Folk Wisdom and the Problem of Raising Children
How vulnerable do you think infant lives are?
According to Our World In Data, 56 million deaths were recorded in 2017. Ten percent of those were children under 5. This number was even higher than that of those who died at 50, 60, or 70 years old. To make it clear, the total death cases from 5 to 45 years of age just added up to that of children under 5.
That was the story of 2017. In the past, this was even more tragic. In 1950, one out of four newborn children died. Moving back to another one century, one out of every two children could never reach their fifth birthday. Child mortality decreased from 27% in 1950 to only 2.9% in 2017 - thanks to science development and medical advances.
So, the question is in this era of such a developing society where child mortality has been reduced, whether or not advice from the previous generation are still valid.
Well, it depends.
Not to mention any survey statistics, ancient sayings had many to indicate how dangerous it was to give birth to a child. And therefore, it is easy to understand the existence of abstinence for pregnant women.
That folk wisdom and old wives' tales can be listed as eating salty foods to have a boy. Pregnant women are not supposed to attend weddings as they are seen as 'bad luck,' or it is a taboo for a pregnant woman to cut her hair; until the 8th month of pregnancy can women buy clothes for their children, if not that child will "leave the family behind"; when giving birth is coming closer, the family must prepare a silver knife to avoid "the evil," etc.
These are all baseless beliefs, not to say ridiculous. The assumption that pregnant women eat more goose eggs can help their children smarter can be easily exposed by looking into nutritional values. Still, it is weird how people could come up with and even believe them for the beliefs above. The only thing people use to persuade each other is due to "evil."
Even after giving birth to their baby, abstinence has not stopped. Still, it is even more draconian, with extremely misleading and horrifying "experiences": hanging meconium in front of the door or storing the dried umbilical cord for "easy-to-raise" kids. In addition to the "pig's trotter bone porridge" postpartum diet, the mother must also drink the newborn's urine to increase milk production, etc.
Less frightening is the concept of postpartum confinement, a traditional practice following childbirth that lasts a month or up to 100 days. During these days, the mother, in addition to rest, must avoid some spiritual taboos, abstain from eating, moving, ... and almost staying in bed for a whole day. Postpartum confinement is so severe that mothers could not go out, read books, watch TV, or use their phones ... So the postpartum depression is not too difficult to understand.
One of the most taboo things in the past was that women had to be protected from wind and water, by not brushing their teeth, but rinsing their mouths with salt water, not bathing, not even combing their hair - within at least one month. Though plausible, most of these are unfounded. Doctors often advise the exact opposite, that is, if you don't take a bath, you'll get dirty, that's all. And if the mother insisted on strictly following the abstinence, then the old generation was a little redundant when they told us not to sleep with the husband after delivery.
Indeed, not all of the experiences that the folk has drawn or the grandparents' words are false and outdated. The ancients were very good at observing the phenomena in life, from nature to society, to make their life easier.