However, in those first few days and weeks following the birth of a baby, it’s not necessarily the baby that needs that village care but rather the newborn mother.
During those first few weeks a woman not only has to recover from her pregnancy and birth but also provide 24/7 care and attention to this new little person who demands so much of her energy and focus. She may feel overwhelmed with the depth of this new responsibility, veering between elation and exhaustion as she adapts to this new stage of her life – becoming someones mother.
In many different cultures worldwide there is often a traditional period of postpartum ‘confinement’ and rest for the new mother where she is cared for by her family and ‘village’ so that she can do the important work of nurturing her new baby.
The details of these care practises differ slightly depending on the culture in which she resides but there are marked similarities in them. Complete rest is encouraged for the first 30 to 40 days. Specifically flavoured, delicious and nourishing foods are cooked and fed to her and often she is pampered with rituals including belly binding, bathing and massage daily. All of the attention showered on her gives her the time and space to heal, rejuvenate and become familiar in her new role without any extra responsibilities to worry about.
Unfortunately in our modern Western culture, many of these postpartum care practises are sorely lacking. With only a day or so in hospital many mums are at home alone with their baby within a week or so when their partners return to work. No wonder so many modern mums report feeling overwhelmed and isolated in those first few weeks.
So what can we do to support new mums in our ‘village’? If you have a friend or family member who has a new baby here’s a few ideas of how you might be able to support her. If you are expecting a baby or have a newborn, know that it’s vitally important to accept all offers of help and support. Perhaps pass on this post and let them know what would be of most help to you.
- Bring food! In those first few busy weeks there is barely time to make a cup of tea, let alone a family meal. Bring lunch and offer to hold baby while mum eats. Cook something for dinner that evening or for the freezer. Ideally postpartum food should be warm and nourishing. Soups, broths, dhals and stews are all ideal. Ask her if she needs anything from the shops while you’re there ie nappies, milk, pads etc.
- Take out the toddler. If mum has older children, offer to take them out for an hour or so to the playground or library so that she can spend time with her newborn or catch up on some well earned sleep.
- Give her a massage. Baby care is hard on the body and her neck and shoulders might be feeling tense and sore. Treat her to a shoulder, neck and scalp massage or foot rub. Massage is wonderfully relaxing and helps to boost her oxytocin, the hormone of bonding, love and breastfeeding.
- Let her sleep! If mum is happy for you to cuddle baby, send her off for a nap. If baby is also sleeping maybe do something practical around the house such as folding laundry, cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming.
- Listen and support. Becoming a mother is joyful, stressful, exhausting, boring and amazing all at the same time. She may need to talk through her challenges and fears. Listen and support but try not to judge, fix or even give too much advice. Instead reassure her that she is doing a great job and that her baby is her baby and that you have absolute trust that she will find her own way. That way she will gain confidence in her role and start to trust her mothering intuition. Let her know that you are here for her whenever she needs support.
What did others do for you that made the biggest difference in those first few weeks with your new baby? I’d love to hear your comments and ideas.
Nourishing Newborn Mothers Recipe Book by postpartum specialist, Julia Jones – a recipe book full of delicious Ayurvedic postpartum recipes and info.
The First Forty Days – The essential guide to nourishing the new mother by Heng Ou coming from a Chinese perspective this gorgeous hardcover books contains both recipes and information.
New Mama Range from the Bella Mama Pregnancy, Birth & Baby Shop – a selection of natural and helpful products to support the new mother including belly binders, bottom sprays, nipple balms and more.
A massage therapist for 21 years and a yoga teacher for sixteen, I have owned and run the Bella Mama Pregnancy Spa & Wellness Centre since 2005. My life’s work is supporting mothers, babies and families throughout the joyous yet challenging time that is the childbirth year. My wish is that all mothers throughout the world are supported, honored and cared for so that they can do the important work of nurturing and loving their children. It is my belief that mothers and babies who are born into a space of peace, love and respect will in turn bring that into the world, changing it for the better. Find out more about Postpartum Doula Support here.
Bella Mama Pregnancy Spa & Wellness Centre
Post-partum doula/yoga teacher/massage therapist