Traditional Postpartum Ceremony Rituals, Healing after pregnancy
The First 40 Days after giving birth are a special and crucial time for Parents and Baby. Postpartum ceremony-rituals are traditionally done to help the family acclimate after childbirth, be supported and taken care of. Pregnancy, Labor and Childbirth are extremely opening experiences and these practices help to bring the birthing persons energy back in, making it available for healing, rejuvenation and taking care of oneself and the new baby. These closing practices can be done anytime after birth with the first 10 to 40 days being the most beneficial.
As a postpartum doula, I work with families after pregnancy, providing support in the form of these services as well as light meal and warming tea preparation, light house straightening and cleaning, looking after older children or the baby while parent gets to shower, and take a short break from child care.
The following are traditional ceremony-rituals and healing practices that have common roots throughout many cultures around the world. When done after giving birth or after pregnancy loss, these practices are thought to bring heat and warmth back into the body and work to prevent chronic illnesses associated with "cold" and "wind" later in life.
Ritual baths are done with the intention of cleansing ones body, mind and spirit of inner and outer stagnant energy. By placing cleansing herbs and crystals in a bowl of water or bathtub the new mother is energetically cleansed using a washcloth, ladle or sponge. The ritual bath can also be adorned with flowers. Soothing lighting, or candles can be lit, music can be played, songs sung or prayers said during the purification bath.
Herbal Sitz Bath
A sitz bath is done by using a bath tub or small basin that allows mother to sit in warm water up to her hips for 20 minutes. Healing herbs are brewed into a dense tea and added to the bath which can aide healing of the perineum and vulva.
Bajo Vaginal Steam
This practice is done by brewing a rich tea of healing, toning and cleansing herbs in a pot small enough to fit into the toilet, or in a sitz bath basin. Mother sits on the toilet, or over the basin, covered with blankets and the steam brings heat to the womb and pelvic floor. Blood flow and circulation to the pelvis is increased and can be an effective treatment for conditions related to digestive and reproductive health due to the absorbent nature of the vaginal tissue.
It is important to stay warm for at least one hour after receiving the Bajo. A belly bind or tie can be placed around the abdomen to keep heat in.
Warm Oil Application
Oil application is done starting at the feet, moving up towards the heart using light, topical pressure. Small spirals are done over the belly starting at the belly button and expanding outward, then inward again. Common oils used are: Sesame, Avocado, Almond and Hemp. It is important that the person receiving is kept warm. I recommend laying on a massage table warmer covered with a sheet and placing a hot water bottle over the abdomen and womb.
During rebozo sifting the postpartum woman is fully clothed and comfortably lying on a mat or blankets on the floor, supported by cushions and bolsters where needed. A rebozo is wrapped around her hips like a hammock an used to gently rock her hips in a distinctive rhythm- a process called sifting, allowing the lower vertebrae to be released and supporting mobilization of the pelvis and hips.
Closing of the Bones
Closing of the Bones is a nurturing postpartum treatment that focuses on the abdomen and hips. This is traditionally done during the postpartum period to support women who have recently gone through the extremely opening experience of pregnancy, labor and birth. Closing of the hips is usually done in the first hours to first weeks/months after giving birth, however, this closing can still be done decades after giving birth with same benefits to the mother. It is recommended to provide women with the closing of the hips within 6 hours after giving birth and receive it at least 5 or 6 times total during the first 40 days postpartum.
Warming Herbal Paste
Herbal paste made of warming spices mixed with oil applied to the abdomen is meant to bring heat back into the body, promote circulation and supports the body in releasing excess fluid and air. Some common ingredients for belly paste are: Turmeric, Ginger, Cinnamon, Clove, Cumin, Cardamom and nutmeg. Common oils used are: Sesame, avocado, castor, almond and hemp. After application of the paste, the belly is covered with a cloth before wrapping with a belly bind.
This practice is done to support the postpartum core and to encourage the internal organs and abdominal muscles to come back together. Using a holistic model, binding the belly after birth is beneficial physically and energetically. It is a protection for the womb and part of the process of bringing the birthing persons energy back in, making it available for healing, rejuvenation and taking care of oneself and the new baby.
Be sure to seek out a postpartum doula that is trained in these healing modalities to receive the most benefit during your first 40 days. Traditional Doula Arts on Long Island is the training agency I am working to receive certification from and they have many doulas trained to assist you and your family.