Childbirth in Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt

Members of a local Afghan Women's Association have been sharing their memories of childbirth and associated practices at a series of workshops organised by Thackray Medical Museum and the University of Leeds. The women, who now live in Leeds, have reflected on the similarities and differences in approaches to childbirth in Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria and the UK and are helping to create an online exhibition linked to the museum's 'Having a Baby' gallery.

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An Afghan crib or cradle.

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This is a traditional style of crib which used to be common in Afghanistan.

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A baby in a swaddling wrap.

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In Afghanistan it is common practice to swaddle babies for the first six months of life. A narrow cloth binding is also commonly used to support the head and neck of young babies.

Swaddling is also practiced in the UK by some parents, but to a lesser degree.

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Commercial swaddling products are now available to buy in the UK.

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This image, from a cloth flipchart donated to Thackray Medical Museum, depicts a mother and her baby, who is wrapped in swaddling.

The image has no accompanying text but appears to be suggesting that new mothers should take care of their health by eating well.

Other images on the chart represent the late stages of pregnancy and the early days following childbirth. The chart would have been used as an educational tool for health workers visiting women in remote rural areas.

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This video demonstrates the preparation of one version of Leeti, a sweet soup from Afghanistan which can help with stomach pains and boost a nursing mother's milk supply. This version uses cinnamon, as well as turmeric and cardamom but other versions incorporate pepper.

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Food plays an important role in helping new mothers to recover from childbirth and there are many Afghan recipes which can be used to help with recovery and to promote lactation:

Leeti is a sweet soup prepared by gently heating oil, combining it with flour and then adding water. Turmeric, pepper and cardamom are then added, along with sugar and nuts.

Chai Zanjafeel, a tea made with hot water, ginger, cardamom, sugar and nuts, helps to ease stomach pains.

A tea made simply from cinnamon and boiling water can be used to boost a mother's milk supply and aid recovery.

A drink made from eggs, honey, butter and milk is useful if it is consumed every day for a week following the birth.


When talking about recipes, turmeric was a common ingredient used in a lot of dishes given to Mums after birth in Afghanistan and Syria traditionally. There was a shared agreement it is good for healing and for the womb. Lots of sources explain turmeric is anti-inflammatory and is good for a Mum especially when breastfeeding.
From Food for Mum by ThackrayMedicalMuseum

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Turmeric is known to offer many health benefits.

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