regarding the 2nd question I feel that one benefit of 'babywearing' is that the baby would feel comforted at all times because they are physically on the mother or fathers chest when in this 'babywearing' position. It is easier for the parent to keep their eyes on the baby at all times as well. I feel it will also create a stronger bond between the parent and baby. Interesting blogs guys :)

  3. It was interesting learning about baby wearing. I have always seen it in every day life and while babysitting or caring for my little brother and sister, i just never knew the term for it. Eventhough my mother did not use babywearing with me, i understand why it is a popular concept. It has a lot to do with comfort levels for the parent and the child. Parents are always wanting to keep a close eye on their children, and more often than not a child enjoys being close to a parent and sharing that connection with them.

  4. It was great that you brought up baby wearing. I have a Chinese background and while growing up, it was a very common method used in the community where I was raised. When my youngest sister was born, I often babysat her and my mother showed me how to use the cloth sling.

  5. I was happy that you mention about the last paragraph because I know many foreigners parents who are doing that. It's very popular for this generation. Most of the time, they often change their foreign name or given as "English" nickname. It is also another easier way for others to remember their names!

    My experience of having a real English name is because my family don't want me to suffer when students will joke around if my name was given in Chinese. Especially, growing up in a white community can make things harder.

    My culture is all about grandparents having the honor to name their grandchildren too.
    So it plays out different types of steroid types and social norms for our society.