I want to share a little piece of my culture that most of you might not be familiar with. “The forty days postpartum care and celebrations” is one of my favourite aspects of my culture as a mother. As some of you already know from the “About Me” page I’m Somali and a first time mummy to a little boy. After the birth of my child I was shocked by how the Somali culture accommodates new mothers in the first few weeks after delivery. The first forty days postpartum most new mothers spend it at their mother’s house with their newborn. If it isn’t possible for the new mother to relocate, her mother or sister moves in with her for those forty days.
These forty days the new mother doesn’t do any chores around the house; she spends her days resting in bed while bonding with her newborn and establishing breastfeeding. Warm traditional porridge (Mishaari), special tea with milk and soups are served to the new mum to increase her milk supply and to help her with healing.
I was lucky enough to have my mother close by after I had my son and she helped me care of the baby and also recover from childbirth. I also had my husband staying with us so you can say I had the best of both worlds, spending time with my small family while being cared for by my mother.
The first forty days my mother showed me everything I needed to survive motherhood from caring to my newborn’s umbilical cord before it fell to breastfeeding my son. Breastfeeding was torture for me the first few days, which demotivated me, my mother had to literally bring my son to me and tell me to breastfeed him because she knew I was in pain and needed that extra motivation.
My mother even helped me bathe my son and change him. She accompanied me to all those early doctor’s appointments, which makes me extremely grateful that I had her support during those first weeks. During my forty days postpartum I also got to rest for a few hours a day while my mother, sister and husband took care of my baby. I had a difficult birth and healing took longer than anticipated however, as you all know the exhaustion that comes with being a new parent. Those few hours of rest and sleep were crucial for my sanity because I don’t deal well with stress.
Back in Somalia the new mothers and their newborns don’t leave the house until after the big 40 days celebration, which is called “ Afartan bax”. However because times has changed mothers and their babies in the west need to run errands outside the home including doctor’s visits. I didn’t stay at home for the whole forty days period and sometimes took my baby with me.
After completing the forty days there is a celebration held almost like a birthday because according to tradition that marks the first day the baby leaves the house and sees the outside world. A male figure is selected to carry the baby on his shoulders as a way for the parents to wish that their baby would take that person’s good character.
We held my son’s Afartan bax celebration at a family friend’s house. It was a BBQ lunch for our family and friends then later a ladies celebration with traditional music and dancing followed by dinner. It was extremely thoughtful of our family friend to throw us this celebration in their house.
I would love to know where all my readers are from? Is there a special aspect in your culture that is specific to mothers and their children? I always find cultures and traditions to be fascinating.