Try 5 Minutes of a Daily Postpartum Massage!
One of the perks of my work is all the learning and I receive from the families I work with. It never gets old. I especially love it when that sharing of traditions & cultures just cements for me how intertwined and related postpartum world traditions really are.
This weekend I shared a cup of Senegalese Hibiscus Mint Tea with one of my lovely families and learned about their native baobab drink as they shared with me some of the postpartum traditions that their mothers and families enjoy in the Senegal.
One of those amazing traditions is the physical love that is lavished on a new mother, in the form of a daily postpartum massage. Yes, you read that right, in Senegalese culture, a new mama is treated to plenty of nourishing & warming soups and stews and receives a DAILY postpartum massage session with shea butter. The shea butter is vigorously rubbed all over her body and she is then covered with steaming towels to help release her muscles. At the same time, she rests easy thinking about her newborn who is spending her own time with her maternal grandmother, bonding and receiving a baby massage.
Postpartum Body Work in World Traditions
In my postpartum readings, especially in Heng Ou’s The First Forty Days, Kimberly Johnson’s The Fourth Trimester, as well as Rachelle Garcia Seliga’s teachings on innate postpartum traditions, postpartum body work is considered one of the 5 universal global traditions practiced by old cultures throughout the world. I’ve heard from friends of Malaysian and Indonesian descent about how their culture continues to incorporate these postpartum massages to a large part until today. So when my dear client shared with me that Senegalese culture also heavily incorporates these traditions, I was super stoked. Seeing how these traditions are intertwined on a global scale is a beautiful testament to the depth and wisdom of these postpartum traditions.
Tired but Wired
Personally, I have seen so many new mothers who are so wound up, so tired and yet too anxious to rest & sleep. I know that a gentle postpartum massage might be all that they need to help them relax and get out of their over-tired bodies into a state of comfort that will allow them to give themselves what their bodies need most- rest and sleep. This kind of body work and loving treatment can do so much to help new mothers unwind, relax, sleep & heal their bodies from the huge work that it accomplished growing and birthing a new human. Body work is one of the principles of #traditionalpostpartumcare that can effectively bring a new mother’s postpartum hormones back into gentle balance and relieve some postpartum anxiety and mood disorders.
I do agree with Rachelle Garcia Seliga of Innate Traditions when she says,
“The majority of perinatal mood disorders are preventable. The most potent medicine of prevention? Having people around you DAILY in the postpartum time- who you feel good with, who you feel SEEN by and who you feel SAFE with. “Safe” to be WHO you are and HOW you are- amidst a rite of passage.”
I don’t think it’s impossible to daydream of a day when our healthcare system can do more to bring this kind of care to our communities. It is when we surround mothers and new families with this extra nourishment and hands-on care, that we can really see better functioning mothers and families.
Fathers and Family, This is How You Can Help the New Mother in Your Life
One thing that we can take away from this was summed up in what my client told her husband while I sat with them that day- “I warned you that you would be giving me daily massages after we have a baby.” And that my friends, perfectly sums up one of the best tips I can give fathers and family members who want to know how they can best prepare to support their family member/friend as she becomes a new mother- ‘Give her 5 minutes daily of a deep foot and upper back massage.’ The warmth of human touch does wonders to help release endorphins and feel good hormones in our bodies, and it can help bring a new mama to a place of peace and relaxation that her body desperately needs.
My Traditional Postpartum Body Work
I’m really grateful to have been able to add on a postpartum bodywork service as a rite of passage for new mothers as they enter their postpartum phase- the Moroccan Closing the Bones Ceremony. This ceremony includes an optional womb steam session, a light hands-on postpartum massage of the hands and feet, and herbal tea ceremony and the intensely relaxing Closing the Bones Ceremony- which has been described as an “Incredible” and “Amazing” experience by my clients, as well as a moment where they really “Got in touch with their body” and “felt grounded”. Read more on the Moroccan traditional postpartum bodywork here.