Feeding and Changing
Despite the general degree of openness regarding Czechs and body image, attitudes to breastfeeding are surprisingly the same as most other Western countries. It is tolerated, but not all will approve. From personal experience, mothers seem to be more reluctant to breastfeed at social gatherings than in Australia or the UK. Having said that Czech women were among those protesting FaceBook’s ban on photos of breastfeeding (the article is in Czech).
When kids get bigger, it seems one of the preferred ways to feed them (or pacify them) is with a small bread roll (rohlík). Enter most supermarkets and you’ll see a tiny-tot munching happily away on one. No, the rolls are not provided by the supermarket, and mothers should inform the person at the check out.
When changing a baby, you can use a changing room, which is likely to be present in any larger (newer) shopping mall or public building.
This phrase has been widely adopted into Czech, but it would seem that the notion, at least, is a part of the local character. Older people, especially older woman, will speak to little kids or peer into prams and comment – almost always positive. This practice is generally at odds with the more reserved nature of adult Czechs toward each other.
As mentioned in a previous article, mums with little kids are generally treated well on public transport. People are more inclined to give up their seats and parents will give up their seats for their kids unless they have a little one to hold.
The Czech language has a whole series of words especially for babies and little kids, for example, ‘ham‘ for food and ‘spinkat‘ for sleep. It would seem that this terminology is expected, if not obligatory. From personal experience, I was corrected in the past for using ‘grown-up’ words, not just when talking with kids but also about them. Also, diminutives are used a lot when speaking with children. One of the beauties of the Czech language is that almost any noun can be a diminutive.
One habit that is fairly common in small towns and the burbs is that a mother will leave a baby in a pram while she goes into a small shop. This habit appears less common in Prague, especially in the center and in shopping malls.
Misbehaving / Punishments
When kids start misbehaving, it is customary not to get involved. In fact, saying anything to a parent chastising their child will be met with a reproachful look. One personal example: a woman was yelling at her kid and I called out to her. Oh, if looks could kill. Actually, I wasn’t intervening on the kid’s behalf. In her rage, she hadn’t noticed that the baby carriage had started to roll away from her. Even so, I wasn’t thanked.
Perhaps what is more shocking for many expats, especially those from a younger generation, is that corporal punishment is not unheard of. I don’t want to suggest that Czechs are brutal. I’ve never witnessed the kids of friends being spanked. However, whenever disciplining children has come up in conversation, most Czechs, young or old, have told me that if small children are especially naughty, a spanking is necessary.