The Practice Of Omugwo (After-Birth Care) In Nigeria

Editorial Team

The practice of 'Omugwo' is common amongst the Igbos.

In Yoruba, it is called 'ojojo omo', and the woman who comes for after-birth care is called 'Olojojo'. After-birth care is also an age long tradition amongst the Annangs (and Ibibios) of Akwa Ibom State. It is called "umaan" and an Annang new mother is treated like a queen. When a mother gives birth to her baby, a close member of her family comes to take care of her and her baby.

This is usually done by her mother or mother-in-law but in the case that none of them can make it, a close member of her family can come to help. Among the Annangs and Ibibios however, it is usually the new mother that goes to stay with her mother for at least three months during which time she and her new born baby are well taken care of. In some tribes, it's the mother-in-law that comes first and after she leaves, the wife's mother will then come.

Pregnancy and childbirth can be a great ordeal for a woman so she'll need plenty of rest beside that, if she's a first-time mom, she might be unsure as to how to handle some things pertaining to the baby, it's the duty of the baby's grandmother to put her through. During this period of after-birth care, a new mother is given a series of foods and liquids to help her milk come in well as well as hot water therapy for her body to return to her pre-pregnancy self.

The primary goal of the grandmother is to help the new mother regain her pre-pregnancy body, get her flat tummy back and look after the baby. Part of the get-your-flat tummy back process is the dipping of the the towel in hot water and using it to massage the woman's tummy, a process which many women don't like because they believe it gives them flabby tummy. The new mother is also specially taught to care for her baby e.g. giving the baby a bath, feeding baby etc.

The newborn is specially massaged to make him or her flexible, the baby is also given dimples. After childbirth, the woman will be made to go through sitz bath if she gave birth vaginally so that blood clots in her system can come out and her vagina can heal.

During this time the new mother will be given spicy foods such as pepper soup for two reasons, to help her boost her breast milk production and secondly to flush out unwanted blood clots in her system. Pap is also another food given to the new mother as it is thought to boost her breast milk supply. The essence of after-birth care is so that the new mother can have enough rest to regain her strength. The grandmother tends to cook for the whole house and in some cases helps with house chores.

But I must point out that at this stage, you and your mother or mother-in-law might step on each other's toes, as she might not be doing things the way you read on the internet. Times have changed. Whatever you do, treat each her with respect, love, and appreciation and be ready to compromise, remember she's only trying to help. At the end of the 3 months or longer, when the mother is now able to cope with her baby and has regained her energy, the grandmother can decide to leave.

According to Annang tradition, at the end of the 3 months, the husband with his friends and family are invited to a special ceremony which marks the return of the lady to her husband. Among all tribes as an appreciation for her services, the new father must give the grandmother, money, alcohol, wrappers, and accessories to match, provisions and any other gifts as he deems fit.

The grandmother on return to her house is then expected to share things like soap and salt to people. You should note that here is no set amount of money that is given to the grandmother but rather it depends on the husband's pocket and his appreciation for the work well done.