Postpartum care and traditions for Hmong women have certain rituals following pregnancy. These roles have been practiced for many years. Women learn them from their moms and elder female relatives. Postpartum care a Mom does for herself after she has given birth can result in how the future will treat her. The practices align with beliefs in the Hmong Community. I’m not too certain, but some traditions may have been started or adjusted due to immigration and assimilation of life in the States.
It’s believed that when a woman gives birth to a child, she and the child have vulnerable souls. After giving birth, we (moms) are said to have a “new body” like being reborn. So in nature, we are reborn with our newborn. Their own spirits and new spirits are attracted and will linger with Mom and Baby. Some spirits to cause harm while their spirits are to protect. The child will inherit parent’s spirits but also create their own as they grow.
Moms will forego a diet. A strict diet you stick to for 30 days. Everything you’re able to consume in your diet should be warm. Avoid cold foods at all cost to reduce future pains to your body.
Warm Water – drinking warm water helps the healing process for mom. This also increases circulation for internal organs to healing. Even in Medical News Today, there are many benefits of drinking warm water such as weight loss and reducing stress.
Chicken – boiled chicken with broth. This is the only protein that is eaten for 30 days. You could also eat eggs, but boiled eggs like egg drop soup. The chicken must be made a certain way, not too salty and slight pinch of black pepper. It is boiled with lemongrass and a special herb (I’ve yet to find the name of this herb) Hmong people call this herb “tshuaj”, which means medicine. This is a custom dish for the Hmong but black pepper is usually added.
Watch this video by Kuv Tsev on how the boiled chicken is made.
Rice – rice is essential to Hmong people’s diet. This is served with every dish and will be eaten with the boiled chicken. Traditionally, most Hmong people love putting the rice into the broth but for postpartum, it should not be eaten this way. Rice should be in a separate bowl. It is said that if you mix rice into the boiled chicken dish your baby will have baby acne. Even though baby acne is a very common condition, this is what Hmong elders believe.
The diet starts immediately after women give birth. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 30 days. Going into week three you are able to introduce rice noodles. The noodles can be placed into the chicken broth and eaten like pho. Of course, it will still have to be eaten plain with no other seasoning but gives Mom a break from rice.
Where I live, we have a higher population of Hmong people and hospitals here have adapted to this tradition for us. This diet is on their menu for the Hmong women who stay with them postpartum. Most of the time, either maternal and/or paternal grandparents of Baby will prep this meal and bring it to Mom while she is still at the hospital.
Care by Traditions
Care starts immediately like any other but as I mentioned before the souls of Mom and newborn are vulnerable. Care isn’t just of one’s physical body healing but spiritually too.
Soul and Spirts – After their stay from the hospital and Mom and Baby are leaving, you must call out to Baby’s spirit. You call out and talk to the baby and tell the newborn that it is time to go home. This is to make sure the baby’s soul stays with doesn’t wander off or stay with spirits at the hospital. The talk or “chant” is in Hmong but it says,
“(Baby’s Name) it’s time to go home. Go home, this is not your home. Don’t stay here. Come with us (Baby’s Name) and let’s go home.”
When Baby makes it home, there is another ritual calling for Baby’s soul. This is called “hu plig”, translated to “calling the soul”. Another safety measure to make sure the right spirits and soul is attached.
For the next 30 days, because of this vulnerability Mom and Baby should not enter another one’s home. One’s family has their own spirits who guide them. Because Mom and Baby souls are still be followed by lingering spirits, they should not enter another home. By doing so, you may leave those lingering spirits to the home you enter. Extra spirits will disturb that family’s spirits which will lead to misfortunate events.
Warmth – Not only do you keep Baby warm, but Mom should also stay warm too. That means dress properly. Mom keeps heads covered by wearing hats/beanies/scarves to avoid wind to the forehead. Even in the summer heat with your central air, stay away from the cold breeze when your air kicks in. Wear socks for extra warmth. It is believed that cold or wind to the head causes severe headaches. It will increase body pain and make the recovery time extend.
If you don’t take care of yourself during this time, there is a saying that the Hmong elders refer to as “mob laus” translating to hurt in the future or hurt when you’re old. You will age faster and in the future (or later in life,) you will have body aches and pain for no particular reason. Especially one your age should have.
Side Note – My mom came and stayed with me after my son was born and yelled at me constantly for not doing this. Oops! Sometimes it’s hard to follow everything, but the effects are real!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these traditions today on Postpartum Care about Hmong Mommies. There’s a lot more that is involved that I wasn’t able to share in this post due to time but feel free to comment and ask if you have any questions. I am not a professional to the history of Hmong culture, it’s just what I’ve been taught and learn along the way as I live life.
With changes and new generations coming within the Hmong Community, some Hmong women still follow these and some don’t. Again, rituals here are practiced only by those who follow old traditions (religion plays a part in this too.)
So the next time you see Hmong woman dressed in too much clothing for the hot weather, she may have had a baby recently.
- Anna MV