Indian postnatal mums are discouraged from taking normal showers, taking instead, herbal baths that use different types of leaves. These are thought to warm the body, dispel “wind”, improve blood circulation and reduce fatigue. They are also advised against using the air-conditioner or fan, as well as to close their windows.
Indian customs also frown at postpartum mums who go out during their 40-day confinement to avoid being in contact with many people, raising their risk of picking up diseases.
Indian mothers often will get a daily massage using spiced mustard oil to warm the body, and a wrap — which may be uncomfortable. Some Indians believe that using olive oil for the massage will improve baby’s colour and skin texture, so the masseuse may provide baby massage.
Postnatal food is aimed mostly at improving breastmilk production. To encourage milk flow, nursing mums are given ghee, lentils, nuts, methi (fenugreek), almonds, garlic, milk, dhal and meat. New mums drink “warming” herb-infused water, and not plain water as it’s considered “cooling”. The new mum can be served a specially prepared “warming” garlic milk every morning to expel “wind”.
They also favour eating foods believed to drive away “wind” from the body, while spicy food, mutton and “windy” vegetables and fruits, steering clear of cabbage, eggplants and grapes, as they will cause “wind” in the mother and colic in the breastfed baby.
Other Indian beliefs
o Mum can’t step out of the bedroom nor enter the kitchen in the first two weeks because the new mum is considered “dirty” or unhygenic.
o Husband and wife are not allowed to sleep in the same room for 40 days. Instead, the woman’s mum or mother-in-law will stay in her room to care for her and the newborn.
o Can’t eat mangoes, pumpkin and seafood, as these will cause the breastfed baby to vomit. Seafood also causes itch in the mother and rashes in the baby.