Omugwo – The Traditional Postpartum Care
Originating from the Southeastern part of Nigeria is a beautiful tradition called omugwo. Simply put, omugwo is postpartum care, a loving way of caring for a new mother and her baby. The process of childcare, which begins from the moment of conception, doesn’t end at the point of delivery. Another journey starts after delivery, but this time, it’s not just the child who is attended to; the mother also gets her fair share of pampering.
In the Igbo culture, once a woman gives birth, her mother comes to look after her and the baby for at least three months. However, in cases where the mother cannot come, the husband’s mother or any motherly figure can come to help.
The mother’s diet is checked during this period to ensure she eats right and on time. She is given meals–usually sizzling spicy hot foods like ofe nsala or goat meat pepper soup- that will help fight blood clots and boost breast milk production so the baby too can feed. Pap is yet another meal given to her, which aids in enhancing her breast milk supply.
The pain associated with delivery is soothed during this period with hot water therapy and sitz bath. Hot water therapy entails soaking a towel inside a bowl of hot water, which is then pressed on the stomach. This helps melt clotted blood tissues. While the sitz bath is done by asking the nursing mother to sit over a bucket containing hot water to help prevent blood clotting, this is usually done if the nursing mother has given birth vaginally. All of this helps to nurse her back to health.
Aside from the hot water therapy, there is also the stomach-tying remedy. With this method, a cloth is tied around the new mother’s stomach to help her get her stomach size back, or at the very least, reduce the size to a reasonable point. It is from this fantastic idea that modern-day waist trainers were born. Most nursing mothers opt for modern waist trainers, but you know what they say, “Old is gold.”
Rest, Living and Cost
This afterbirth spa treatment – Omugwo, has so many perks to it. The new mother gets to enjoy her sleep, rest well, take a break from some of the house chores, and learn how to care for the baby. There might be conflict in ideas regarding how to do certain things between the nursing mother and the one looking after her, even if it is her mother; regardless, the joy of the baby always resolves the issue and creates an even stronger bond. It is also financially demanding on the side of the husband who has to buy the necessary food items and, in most cases, get his wife’s mother ihe omugwo (omugwo items) when she is leaving, regardless, the rich advantage of this tradition makes the cost somewhat bearable.
Omugwo is therapeutic, as knowing someone is coming to care for you after childbirth immediately relieves the mother of the anxiety and fear of what comes next after delivery.