This month we explore Indonesia's postpartum traditions. Through the adoption of one's own postpartum traditions or acknowledging the wisdom and practices of different traditions, we can provide ourselves with support, grace and tenderness as we transition into motherhood.
Some examples of practices and rituals found as part of Indonesian culture:
- Pre - Birth
- Herbal Steam Bath
- Jamu massage & Bengkung
During the seventh month of pregnancy, the ritual of 'Siraman' and 'Sungkeman' is observed. Siraman is when the mother to be is bathed in holy water filled with seven flowers, this holy ritual is usually initiated by the eldest member of the family.
Sungkeman is when the parents of the baby ask their parents for forgiveness; it is believed this will provide mother and baby a healthy and safe delivery.
New mothers are fed jamu, commonly made with ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and tamarind. These anti inflammatory ingredients are used to heal the mother after giving birth. Mothers are fed jamu for the first forty days.
Very similar to Traditional Chinese postpartum practices, mothers are encouraged to consume warming herbs that will expel the cold from the mother's body during the early postpartum days.
Indonesian mothers are advised to avoid the following foods after childbirth; durian, spicy food, fermented cassanava, eel, pineapple, sugar cane, beef sate, and shrimp. On the flipside, mothers are encouraged to consume nutrient dense foods during their pregnancy and postpartum journey. these include katu leaves, spinach, corn fritters, braised tofu and tempeh.
During the mothers pregnancy and postpartum journey, the mother is encouraged to wear something sharp (such as a small pair of scissors or a pin) and have a bangle inside their hand bag. It is believed that performing this ritual will protect the mother and baby from evil spirits.
HERBAL STEAM BATH
Bakera is a Herbal steam bath that are a commonly used in Indonesian Postpartum practices to help treat pain and promote healing; especially after childbirth. Bakera draws on the importance of plant derived medicine.
JAMU MASSAGE & BENGKUNG
The Jamu massage is a post-natal massage that is a combination of herbal pastes, oils and hot compresses and approximately 45-minutes long. The trained practitioner utilizes the sengkak technique to help restore and support the uterus post birth. After the Jamu Massage, the mother's abdomen is then wrapped tightly in a traditional Indonesian cloth; this process is called Bengkung. It is believed that bengkung will help expel the cool wind from the body. This practice also helps abdomen muscles realign and shrink back to it's original form pre-birth.
The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou
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