Indian Rituals that Support the Mother and Baby
I was born in the UK but grew up with strong Indian values, not least because 3 of my grandparents lived with us at different stages of our early years. It means I can switch between a British outlook towards Indian values and back again.
There are many things that Indian people do particularly well.
- Food- The sub-continent has as much diversity in food as it does in its myriad of languages.
- Community- the first generation who migrated here from East Africa helped one another to furnish homes and find work and ease homesickness. Lots of leaning on one another’s shoulders and no-one was left out.
- Nurturing the generations- support systems to take care of the very young to the elderly in a family and community. Family is so important in Indian culture and the baby is considered to be part of the fabric.
Since family is such a high value, it’s not a surprise that there are a number of customs and rituals that support the mother-baby bond.
From the late part of her pregnancy, a woman would traditionally return to her mother’s house. This might mean days of travel, which might have made it difficult for her to return home regularly in the past . The woman is looked after so that she can be well-rested and happy in her pregnancy. Nowadays it’s common for the mother to come and stay with her daughter in her own home, or bring home-cooked meals for a number of weeks. Postnatal care is considered important, and the new mother is cared for so that she can care for her baby.
Grandparents and grandchildren often have a strong connection. I remember one of my younger cousins receiving massage daily as a new baby, to the sound of he Grandmother’s soothing lullabies. My granny used to ask me to ‘press her legs’, which helped to ease aches and help with her circulation. We were also treated to regular hair massages using copious amounts of herb-infused oil. I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time, but my hair was never as healthy or shiny as when I was treated to those vigorous scalp massages.
Massage was done from the very first days, in the comfort of the home. Whilst it is wonderful that baby massage classes are offered to demonstrate these techniques, there’s nothing quite like loving touch in the safety of the home.
There are a number of foods that help with breast-feeding and birth recovery. The spice tin is the home medicine chest, full of natural remedies.
Healing Foods Straight From the Kitchen
- Fenugreek seeds- said to improve milk supply in lactating mothers. Soak overnight, boil and strain and drink the water fresh each morning.
- Fennel seeds- ease digestion for mums and babies. This can be taken in as ‘fennel water’ where you boil the seeds for 5 minutes and then steep and drain the water.
- Cumin seeds- helps with constipation and rich in iron.
- Turmeric - anti-inflammatory, which can help with swollen breasts and reduce uterine contractions related to afterbirth pains.
- Cinnamon - warming, anti-inflammatory, helps curb sugar cravings and fights infection.
- Sesame seeds - for iron, calcium, magnesium. Often mixed with jaggery (raw cane sugar) and other goodies to make sweets to nourish the mother.
There’s so much wisdom in traditional cultures to be explored. Much of the knowledge was passed down from the women in the family using easy-to-access remedies.
Over the years I have learnt so much from clients and their cultures, such as the confinement time from China and teething remedies from South Africa. There’s richness in exploring our roots.
I’d love to hear about any remedies or practices that come from your culture. Do share with me.
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