The first forty days after childbirth are unlike any other. It’s a time of amazing intensity and massive adjustment. In many cultures around the world, there are wise traditions to help the young mother and baby navigate this period. And many of these traditions have been lost or forgotten.
Today, Heng Ou, author of “The First Forty Days,” revisits these and their benefits. She offers insights on how to best nourish the postpartum mom, in every sense of the word “nourish.” She discusses worldwide traditions for the first forty days that include foods to rebuild the mother’s life energy, creating a safe place for warmth and rest, the power of ritual and more.
Highlights from the conversation include:
- Heng’s experience after her first daughter was born
- Why her Auntie Ou brought chicken feet and pig’s trotters to her home
- The cultural understanding of “sitting the month” in China
- How the need for warmth and rest for the new mom was understood
- How Heng responded to her family’s confinement assistance
- How “confinement” hotels are popular in Shanghai, Taiwan, and other industrial cities
- In India, and particularly in rural areas, they set aside the best food for the moms
- In Korea, seaweed soup is to be eaten daily for an extended period of time
- How moms are in a very “open” state post-pregnancy
- The need to rebuild “life energy” to avoid illness at this stage and down the line
- Why there is pressure in many cultures to get out and about shortly after childbirth
- The sense that humans and technology are in competition
- Five wise insights for the postpartum mom
- 1) Retreat – creating boundaries and a safe, comforting space in the home
- 2) Warmth – herbal tonics and nutrient-dense food to replenish and hydrate the mom
- Chinese medicine’s emphasis on eating foods that correspond to organs that need support (like kidneys, liver, etc.)
- 3) Support – requesting it and including healthy boundaries
- 4) Rest – reorienting yourself to believe that caring for your baby is “enough” & actually “everything”
- 5) Ritual – small or large – from closing your eyes in prayer to letting someone do your hair. It helps remind you that you are seen and held.
- In Cambodia, they steam over hot rocks for ritual. In Thailand, baths filled with herbs. In Honduras, they put wool in the ears to keep out the bad air.
- How these practices are comforting and also put the mom in touch with her femininity
- How just one person can bring enough support
- The difference in Heng’s postpartum experience after each birth
- How her midwife pointed out her postpartum depression after Jude’s birth
- The importance of respecting the new mother’s boundaries with kindness and grace
Heng’s website – https://motherbees.com
Instagram accounts: @thefirstfortydays and @motherbees
Heng’s books – “The First Forty Days” https://www.amazon.com/First-Forty-Days-Essential-Nourishing/dp/1617691836/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+first+forty+days&qid=1596903413&sr=8-1