Even within a similar culture, there are countless opinions on raising children. So it should have come to no surprise to me that a culture half a world away would have different ideas from my own on how a baby should be treated.
The main thing I've noticed deals with crying. Most of the South Asians I've talked with won't let their child cry. If a child cries, he must be picked up or fed immediately. Last week, I went to visit D*, a lady I met in our prenatal classes. Her baby boy was born 5 weeks after our girl. She says he wakes up every 2 hours all night long, and she has to pick him up and walk him around the house until he falls back asleep. Curious, I asked her if she ever let him 'cry it out.' She looked almost horrified and said no. She told me that even when she goes to the bathroom, she tells her house helper to come get her if he starts to cry! It's no wonder she told me she's considering not having any more kids. I think I'd go insane if I couldn't even go to the bathroom. Later on at D's, baby girl needed her diaper changed. As I changed it, she fussed. D and her husband came rushing to see what was wrong with baby girl and asked repeatedly what I was going to do to stop her crying! It made me very nervous.
Even more drastic, we heard a slightly disturbing story about some friends of ours who are raising a child in the mountain town we used to live in. Their baby was crying in the middle of the night, and it seems the parents had decided to let her cry it out. Apparently, the neighboring family didn't approve of this method, for they showed up at their door, asking why the baby was crying. If I heard the story correctly, it was the whole family who came a-knockin'!
The traditional South Asian family lives in a multiple family home, with several generations under one roof. D and her husband live on their own, and I think part of the consequences with that is she feels pretty clueless about raising her baby. I don't mean to imply that she's a bad mother or that I have it all together, because neither is true. D just peppered me with questions about baby development, from when they start solids to poopy diapers to sitting up. She even asked me if my 3 month old baby was saying "mommy" yet. I hated to disappoint her hopes that her baby boy would be telling her what he wanted in a few weeks. My guess is that elders help out tremendously with South Asian mothers, and poor D doesn't have anyone to consult.
Some other funny questions we've been asked by adults:
People are very curious about the baby sling. I can't tell you how many have seen her snuggled up, sound asleep, and asked, "Is she comfortable like that?" They seem to think babies should be flat and straight at all times, forgetting that for 9 months, the baby curled up comfortably in tight quarters.
When we took her to the office at 6 weeks old, a grown man asked in all seriousness, "Are her eyes opening yet?" As in like puppies.
"Where is her hair?" Many, many people find it very odd that she doesn't have a full head of hair.
"Does she speak Hindi?" I guess only time will tell. :)