Traditional Postnatal Care Around the World- Malaysia

The postnatal period for a new mother is from the time the baby is delivered until six weeks later. There are many hormonal changes happening within the mother during this time. Many cultures practice postnatal techniques to nourish, nurture and revitalise the mother after pregnancy and childbirth as well as to help her cope with additional demands of breastfeeding and caring for a newborn. Discussed in this article are some of the common Malaysian customs with a focus on the first few days after baby is born. Although the details of the customs vary throughout Malaysia, the principles remain the same.

The Malaysian post natal traditions consists of six practices. Tuku, Mengurut badan, Barut, Salai, Air akar kayu, and Pantang makan dan minim. They are performed daily for 40-48 hrs post delivery, usually in their own home. This  has changed over the years, traditionally, new mothers and babies were cared for in their mother’s home.

Beyond these practices, the mother is encouraged to breastfeed until the child is at least two years old and to avoid household chores for 40-48hrs after delivery. The core belief in the Malaysian culture is that good blood circulation is essential to optimal health. These practices will help the woman achieve optimal circulation and thought to help ease childbirth in the future.


What is a Tuku?

Tuku is a metal ball-like object that is heated in the early morning by fire and wrapped with a cloth.

What is the Tuku used for?

The tuku is used as a massaging object across the woman’s abdomen. Using the gentle rolling movement the heat is spread acting as a gentle massage.

When is it used?

This object is used typically before and after a morning shower.

Mengurut Badan

What is Mengurut Badan?

Mengurut Badan means to massage the body. After the Tuku is used this is used by an experienced massage practitioner.

What does the massage practitioner do?

The masseuse will massage the woman from the head to the neck and slowly down the lower limbs. Much care is taken towards the abdomen. The purpose is to help circulation and prevent muscle cramps. Using different herbs in the massage oils to help circulation.

When is it used?

After the tuku, three times a week, lasting 45 minutes to one hour.


What is a Barut?

A Barut is made a soft cloth and is tightly wrapped around the waist of the postnatal mother, like a corset.

What is it used for?

It is believed that the Barut helped the woman regain her slim body shape.

When is it used?

It is worn normally in the morning after the morning massage and during the night. Rarely is it worn in the afternoon.


What is Salai?

This is the least commonly used tradition. It is a wooden apparatus that the woman lies on. Underneath it is slow burning charcoal in a metal basin.

What is it used for?

Traditionally it is thought that the Salai will help relax the woman and help with circulation.

When it is used?

Normally in the afternoon she is encouraged to lie on it.

Air akar kayu

What is Air akar kayu?

Air Akar Kayu is a phrase that means tonic drinks made from medical plants.

What is Air akar kayu used for?

There are over 150 plants that may be used in this practice and each has a herbal benefit. The wood in the plants is soaked and the woman will drink it warm. Kacip Fatimah and Tongkat Ali are the most popular of the herbs used in this practice because they help circulation and preventing illness.

When is it used?

Throughout the day the woman is encouraged to drink these plants.

Pantang makan dan minim

What is Pantang makan dan minim?

This means to prevent oneself from eating or drinking certain items.

What is Pantang makan dan minim used for?

The postnatal woman is only allowed to eat fish with rice or grilled meat. Also, warm water, no fried foods or cold water because it is thought that cold water and fried foods decrease circulation.

When is it used?

This Pantang makan dan minim is practised throughout the 40-48hr period.

8 thoughts on “Traditional Postnatal Care Around the World- Malaysia

  1. Hi. It’s actually TUNGKU. And it is usually a river stone. Usually they wrap the stone with herb leaves first, then with a cloth.

    Pantang makan and minum, starts from the minute u gave birth until 44 days up to 100 days. 44 days is compulsary. And sometimes, some women will still very picky with their food up to a year.

  2. Hi,
    i’m a birth doula, looking for a place to learn traditional postnatal care.
    Could you recommend something?
    Thank you

  3. Hi, I live in Atlanta. Looking for postnatal Malaysian/Indian care. Would you be able to suggest any. Kindly do let me know at soonest possible. Thank you.


  4. Hi, I live in chicago and looking for postnatal malaysian/indian care. Would you know where I can find that?


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