Monday, February 2, 2009

Korean Women & Infant Nutrition Practices

I discuss nutrition with Korean families on a daily basis. I try to be culturally sensitive because some Korean practices differ greatly from American ones. Here are a few examples based on my experience, not research:

-In Korea bottlefeeding until 18 months is the norm. After 18 months the baby transitions to specialized "baby milk." Some Korean mothers are shocked when I say their baby can drink "adult milk" at 12 months.

-Some Korean parents want to feed their children American foods. They think the child will be bigger that way.

-Koreans do not like the baby to go outside until 100 days after birth. Some parents are irritated when they have to bring their newborns here.

-Babies drink rice or barley water at age three months or younger. If the baby wakes up at night, the mother feeds the baby rice water. (Rice or barley water is the water remaining after grain preparation. This water offers minimal, if any, nutrition. The barley water might have some B vitamins.) According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, formula or breastmilk provides enough fluid until a baby starts eating. Only in certain circumstances would a baby need water otherwise.

-Formula is more expensive in Korea than in the United States.

-A new mother follows a special post-pregnancy diet. It forbids certain foods, such as kimchi'i, and includes seaweed soup. This diet supposedly encourages breast milk production. The military hospital used to offer seaweed soup to new mothers. Breastfed babies can become colicky when their mothers eat gas-forming foods such as cabbage. Eliminating kimchi'i makes sense, though I imagine that the mother only does so temporarily. -In the past, Korean women tried to gain as much weight as possible during pregnancy. Some women would gain 100 pounds! This practice has changed, though. A weight gain of 25-35 pounds is plenty for a woman of normal BMI.


gastroanthropologist said...

100 days is quite significant for Koreans. Baby's 100th day is celebrated with seaweed soup and rice cakes. Many years ago babies did not often make it to the 100th day. Today relationships that reach 100 days are also celebrated.

MandyKat said...

Thank you for your interesting comment!

Anonymous said...

Great post Mandy! They definitely didn't teach us that in our Cultural Foods class huh?

Tia said...

Mandy... did you mean that Korean babies are bottle fed until 100 days passes or breast fed until then and then start baby milk? I think keeping a newborn inside for a significant period is very wise.. I see too many very young babies out and about and quite under dressed. I always want to scold the mom.

Trvlgyrl said...

We had to discontinue the seaweed soup at the hospital because we could not get the special "seaweed" for soup from an approved source.... It was a shame because it was one way we could provide specific cultural foods to our patients.