China Elevator Stories

Cultural Differences in Newborn Care – 5 things that make Westerners look really weird in Chinese people’s eyes

Newborn care is different from family to family, but it also varies from culture to culture.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


Newborn care is different from family to family, but it also varies from culture to culture. What is normal for me can be considered a no-go in China. Here’s a list of 5 cultural differences between China and the West in newborn care:

1. Not feeding your baby water

plastic cup Ruth Silbermayr

Most Chinese people think having your baby exclusively drink breast milk is really weird. Whenever they see a baby crying and no matter the reason, the first thing they’ll suggest is feeding him water. Maybe this is related to the fact that a majority of Chinese women feed their babies milk formula (in which case you do sometimes feed water). Maybe it’s just a cultural difference. We didn’t feed our son water until we introduced solids, but he now happily slurps away water and will say “喝” (, drink) and point at a glass of water when he’s thirsty.

2. Having your baby wear diapers 24/7

wolf - Ruth Silbermayr

A widespread believe in China is that having your baby wear diapers all the time is really bad for his private parts. Split pants are common baby wear (albeit at newborn age people will often still have baby wear diapers in public). One of the positive side-effects of split pants is that Chinese infants are usually potty-trained at a younger age than their Western counterparts. Another more obvious one is that it’s more environmentally friendly. We have used paper diapers for the first few months and do a combination of diapers/no diapers now (usually he wears diapers at night and goes without during the day).

3. Using a soother

Pacifiers can be a controversial issue in the West. I know people who are either strictly against them or strictly for them. In China, the issue isn’t that controversial. The prevailing opinion is that soothers are bad for your baby. Most Chinese people are afraid that a pacifier carries germs. Of all the babies I have seen in China, I think I saw only one using a soother. We used a pacifier for a while when we were dealing with a colicky baby, but our son has since given up using it.

4. Not dressing your baby warm enough

In many Chinese people’s eyes, Westerners don’t dress their babies warm enough. In China, having your baby wear split pants is encouraged, but dressing him anything less than a Michelin baby (especially in the colder months) is deemed too cold. Also, whenever the weather’s cold, people suggest covering the baby’s face. In our case, people don’t seem to comment as much if our son wears Chinese-style outdoor clothing instead of European-style one. So maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. In recent months a popular article was shared on WeChat about dressing babies too warm. It’s about a doctor stating that more babies get sick because they are dressed too warm than too cold.

5. Having only one person take care of baby

Tending to a newborn is a 24/7 job. In many Chinese families, taking care of baby is a collective effort. Grandparents often raise kids or help out with child rearing. Many Chinese can’t believe that it’s very common in Austria to have only one parent take care of the infant during the day.

Is there anything you’d add to the list?

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