Confinement. Xuo Yue Zi. The first Forty Days. Ansei. Sitting Month. Baby Moon.
Whatever you call it, the first six weeks or so after a woman has a baby are a universally acknowledged time of much-needed recovery.
In several Eastern countries like Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand, and Japan, daily abdominal massage and various forms of wrapping the abdomen (in Malaysia called Bengkung Belly Binding) is practiced, bringing warmth and support to a recovering mother.
In Russia women are given an herbal steam bath in specially built saunas.
In China, women are served dishes of pig's feet, sweet rice congee, red date and ginger tea, among others, specifically made to warm her body, keep blood flowing, and help her breast milk com in quickly, easily, and in abundance.
In Korea and India, similar principles apply: women eat and drink only hot or room temperature items, like Seaweed Soup and special curries, to avoid creating "wind" in her body that might prevent healing.
In India, women receive henna paintings on the soles of their feet; reminders to stay off them, lest they ruin the patterns and prevent healing in their bodies.
Most of these Eastern countries practice some form of "confinement"; that is, keeping women indoors, with activity and visitors to a minimum. Some forms are more strict than others; like the rule about no bathing or showering, obviously to protect mothers in a time before heated plumbing, or the rule about no reading, tv-watching, or phone-browsing, to avoid straining the eyes.
All of these practices and "rules" have a purpose, and it's not to torture; no, rather, it's to wrap the postpartum woman in a cocoon of warmth and healing for as long as needed, so she can return to full health, make plenty of milk, and bond with her baby.
Our practices here in the US pale in comparison.
In the relatively infant country of America, we are still working on forming our postpartum traditions. At the moment, they are virtually non-existent, as many of the traditions originally practiced by the people who populated this country have been lost in favor of "efficiency" and an immense pressure and expectation that women should get back on their feet as quickly as possible postpartum. But as time and our waning health and quality of life is proving, women need better treatment. We are adjusting our expectations, studying new cultures, and taking back our postpartum.
Postpartum doulas are available to change that reality, and bring the nourishment, nurture, warmth and healing back into postpartum traditions for American women. Postpartum doulas are, of course, found in other cultures and serve the same purpose, but I believe they're especially essential here, where we are still finding our feet when it comes to building optimal postpartum recovery practices for women.
Postpartum doulas help new parents (whether first time or fourth!) after they've brought their bundle of joy home. Those early days when rest, nutrition, and wisdom are sorely needed by everyone in the family. Most of the cultures noted above have family, close and extended, come stay with them for 1-3 months after they have a baby. In the United States, very few families live close enough or available enough to expect this kind of care. And, unfortunately, there are many times when visitors take priority over the comfort and rest of mom and baby.
What does a postpartum doula do?
You can check out my Postpartum Care page for a comprehensive list and care package details for my postpartum service in Ogden, Utah, but in general, here are a few things you can expect from your postpartum doula:
The transition from woman to mother, whether it's of one or of many, will always be a difficult one, but having a postpartum doula to guide and support you along the way can ease the transition and allow healing and bonding to happen in ways it might not otherwise.
Would you consider hiring a postpartum doula? Or have you hired one before? Tell me in the comments below!