In today's society, here in the US, the postpartum time is one of the most neglected and overlooked part of the childbearing cycle. How often do we, as brand new moms, head back to work within weeks? How often do we think that the perfect gift for a new baby is clothes, when the family might really need some help with their other children or a few meals made?
Did you know that in other cultures and countries, the time after a baby is born is treated so much differently than we treat it here? Here are just a few postpartum practices from around the globe, taken from Robin Lim's wonderful book, “After the Baby Comes”.
On the island of Palau, new mothers are honored in a celebration called “Ngasech”. After 4 to 10 days of ritual cleansing, the “Ngasech” ritual elevates the postpartum woman to her exalted role of mother with chanting, feasting and flowers.
Rituals like these, even if totally foreign to us, can help us remember that our 10 days of “cleansing” can be just staying home with out baby, nursing and bonding. And motherhood as an “exalted role”-we forget that too, when often all the focus is on the baby, but maybe not on what we need as mothers to fill our role.
Most Indonesian women do not go out of the family compound or resume their regular responsibilities until the baby is forty-two days old. On the forty-second day, the baby is named , the village participates in the beautiful ritual and a feast is held.
For most women in our culture, this is not even possible because we simply don't live with our extended families. So, maybe not leaving your house for over a month isn't possible, but could you arrange that for at least a week or two after your baby comes?
In India, Aruyvedic tradition encourages a new mother to stay home and be pampered for the first twenty-two days postpartum. Her role as an exalted one is honored. This time of rest helps strengthen the infant-mother bond. In this precious lying-in time, breastfeeding becomes smooth. Rest and protection of both mother and baby's delicate nervous systems are priorities. Few visitors are allowed.
For so many reasons, I think this Indian tradition is right on. The new mother is resting, getting the attention she needs to heal and to learn how to be a mother. She is being pampered, and honored, and most of all gets the wonderful opportunity to just be with her baby. And guess what....a lot of problems are avoided in the process. Breastfeeding is established and most likely becomes successful (which means baby is gaining and is happy) and infections and illnesses are avoided because mom and baby are shielded from germs.
Dream up your own vision for your postpartum time, and begin your own family ritual. As Robin Lim says, “You're pregnant for nine months, you're postpartum for the rest of your life”.