Around the World Series | Armenian Postpartum Traditions

This month, we delve into the postpartum traditions of the Armenian people, shedding light on the significance of embracing diverse cultural practices to offer mothers the essential support they need on their postpartum journey.

Childbirth Traditions in Armenia
Armenian childbirth traditions beautifully highlight the significance of family and children in their culture. While some historic customs have evolved, the essence of these traditions continues to resonate today.
In the past, Armenians would wrap their newborns in warm, sifted earth, a practice believed to provide comfort and warmth. The pivotal moment in a child's life is their baptism, that occurs eight days after birth. Interestingly, birthdays weren't traditionally celebrated.
Armenians value the power of words and aspire to have a son to carry on the family legacy. Symbolic names like Bavakan or Herik (meaning "Enough") are given to families with several daughters. The birth of a long-awaited son is celebrated with names like Pargev (Reward) or Nver (Gift).
Unique rituals involved burying a baby girl's umbilical cord in the house's yard and a baby boy's in the church courtyard, with the belief that it would shape their future. Girls were expected to be devoted to the family, while boys were anticipated to become successful social activists or religious figures.
During the initial forty days after childbirth, only close relatives could visit the mother and baby. After the mother's first forty days, everyone is welcome to join the celebration. The joyous new father expressed happiness by placing his hand on others' heads, saying "Tarose kes!" (I pass it on to you!). It's a heartwarming tradition that spreads positivity and joy among friends and family.

Maternity Leave in Armenia
In Armenia, standard maternity leave lasts for a total of 140 calendar days. This period can be split into 70 calendar days before childbirth and 70 calendar days after the baby is born.
If complications arise during childbirth, the maternity leave is extended to 155 calendar days, with 70 days allocated before and 85 days after the birth.
For mothers expecting twins or triplets, the maternity leave is further extended to 180 calendar days, with 70 days before and 110 days after the birth.
The calculation of maternity leave occurs at the beginning, and the full duration is granted to the expectant mother. In the event of an early birth, any unused maternity leave days are carried over to the postpartum period.
Importantly, a pregnant employee is safeguarded against dismissal during both maternity and parental leave, ensuring job security during this significant and joyous time.

Breastfeeding and Overcoming Postpartum Blues
After nine months of pregnancy and the exhilarating experience of childbirth, breastfeeding presents a new and unique challenge, particularly for first-time mothers. It's important to acknowledge that not every woman's breastfeeding journey is smooth sailing. Postpartum depression, a common concern, often stems from various social factors, such as the mother's living environment, the support she receives, and the feelings of love and respect she experiences.
Recognising the need for support, it becomes crucial for the husband and family members to provide educated and unconditional care. Their understanding and encouragement can help the new mother navigate through fears and anxious thoughts, fostering a positive environment for both her and the baby.
Cultivating a Supportive Environment in Armenian Culture
Sometimes, because they love the mum or want to keep the baby safe, older women in the family might take the baby away. While this might seem like a caring thing to do, if it happens too much, it can accidentally make it harder for the mum and the baby to become close.
In their culture, this act of "Armenian" caring might come from real worry, but it's important to realise that letting the mother and baby build their connection is important. This connection is like a conversation between their bodies and souls, helping them understand each other and work together. By respecting this process, we help make the mother-child relationship healthier and happier.

Khavits Recipe
Introducing Khavits, a delightful and filling breakfast from Armenian cuisine with a sweet nostalgic touch of childhood. This meal holds sentimental value and is traditionally served to new mothers for its believed rejuvenating properties.
Khavits is a simple blend of flour, clarified butter, salt, and sugar, carefully combined to create a dish that goes beyond its culinary appeal. The combination of ingredients, particularly the inclusion of butter and flour, is thought to provide essential nourishment and energy crucial for postpartum recovery.
Beyond its nutritional aspects, Khavits offers more than just a delicious taste. The warm and comforting nature of this breakfast is believed to have a soothing effect, contributing to a sense of well-being for the new mother during this critical period. Rooted in cultural practices, Khavits has become a symbol of care and support, serving not only as a flavorful treat but also as a heartfelt gesture of love and consideration for the health and vitality of the new mum.

Enjoy Khavits on its own to savor its authentic flavors or pair it with fresh fruit, yogurt, or a sprinkle of powdered sugar for an extra touch of sweetness. This traditional Armenian dish is not just a culinary delight but a meaningful tradition that embodies the essence of care and support for new mothers.

Through Passage/Lifecycle Rite
Passage rites are important life events like birth, marriage, maturity, parenthood, and death. One enduring tradition is placing a baby boy in the bride's lap during a wedding to symbolise the hope for the couple to have a healthy baby boy in the coming year. This reflects the cultural importance placed on continuing the family lineage through the birth of sons.
In some places, the desire for a son influences traditional wedding ceremonies. In Gegharkunik province, there is a tradition of including a boy from outside the family in wedding preparations. During the ceremony, the bride would hold a baby boy, or a boy might be placed on the horse carrying the bride, all with the aim of ensuring the future birth of a son.
The emphasis on having a son in Gegharkunik Province extends to "atamhatik" celebrations, marking a child's first tooth. During these celebrations, attempts are made to predict the child's future profession through items placed in front of them. In Gavar, there's a rumor that including a knife among these items means the next newborn in the family will be a boy. These customs showcase the positive importance given to continuing family lines and looking forward to joyful life milestones.
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