A World of Babies: Imagined Childcare Guides for Seven Societies (1st edition)

WOB cover

A World of Babies was published by Cambridge University Press (2000). Creatively written in the format of imagined childcare guides based on ethnographically founded information about childrearing in seven societies, the book has been taught in courses at over 85 universities in Canada, England, France, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S., and across many disciplines (including anthropology, biology, child development, communication, early childhood education, educational policy studies, English, gender and feminist studies, human and community development, human development and family relations, interdisciplinary studies, international relations, library and information science, psychology, public affairs, social work, sociology, speech and hearing science). The volume continues to be cited frequently in both scholarly and popular writings, and it has been the subject of many positive scholarly reviews and countless blog and other Internet commentaries.

A completely revised second edition is currently in preparation (for publication by Cambridge University Press in 2016).Alma & Judy DeLoache Sitting Outside

Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb

Advance praise for A World of Babies:

“If you ever find yourself assuming that there’s just one right way – your way – to bring up babies, read this book. It’s highly enjoyable and such a good idea that I only wish I’d thought of it myself.”
-Penelope Leach, author of Your Baby and Child

“Read these pages. This is a very moving book[,] and a revealing one.”
-Jerome Bruner, author of Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life

“A refreshingly creative strategy to communicate the extraordinary variety in beliefs and rearing practices that can produce healthy, happy children. Every American parent should reflect on these cultural essays.”
-Jerome Kagan, author of The Long Shadow of Temperament

“Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb’s book is just delightful. What a treat to read about the early child rearing practices in the seven cultures around the world. The universals and the individual differences are just wonderful. This book should be a treat for all parents everywhere.”
-T. Berry Brazelton, creator of the Brazelton Neonatal Assessment Scale assessing newborns’ health globally

6-Sassandra on MMZD back

A World of Babies is a witty, charming, and yet thoughtful and informative book that delivers anthropological insights painlessly, with a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. This is a book that will . . . appeal to all travelers who are seeking new ways to tell stories of our knowledge of far-away places. But it is also for anyone who has ever wondered if babies are raised the same everywhere. A World of Babies, with its seven truth-filled fictional manuals on child-rearing from different parts of the world, gently persuades us that bringing a new person into existence is always a question of culture and history. Put away your volumes of Dr. Spock and enter a world where there is no final wisdom about what is best for baby; only as many variations on the theme as there are ways of imagining what it means to create a new human life.”
-Ruth Behar, author of Translated Woman

“A fascinating, first-of-a-kind book. . . . We learn a tremendous amount about each culture as we read the guidelines its members might have written for raising babies, for it is in these rules that the members of a culture display their deepest beliefs and highest ideals.”
-Robbie Davis-Floyd, author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

“Having a baby is a life-enhancing and mind-extending trip into new lands, much like the marvelous anthropology of child rearing in this book. Take its expedition and it may help clarify the values and contexts of your own parenting, and bring the world’s children into the clearer focus of our knowledge and concern.”
-Catherine Lutz, author of Reading National Geographic

Selected reviews of A World of Babies:


“[A] wonderful volume that treads a creative line between anthropology and fiction. It is anthropology at its empirical best in providing cross-cultural examples of child-rearing practices based on ethnographic fieldwork, archival work, or library research of published studies in seven ‘traditional’ societies. It is creative fiction in that each chapter is written as a Western ‘manual’ on baby care–in the style of Dr Benjamin Spock (1945). As the editors argue, fiction is an imaginative way to reveal a simple truth about child-rearing . . . and the book presents several different ‘ethnographic-literary constructions’ of child-hood.”                                                                                                                         -Catherine Panter-Brick, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“[A] gentle scholarly spoof of the very Western concept of a child-care manual.”
American Scientist

“If Dr. Spock had been born in Bali or Ifaluk, what sort of childcare manual would he have written? In this entertaining and provocative book, seven social scientists attempt to answer this question with a set of imagined childcare guides from around the globe. . . . As a package of readable ethnographies of birthing practices and a concise introduction to the variety of children’s worlds, the collection could hardly be bettered. A World of Babies should prove ideal for introductory courses in anthropology and, more generally, in the study of childhood. This book is also a contribution to the debate about modes of ethnographic writing.”
-Andrew Beatty, American Ethnologist

“This is an entertaining and educational collection of invented guidebooks spanning the globe. Questions such as what is the key to a successful pregnancy, when to bathe the baby, how long to nurse, and how to celebrate the various ceremonies that revolve around a birth are descriptively explained through the eyes of societies such as the Puritans of New England, the Fulani of western Africa, and a Muslim village in central Turkey. This book is an intriguing opportunity to learn about other cultures.”
-Julia Glynn, Booklist

“There are millions of fascinating facts in this book. However, each society has one thing in common: babies are precious, and the process of conception, creation, and birth is a sacred and wondrous one. . . This is a charming book, written with great care to explain each culture’s different takes on birthing and raising children without sounding condescending or judgmental toward things that we Westerners might find strange. It’s good to know that, regardless of the spheres in which we place various cultures in the world, whether Third World or our world, creating children out of love and introducing them into a safe society is considered a normal and purposeful endeavor in every country.”
-Jana Siciliano, BookReporter

Baby with Coin Necklaces on Back

“In A World of Babies, editors Judy DeLoache and Alma Gottlieb and make creative use of the Spock-Brazelton-Leach model of the child-rearing manual to teach us two things: about how culturally bound our own experts are and about child-rearing wisdom in other cultures. . . . A World of Babies is a fascinating book and is easy to read. It will make a wonderful addition to perinatal health professionals’ personal and lending libraries and a nice gift to second- and third-time moms who already have Spock, Brazelton, and/or Leach on their bookshelves.”
-Naomi Bar-Yam, Journal of Human Lactation

A World of Babies uses a popular convention, the self-help book, to address a little-known or understood subject: the childrearing practices of cultures other than our own . . . This is good scholarship for it neither rails against nor romanticizes ‘other’ cultures. Instead, we are invited to learn of a completely different way, or rather seven different ways, of rearing children. Of course, this throws into relief our taken-for-granted assumptions of what is right or good. . . . The great achievement of this book is that through its rich ethnographic detail we are able to understand apparently ‘strange’ practices in their own contexts by taking into account climate, belief system, family structure, economy, religion, history, etc. We are thus invited to make the strange familiar, and in doing so, our own familiar practices are rendered just that little bit strange.”
-Petra Büskens, Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering

“This unusual compilation makes for much more fascinating reading than would a strict narrative about international child-rearing practices.”
-Margaret Cardwell, Library Journal

“[A]n ingenious collection . . . The book will be of interest to all mental health professionals working with children and their families and all those who dream of changing cultural traditions with the aim of creating a ‘better world.’”
-Klaus Minde, Transcultural Psychiatry

A World of Babies on Amazon

A World of Babies on the Cambridge University Press website