Postnatal selfcare for new Mums: Learning from practices in Malaysia

Guest blog post by baby massage and postpartum expert, Gayle Berry.

I was very lucky to be able to visit Malaysia with Tropika to discover the traditional post-natal rituals and routines used for new mothers.

My background is that I am a baby massage and yoga expert and I have studied many areas of postnatal care such as pregnancy massage, post-natal yoga, hypnotherapy for childbirth and I am a doula.

I was fascinated by the statistics that only 1 in 3 women in Malaysia are diagnosed with post-natal depression opposed to 1 in 5 in the West. I wanted to find out what was going on in Malaysia that was helping to support new mothers’ physical and mental health.

In Malaysia, the postnatal period is considered to be six weeks after birth or 40-44 days. During this time new mothers are treated like “queens”. The focus for new mothers is on rest and recovery, to build strength for motherhood and future pregnancies. There is an emphasis on nurturing, nourishing and energising the new mother so she feels able to embrace motherhood and the demands on the body such as breastfeeding and general baby care. The postnatal care that new mothers receive also helps to balance hormones and make women feel celebrated and valued. These principles are so close to my heart in all I teach and do. It was truly wonderful to hear such positive post-natal experiences from the women I met and talked to.

I took various training courses with a highly experienced post-natal practitioner in Kuala Lumpur and I studied at the University to understand how the combination of herbs used in treatments and the treatments themselves help to support postnatal recovery.


The Traditions

There are six main traditional practices in post-natal care in Malaysia. They are performed within 2 days of birth in the mother’s own home. There are also longer treatment plans over the forty days with regular visits from post-natal practitioners.

Tuku-Tuku is a hot stone or ball heated by the fire and wrapped in a cloth and used as a compress in massage across the abdomen and the lower body. Hot compression is believed to be able to dissolve residual blood clots in the uterus, to help it to contract, break down fat tissue and help woman’s body return to its pre-pregnancy state.

Mengurut Badan -This is the name for the post-natal massage. It starts from the head and works down the body covering all parts but specifically the abdomen area. The womb is encouraged to return to its regular size and position through gentle massage. Traditional herbs that are found in the Tropika Mums and Little Spa ranges are used to help to warm and invigorate the body boosting circulation. Massage is performed for at least three consecutive days, six to seven times during the confinement period.

Barut – Barut is used to wrap the new mother’s belly to help her to be supported in this area and to help her regain her strength in the abdominal area. It is also used to help slim the tummy. It is worn after the application of herbs and the massage.

Salai – This is a less used tradition, sometimes referred to as “mother roasting” where a new mother is warmed over charcoals to help boost circulation and allow relaxation. I did not see this when I was in Malaysia and it is less commonly used today.

Air akar kayu – Drinking tonic. New mothers are encouraged to drink a tonic made from herbs and medicinal plants to keep them warm and encourage circulation.

Pantang makan dan minim – This covers restriction around eating certain foods. The restrictions are designed to help heat the body after birth so cold water and fried foods are restricted as they can slow circulation.

I also saw the use of vaginal steaming with traditional herbs to help heal the vaginal after birth. We tried this out which was a very unusual experience and not something used widely in the West. It was soothing and relaxing. Herbal baths are also an option again to relax and heat the body.

From these traditions Tropika has harnessed the powerful herbs within their products and I am working with them to create an upcoming “40 days a Queen” program to help women harness the benefits of post-natal care in Malaysia

Stay tuned for more blogs looking at each aspect of the rituals in detail.

Gayle Berry is our Tropika Ambassador and founder of Blossom & Berry

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