The Importance of Tradition in Welcoming Baby


The ethnic diversity in the United States displays a range of different attitudes to and expectations of pregnancy and childbirth. Mothers from different cultures have different beliefs, values and practices. Many of the postpartum traditions practiced in the United States are ancient traditions brought to this country by the slaves and immigrants who have contributed so greatly to this nation.

Pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care are practiced in different ways in different cultures. Customarily, in many cultures, other women, the mother-in-law, the woman’s mother and sister attend the childbirth and provide support during the postpartum period. There is a natural and organic village ready to support the mother and family. 

The goal of Obaatan Women’s Wellness is to bring awareness and understanding of the traditional birthing practices of indigenous cultures and to relieve the stress experienced by many women and families in the United States, who may feel isolated and separated during the prenatal and postpartum period.

“In America only my husband and I opened the door of the house and celebrated. No one celebrated with us, there was no cooked food, no happiness around us” (Immigrant Mother, 2006)

Ghanian Postpartum Traditions: 

Mom gets a chance to heal:

After the delivery of the baby, the new mother sits for a period of time over a bucket of hot water with camphor in it, to heal any wounds inside the body, while cotton covers any wounds on the outside of the body.

A rest of 40 – 90 days is considered essential for the new mom to recover and baby to develop. She is traditionally relieved of all household responsibilities except nursing her infant. She believes that she has to wear white clothing for three months after the delivery of the baby, because it is a healing color for the body. They believe also that God saves them from death during the delivery of the baby, thus, white is a sign of victory.

During this time, she does not leave her home. She is surrounded by family and special caretakers, who boil water for her daily to have a hot bath and provide her with highly nourishing meals like soup, corn, and porridge. These meals contain herbs that aid in expelling blood clots and strengthen the uterus and promote lactation.

Baby gets a warm welcome:

Placenta and cord stump are buried near the home to prevent the child from growing to be wayward or ungrounded. 

Usually the grandmother gives the first bath to the baby, so that his or her siblings don’t get too jealous! Sitting down with the baby on her legs, she wash the baby in warm water and then is collects it to be used to bathe the other children. It is the first spiritual bath for the baby.

Outdooring/Baby Naming Ceremony

New babies in Ghana aren’t officially named and welcomed to the world until eight days after they are born, to ensure that the spirit of the baby has come to stay. At the ceremony, the name chosen by the father is announced and the baby is officially taken outside for the first time. These days, it may not actually be the baby’s first time outside, since many babies are born in hospitals and are taken outside to go home, but it is still a tradition.

A respected community or church member will carry out the ceremony and outside, libations are poured for both parents’ ancestors. I’ve read that water is placed on the baby’s lips while saying, “When it is water, you will say it is water,” then alcohol is placed on the baby’s lips while saying, “When it is alcohol, you will say it is alcohol.” This is to help them to know the difference between right and wrong, and to always speak the truth.

Then, friends and family can give advice to the new parents and say prayers for the baby closing out the ceremony with some food and drinks and gift giving. It’s kind of like a baby shower, but once the baby has arrived!