After marriage, many couples anticipate having babies because as the saying goes “babies are a bundle of joy” and they are the physical representation of a couple’s love. The difficulties associated with taking care of a newborn may prove challenging to the new parents. Some of these difficulties include intimacy, lack of sleep, low social activity, returning to work, and generally just trying to get a hang of what it is like to nurture a newborn. For this reason, the Igbo postpartum custom is a lifesaver.
Omugwo is the traditional postpartum care practiced by the people of South-Eastern Nigeria. It is given to new mothers by their mothers to support and assist them during the first 40 days of being a mother. Omugwo helps a new mother ease into motherhood. Some people believe that by doing this, mothers can avoid postpartum depression. Omugwo is done by the mother of the husband or any other older lady in the couple’s family, but the wife’s mother usually provides this care. Many other African ethnic groups take part in such practices.
This technique’s significance is in how the mother’s experience helps the new mother in adjusting into her new role. During this period, the new mother is pampered and all that is required of her is to breast feed her new born, relaxing, bathing and receiving visitors. Her mother or mother in-law ensures that she receives the Swedish massage treatments, hot water therapy, and food she’ll need to provide nutrients that will facilitate milk production for the baby’s consumption.
During hot water therapy, a cloth is dampened with hot water to massage the new mom’s belly. If the new mother had a vaginal delivery, a sitz bath is required to flush out the blood clots so as to facilitate speedy internal recovery. When it comes to her diet during omugwo, hot foods like pepper soup will be given to her for its nutritional benefits and also another way to help her flush out the blood clots. Another food option offered to the new mother is pap, which helps to increase her breast milk supply.
Omugwo, postpartum care is essential for the new mother to get the rest she needs to rebuild her strength. Although there may be tension between the new mother and her mom or her mother in-law due to ideological differences, the practice of omugwo is nevertheless mutually beneficial. The grandmother receives a present as an appreciation from the new parents as she returns to her own house after omugwo. These gifts usually include clothing items, toiletries, food, money, or other items.
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