After the baby comes, attention shifts from you to your baby. In most cases even mom can only focus of taking care of the baby, but who is now focusing on her? It is very important that after birth you are your own number one advocate and you take good care of yourself. You don’t need anyone’s permission, that is your right. Taking great care after birth helps prevent postpartum depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Furthermore, it helps your body to heal fully.
I heard so many times from my “after birth support system” that you are not allowed to donate blood 1 year after giving birth because birth is the same as going through a major surgery. Even if you don’t feel it, it doesn’t hurt to realize that your body is going through its own demanding processes during the pregnancy and also long after birth.
I believe many mothers don’t realize how important it is to take at least 3 months to nurture themselves after birth. I took a whole year. To me, my only job the first few months was taking care of myself and the baby. Meaning breastfeeding, being close to her and snuggling.
How to nurture yourself? Sleep, rest and eat well. Make sure that you are getting enough vitamins, minerals and amino acids through nutrition into your body. A lot of the nutrients will go through breastfeeding to the baby. You need to have enough for both of you. Seek advice from your doctor about supplementing if needed.
A wonderful concept that convinced me was so called “doing the month” (zuo yuezi) that derives from Chinese culture. While exploring this concept I figured out that a lot of eastern countries follow the similar idea. Of course, this is an old concept so some of its directions don’t apply to today’s mothers, but let me pinpoint some of the guidelines that are followed after the birth in different cultures:
- In these cultures, the postpartum period is a time when the mother is supposed to recuperate, her activities are limited, and her (female) relatives take care of her. How long after birth this period last varies a little bit from culture to culture but mostly its lasts somewhere between 3-6 weeks, and in Korean culture up to 100 days.
During those weeks, visitors are prohibited, and new mothers and newborns are not allowed to go out unless it is really necessary. The reason behind it is to avoid contact with a possible source of infection. Mothers are encouraged to abstain from chores, food preparation and cleaning. This time is meant for rest and being with a newborn.
- As mentioned above, women who practice this tradition are not alone, and that lowers the anxiety and stress of motherhood. In these cultures, friends and relatives provide the family with meals and take care for other children.
- Cold/hot concept: One common belief is the necessity of maintaining a “hot-cold balance” within the body and with the environment after the birth. Cold and wind are pathogenic factors in Chinese medicine, meaning they can trigger a disease process. In many non-Western cultures, blood is considered “hot.” During the birth women losses blood and it is considered to be in a cold state. Consequently the goal is to keep the mother warm after birth. This is achieved through various ways: food, warm environment, clothes, and baths. In China there is “no shower” rule after this period. This rule made sense in the past because there was an absence of proper shower systems and hair dryers. Back then, new mothers could have easily gotten a cold after a shower. Nowadays this doesn’t apply anymore, but some still follow this rule.
- Food: Mothers are fed very simple but special foods and a number of herbal drinks to promote healing and recovery, boost their immunity and improve their milk supply. It is advised to eat warm and cooked foods. Cold food in Chinese medicine means that food has a cold (or hot) characteristic and not that is physically cold. For the list of cold foods according to Chinese medicine look here.
- Pampering during this time is also very important. In India mothers are given massages with warm oils daily.
The most common underlying theme throughout this concept is protecting the mother and newborn from exposure to pathogens and extra stress. This may quicken recovery time, potentially preventing postpartum mental health issues and other health problems, while promoting healthy milk production and a healthy immune system for both the mama and baby. If this concept felt close to you try to apply it as much as possible after your birth. You can also read the article “Where to find extra help in Berlin, Germany” HERE.