Nkuho Uman is a traditional, ancient Efik/Ibibio custom. You could see it as some sort of special care for a new mother, which can be likened to Mbokpo ( Fattening).
Although fattening is premarital preparation of the bride by her parents before being presented to her groom, it is a mark of honour to thee bride’s parents as they send a strong message to the groom that they can take proper care of the daughter under their care, and as such, do not expect any less care for the daughter by the husband.
Nkuho Uman on the other hand is a postpartum care by the mother inlaw (mostly the bride’s mother), to put her daughter who has just recently delivered of a baby through the process of fully assuming her role as a mother. This process however takes a period of two to three months.
During this time, the mother-in-law ensures that she guides the new mother to ease into Sits-bath, hot water therapy, which involves soaking a cloth in hot water and using it to massage the new mother’s belly. What the new mother needs to eat to help with milk production for the baby’s consumption, the kind of food to eat and even the kind of cloths to wear will be determined by the mother-in-law who is more experienced.
How to carry the baby, breastfeeding positions and even sitting positions may just look like simple things everyone should know, but wait until your mother-in-law teaches you the simplest thing as how to sit all over again.
Without-a-doubt, one of the most recommended foods for new mothers within the Ibibio milieu is Ekpang Nkukwo; made from cocoyam, wateryam and fresh leaves, spiced with periwinkle, ikpa enang (what is known as kpomo), fish ( either fresh or dry) and most importantly, red oil to give it a relishing taste.
Traditional research has shown that garri, soaked with much water ( as seen in the custard pail) generates fresh and much breast milk for the baby. This we may not learn at Harvard.
Now, Ndõm, the clay (popularly known as White-chalk) desolved with water and applied on the skin as powder helps clean, smoothens and revitalizes the new mother’s skin. The Mkpin (miniskirt), homely made from wrapper material is what the new mother wears to enhance her free movement and indeed a bodycheck to determine how healthy she is.
Note that within this period, the mother and the baby go through a thorough routine massage to strengthen and revive the body from inside to outside; giving them the much desired body shape.
It is also important to note that all of these are carried out solely for health benefits and have zero fetish implication. It’s rather sad that this culture is fading away. However, it is a thing of pride and quite appreciable to see those who still understand and practice this rich culture. ~ Stephen Godwin