Old Wives Tales are part and parcel of our culture... and anywhere you go, you're bound to be governed (willingly or not) by at least one.
The minute a woman announces her pregnancy, elders would be rattling off these 'proven techniques' to ward off evil, sickness, or just really avoid having a bad, temperamental child.
While pregnant, a woman is discouraged from looking at ugly things, for example, to avoid having an ugly baby. They also say that what she eats (lihi) a lot of, or fancies during the pregnancy will affect how her baby will look like (thus, always eating puto will result in a fair-skinned child, while always wanting dinuguan will result in a dark-skinned child... and always eating puto dipped in dinuguan will result in a morena, or caramel-skinned child, etc.) This is how they explain away babies born with deformities (pinaglihi daw sa palaka) or features different from theirs (eating lots of corn results in a brown-haired child, because of the 'hair' on the corn).
And no, I won't even discuss how use of snake oil supposedly ensures a smooth delivery... or eating a part of your baby's placenta, or horse meat, is supposed to make a woman recover quickly from labor.
And if you think the superstitions will stop once you've given birth, well... it won't.
Anyway, some 10 years ago, I wrote an article for a now-defunct magazine (Breaktime) on the many superstitions surrounding a baby. Since i'm actually too lazy to find the article (and I don't have a soft copy of it), i'll just try to remember what I can...
USOG (baby getting sick and antsy for no particular reason, I guess it's medical counterpart could be COLIC). Don't let the baby go out of the house without wearing the red-and-black bracelet (the ones you can buy in Quiapo), which you can also pin under his clothes. Or you can also pin whatever blessed thing you can find under his clothes (some use pendants, some use this smallish pillow filled with what feels like sand/ashes, some use bullets). Some, however, opt to just put lipstick on the baby's forehead when visitors are present.
Extra protection for your child can also be had by letting visiting friends and family wet their fingers with their saliva and apply it on the baby (usually done surreptitiously, and on the baby's feet). I have a colleague who had the unfortunate experience of having a friend who didn't know about the superstition, and when she insisted na 'lawayan' her daughter, offering her baby's foot, her friend took the foot and literally licked the sole.
Oh, and people with empty stomachs, or those who just did something strenuous/stressful/exhausting are expressly forbidden to coo, greet, play, nay, even look at the baby.
And if the baby is already crying and fussy and you suspect usog has transpired already, it can easily be remedied by boiling the clothes the baby was wearing when you suspect the usog happened (usually, the clothes he wore when you went out with him last).
UNANG UNAN (first pillow) One of the things that supposedly guarantees your baby will be smart is to have him use a book/reading material as a pillow (of course, what you really do is find a thin, soft book and insert it inside his pillowcase with his baby pillow). My Mom was told of this when she was carrying me and did it (wala namang mawawala). She was surprised to see me grow up really loving to read (way before I actually knew how). Weirdly enough, she didn't do the same to my siblings... but did it for Py. Only, she used a prayer book for Py. Coincidentally enough, aside from being smart and loving books, we were amazed at how innately spiritual Py was.
UNANG SUBO (first feeding?) Supposedly, when it's time for your baby to eat solid foods, the person to feed him his first solid food should be someone whose eating habits you want the child to possess. So, if you don't want him to grow up finicky, you'll find someone who has a healthy appetite and attitude towards food. Some just pick any hearty eater they know, invoking that their child will be the same.
FIRST BIRTHDAY If you want to know your child's future passion, spread different things in front of him on his first birthday... things that represent different interests (ball for sports, crayons for art, etc). After blowing his birthday candle, watch what he plays with first. Mom again heard of this and did it to me and I supposedly crawled over the many things to get to a book :)
UNANG GUPIT Pinoy babies usually get their hair cut for the first time on their first birthdays. Superstition holds that the person to take that first snip should possess the qualities you wish your child to imbibe. So, if you want your child smart... get a smart person to perform the first cut. You can strengthen the magic by keeping the first snip of hair inside a book (again, use a Bible if you want the child to grow up good and prayerful).
My close cousins have gotten me to take the first snip on their kids... True enough, they're all achieving in school... Unfortunately, they're all so noisy and pasaway too. :)
FIRST DAY IN SCHOOL Cut out the letters of the alphabet (or complete 1-10 if you want a Math genius) from a newspaper and burn these. Sprinkle the ashes on chicken congee (lugaw... or maybe any soup), mix, and feed this to your child after he returns from his first day in school. Again, this is to ensure he'd grow up bright. (tip: the smaller the cut-outs you burn, the better the soup will taste, hehe)
WALKING EARLY Two gross things you can do to make sure your child is walking before turning One include a) saliva and b) frogs. The first one is to use your saliva (before you have gargled in the morning) when massaging your baby's knees (every morning). The second one is getting a live frog and slapping it on your baby's knees... and then letting the frog go.
I know, I know... one can also just use the local andador :D
TALKING Elders caution against letting a baby, who hasn't learned to speak yet, kiss a doll... or another child who hasn't spoken yet. Kissing a doll means he'd have trouble learning to talk, and kissing another baby means they'd both be waiting for each other to learn to talk. One can feed the baby tongue meat and err, female organ meat from pigs to ensure the opposite, however.
HICCUPS If baby's hiccupping much, get a piece of thread from his clothing, wet it with your saliva and then put it on your baby's forehead.
PLACENTA AND CORD Hospitals nowadays take care of disposing the placenta... but before, when giving birth at home was the norm, it was the tradition that a child's placenta should be buried well, with a prayer, so that spirits won't be able to get to it, eat it, and turn your child bad.
Some, however, bury the placenta wrapped in newspaper so that the child will grow up
intelligent... or bury it with a musical instrument to incline the child towards music.
They also said that mothers should hang all her children's cords, tied together, by a window so that her kids would grow up close and bonded.
BAPTISMBefore, Aside from believing that babies cry when Holy Water is being poured on their heads because they're being purged of bad spirits (actually, the baby's either just shocked or cold, wehehe), it was also believed that, in mass baptisms (usually held on feast days), the child whose Mom gets to the threshold of the Church first will grow up most succesful/blessed. Thus, the tradition of Moms running to the Church door after a baptism.
They also say that for a child to grow up sociable and non-shy, you should hang his
christening gown somehere guests can see it, or pass by it, at the reception.
GOOD LUCK If your baby was born with his filmy wrap intact (i forgot what it's called), keep that and it will bring you good luck.
Visitors can also place coins in the baby's hand, and on each side of his pillow, when they first visit him to give the child good luck.
BAD SPIRITS / NEGATIVE ENERGY Other ways to make sure bad spirits won't get to your baby include: not putting the baby's crib in the exact center of your home, never leaving him alone, or if you have to, always placing a sharp object (knife, scissors) near him for protection (I guess they put these under the baby's blankets or something).
Also, women used to be discouraged from falling asleep immediately after given birth, believing that spirits will exchange her baby for their own.
Oh, kissing a baby's feet supposedly invites him to rebel against you when he grows up.
And others put some salt in a bag and pin this on the baby's clothes when they're going out. Upon returning home, they sprinkle the salt on their doorstep, which supposedly drives away negative energies and evil spirits off the baby.
I'm sure there are so many more superstitions out there that I missed... and I don't really intend to encourage parents to believe in these things. Still, it is kinda fun to have stories such as these about your baby. :)