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Omugwo: Igbo Practice for Postpartum Care for New Mother and Baby

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This author loves to research and write about traditional cultures.

Omugwo a Nollywood Igbo Film poster

Omugwo a Nollywood Igbo Film poster

Omugwo a Nollywood Igbo Film poster

Mother carrying her child on the back

Mother carrying her child on the back


Having a new baby changes the dynamic of an entire family and requires a period of adjustment. The postpartum period is a time of mixed feelings like joy, stress, patience and fatigue. To ease the stress , Omugwo a traditional type of postpartum care is practiced by the Igbo people of eastern part of Nigeria.

Postpartum Period

Postpartum period is six weeks after child birth. New mothers experience hormonal changes, fatigue, mood swings, insomnia, restlessness, irritability. The period is full of joy, however it requires post-delivery checkup with a doctor, healing and adjustment to a new baby.

What New Mother Experience

  • Hormonal changes
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Body Changes
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness
  • Joy
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

Grandmother and Child

Grandmother and Child

Grandmother and Child

Adjustment Period

For a newly wedded couple having their first baby is an exciting and challenging period. The new parents may have white-collar jobs and find it difficult coping with a new addition to the family. However traditional postpartum care by the mother of the bride or groom provides a simple solution.

A new baby requires constant care, same applies to new mother. It is important to seek help, have plenty of rest, eat healthy and exercise.

Omugwo Practice

The traditional practice of Omugwo is common to eastern part of Nigeria predominantly the Igbo people and Akwa Ibom. This practice although not mandatory accommodates both old established couples and newly wedded couples of Igbo extract anytime the wife “puts to bed” (delivers a baby).

The mother-in laws helps her ease the strass of a new baby by caring for the child. Igbo grandmothers take this practice so seriously that even if the couple lives abroad this will not stop them from preforming their traditional role.

Mothers Love

Mothers love

Mothers love

What is expected of the mother in-law?

The mother in-laws role is to care for mother and child. Some of the duties of the mother in-law includes swedish massage therapy to help her recover from the rigors of child birth.

Apart from swedish massage, hot water therapy is applied to the mother. Hot water therapy involves soaking a cloth in warm water and massaging the stomach.

Other duties of the mother in-laws is to encourage the mother to eat good food for better milk production and adopt a healthy eating habit.

They encourage good food like fruits, vegetables and spicy food. Pepper soup eating is favored because they believe it removes blood clots. Every aspect of the mother care is to rejuvenate her to good health and regain strength.

Child Care

The mother in-law takes full charge of the baby. She bathe them, carry them, sing and change their nappies. If the couple has a maid, the in-law directs her on what chores to perform.

Special yam pepper soup prepared during omugwo

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What to expect

  1. Spa treatment for the new mother
  2. Swedish type massage
  3. Organizing the household chores
  4. Care for the new mother
  5. Hot water massage
  6. Plenty of pepper soup
  7. Good nutritious food
  8. Lots of fruits and vegetables
  9. The practice of tommy bind or belle fit corset
  10. Support system to reduce anxiety, allow mother rest and regain full health.

traditional Nigerian pepper soup

traditional Nigerian pepper soup

traditional Nigerian pepper soup

How long is Omugwo Period?

Omugwo period depends on the ethnic tribes tradition and arrangement between the mother-in-law and couple. Omugwo period run from six weeks, three months, six months or one year.

What do you buy your mother in-law after Omugwo?

It is not uncommon to offer thank you gifts to mother in-laws after their time with the couple. Once the childcare period is over some form of thank you gifts is in-order however not mandatory.

Popular gifts presented on such occasions before she departs your home are expensive soaps, cash, food items like yam, plantain, rice. A very popular gift is different beautiful wrapper cloths.

Gifts for grandmother

Gifts for grandmother

Gifts for grandmother

Types of Gifts for Mother In-laws

  • Soaps
  • Creams
  • Cash
  • Food items
  • Different wrapper cloths

Conflict between grandmothers

Most times the grandmothers work in harmony towards the care of mother and child. However sometime there is some level of conflict between the in-laws because of different ideas, ethnic beliefs and practices.

Financial burden

The husband and wife might experience financial burden during this period. This is because of increase in people to feed, purchase of highly nutritious and expensive organic food, vegetables, and fruits. Other financial needs are purchase of baby items, baby food and gifts after the Omugwo.

New Mother BluesGrandmothers DutiesGifts for grandmotherRecommended Food

Mood Swings

Hot water massage

Wrapper cloth



Baby care




Organize household chores


Pepper Soup

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Air your views on the Omugwo Traditional practice

Beautiful aspect of this traditional practice

Having one or both mother in-laws offering assistance is priceless. The new mother benefits from the experience of the grandmothers. It offer the children a close bond with their grandmother and allows them see and care for the child.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Stephanie Purser from Australia on December 05, 2020:

An intriguing read. If only it was standard practice everywhere.

femi (author) from Nigeria on November 30, 2020:

Liz Westwood i agree with you the practice is very helpful for new mothers. My Mom is from Ghana and says they have something similar.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 30, 2020:

At a time when, in the UK, post natal support for new mothers, is often sadly lacking, this is a thought-provoking article. Whilst the close bond between mother and newborn is important to nurture, there is much that can be learnt from the practices described here.

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