Parenting differences around the world

How does the country you live in affect the way you raise your baby?

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When it comes to parenting approaches, there are some big cultural differences depending on which country you raise your baby in.

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Breastfeeding

UK: Breastfeeding is encouraged and three quarters of all new mums give it a go.

France: Around 50% of mums don’t try breastfeeding at all. Arienne, 35, from Paris, mum to Jean, 17 months, gave birth in London. She says, “For me, breastfeeding didn’t work out and, as a mum in the UK, I felt very guilty. In France, it is perfectly acceptable to bottlefeed if that’s what happens. There’s a lot more pressure on mothers in the UK to breastfeed.

Norway: 98% of mums try breastfeeding.

Where you breastfeed

USA: Around 73% of mums in New York try breastfeeding, says Tracy, 33, mum to Chad, 4 months, but it’s unusual to see them nursing in public without some sort of cover. “I use a thing called a ‘hooter hider’, which looks like a big apron. Chad nurses underneath it and I don’t have to worry about exposing myself to the entire city.”

Norway: Breastfeeding in public is much more widely accepted. “You can breastfeed everywhere. It’s more ‘normal’ to see a mother breastfeeding than using a bottle,” says Yvette, 40, mum to Herman, 5.

 Kenya: Dorcas, 32, mum to Baraka, 5, says, “You can breastfeed in a hotel, on a city bus, in church – anywhere. And you usually don’t think of getting the baby off the breast until they’re at least 1½ years old.”

Breastfeeding length of time

UK: 40% of mums are still breastfeeding by the time their baby is 3 months.

Norway: 90% of Norwegian mums are breastfeeding at 3-4 months.

Bedtimes

UK: Parents often like to introduce some kind of a routine fairly early in their baby’s life, with bedtime around 7pm for babies and toddlers.

Italy: For Italian babies, it often falls between 8-9pm. Carolina, from Naples, lives in London with her children Maria, 3 and Rob, 2. She is flummoxed by the 7pm bedtime and 6-7am start to the day that’s typical for many children in the UK. “I like my sleep! I put my children to bed at 9pm, so they don’t wake until 8am. I couldn’t imagine getting up that early and still having the energy to last the day,” says Luisa.

Spain: A 2 year old typically goes to bed around 10pm.

Self-settling

UK: Once a baby is around 3-6 months, many parents encourage self-settling by not immediately rushing in to see their baby at the first cry.

Pakistan: “Our nanny was horrified that I left Oscar to settle himself to sleep. In Pakistan, it’s seen as very wrong to let a little boy cry,” says Jenny, 35, mum to Oscar, 18 months, who recently moved from London to Islamabad, Pakistan.

Co-sleeping

UK: Letting your baby share your bed at night is not advised as it’s considered to be a contributing risk factor in cot death. The UK’s Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) says, “The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in your bedroom for the first six months.”

South Africa: Co-sleeping is expected, says Amanda, 33, from Johannesburg, mum to Dash, 4, and Benno, 17 months. “Almost all the parents I know believe strongly in co-sleeping and my baby Benno co-sleeps with us. Dash is in his own bed in his own room at night, but it was his own decision to leave our bed.”

Spain: Spanish mums are actively advised to sleep with their babies, says Amilie, from Marbella, mum to Sergio, 10 months. “The nurse at my antenatal course said co-sleeping was the best thing for the baby,” reports Amilie, “In the end, we didn’t co-sleep as it wasn’t comfortable for us – but it’s definitely the norm in Spain.”

Discipline and behaviour

UK: Although there’s been a decrease in smacking in the UK, government ministers recently ruled out a total smacking ban as many British parents want the right to give a gentle tap on the bottom from time to time.

Norway: “Physical disciplining is not allowed. If you hit a child, the consquence can be loss of parental rights or, in severe cases, jail,” says Yvette, 40, from Oslo, mum to Herman, 5.

West Indies: “The West Indian approach is strong on discipline and it’s typical for a child to be smacked if he’s not paying attention or something,” explains Andy, 31, from London, dad to Evan, 5, Ali, 3 and Amari, 1. Andy, who was born in the UK but whose parents are from the West Indies, adds, “I don’t believe in smacking. My partner and I want to bring up confident, positive boys so we don’t do it. Instead, I like to give them three chances before any punishment, which is usually time out or the naughty step.”

Germany: Thelma, 35, is mum to Lolita, 3 and Erica, 1. Her husband’s job in the army meant the family moved to Germany. “You never see German parents disciplining their children,” she says, “A lot of army wives have been reprimanded by strangers for smacking their kids in public. Yet German children are so well behaved. When Lolita had a meltdown in a shop, people stared because they see it so seldom.” 

Mum’s story:

“I’m not into routines but might need one to stay sane”

“I’m not into routines. Apart from the first and last daily feeds, I feed on demand. I find it stressful making Candice go to bed when she doesn’t want to. She drops off by 9pm and sleeps straight through.

“Until Candice was 3 months old, she had colic so it was hard to set a routine. Now, she’s easy-going. I can take her to work and she amuses herself.

“When the next baby arrives, Candice will be 1 so I guess I’m going to have to get some kind of routine to stay sane!”

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Myrner, 30, mum to Candice, 7 months, and 5 months pregnant

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