Postpartum wisdom has been around for years and years. In some cultures it still exists and guides communities when taking care of a new mother, while in other cultures this wisdom has slowly been lost with the patriarchy and industrialization.
In this blog post I’ll be sharing postpartum traditions which many cultures around the world have in common. Seeing that so many cultures, including Chinese, Indian, Mexican, African, Vietnamese, and many more, practice these, is a sign that perhaps there is something to it! Let’s bring it back to those cultures from where it has been lost.
I hope you can take these traditions with you as you plan your own postpartum or as you support a new mother in your life.
Do whatever you can to keep your body warm. Eat warm foods, use warming spices in your cooking, dress warmly, use woolen socks to keep your feet warm, keep the window closed, dry your hair after a shower, drink warm teas instead of cold water.
The idea behind this one is that after birth the mother is left empty, windy, and cold. Keeping warm helps you regain your vitality. You will feel more grounded.
Keep the area of the womb and the breasts especially warm using belly binding or scarves for the breasts.
In the sacred window of the first 40 days of postpartum many cultures have specific special foods that are most recommended. The basic guidelines are warm, soft, and easy to digest. Think stews and soups.
You’ll want to include sources of iron and protein in your diet as well as collagen, vitamins and minerals for the healing of your skin tissue.
For more info on specific postpartum recipes: “The First Forty Days” or “Nourishing Newborn Mothers”.
This is a cornerstone and a foundation to all postpartum wisdom across cultures. Relief from your usual chores. Allowing you to take the time in the sacred window of 40 days to bond with you baby and recover from birth.
Perhaps like many women, you’re thinking that 40 days rest sounds like so much time. Yet, this is what the body and mind need. I encourage you to make space in your mind and heart for these 4o days. You can of course change your plans later on as you feel in the moment. The idea is to create something that makes you feel happy and peaceful, not to force anything on you.
Resting for so long may also seem unrealistic for some. This is where your community comes in. This is why it is so important to build a postpartum plan. This is why you need to reach out to your circle of support already in your pregnancy to talk about what it is you will need and how they can best support you.
If you feel like you don’t know where to start with making a postpartum plan, please book a 15min chat with me. This is why I am here. I have an entire workbook for you with guiding questions to make it as easy as possible for you and your partner.
A great way to keep your core warm, belly binding also helps the organs slowly return to their optimal position from pre pregnancy. After having the baby taking up the space inside, in the weeks after birth, you can feel like a deflated balloon. Belly binding keeps all of that tight together, helping you feel stronger and more put together. Some people describe it like a big tight hug.
Find out more about the truths and myths of belly binding here.
In many traditional cultures, honoring the placenta is one of many postpartum rituals. These are rituals meant to provide recognition and honoring to you for having gone through a rite of passage. In many cultures, the placenta was buried under a tree, taking a moment to thank it for being the life line of your baby.
You can choose what it is you want to do with your placenta based on whatever feels right for you. Some people like to ingest their placenta by encapsulating it while others eat it in a smoothie. Some like to create prints or tinctures from it.
Depending on where you live, you will need to find a local specialist in placenta medicine. Search for “placenta medicine” or “placenta encapsulation” in your area.
Receiving a massage in postpartum has so many benefits. It adds warmth to your body, supporting the grounding feeling we talked about before. It allows your body to be nourished with oils by absorbing it from the skin, not just by eating it.
Having that attention and care, loving touch to your skin, will feel so so good, calming your nervous system and staying in your center.
In India for example, the new mother receives a full body massage every day for 40 days! Heavenly!
Last but definitely not least is emotional support! The village. The tribe.
Knowing you are not alone, feeling seen and understood. Having someone who is witnessing the hard work you are doing, reassuring you that it’s okay to be so tired, so sad, so happy, so confused, so helpless.
Surround yourself as much as you can with people who have walked this journey before and who care about you and your journey as a mother. Do no underestimate the power of someone being there for you every single day!
Based on the book “7 sisters for 7 days”, which you can find here, I encourage you to pick 7 friends or family members who you’ll want to have on call just for you on each day of the week for 6 weeks (40 days).
They don’t even need to do much, because often just knowing that you can give them a ring that day for a chat can make you feel taken care of and less alone.
This will be another one of those great things to start planning during your pregnancy. If you’re having a baby shower or a mother blessing ceremony, mention it there.