One of the best decisions I made when I was due to give birth to our second child was to actively put together a plan and a ‘care tribe’, to help lighten the usual load of motherhood. Even with the extra help, there were still challenging moments mixed in with the crazy bliss, but it was manageable. Cultures from all over the world still practice their ancient traditions of truly honouring the mother in those early days and allowing her to rest, recover and bond with her bub. We should take a few leaves out of their books.
There are so many cultures around the world that give a new mama space to thrive in those early days after baby comes. Let’s explore three in particular – China, Native American tribes and Korea.
In Chinese culture, they call it “Zuo yuezi” which translates to “sitting out the month”. The new mother’s relatives come stay at the house and take control of all duties including cooking, cleaning and looking after older siblings (sounds amaze right?!). The new mum is also given daily sponge baths, allowing her to recover from birth and form that deep connection with baby that makes the transition much smoother.
The Native American tribes have a ‘lying in’ period after birth which entails customary bathing for mama, going to a sweat lodge to boost circulation and remove toxins, as well as a baby naming ceremony. These rituals prioritise the new mother so both her and the new baby thrive.1
Korea’s postpartum period is called “Samchilil” which includes 21-30 days of specialised maternal care dedicated to keeping mum warm, snug, and well-fed. They are served a traditional seaweed soup with beef, chicken or anchovies to boost circulation, replenish nutrient stores and enrich breastmilk. Sounds delightful, right?
Whilst it mostly sounds incredible, today, some women like the privacy of the immediate family ‘baby bubble’, but I believe meeting somewhere in the middle is the right step towards a postpartum period that allows mama to heal and thrive in her experience.
For some reason, Australia has moved in the opposite direction and there is an almost unspoken pressure for new mum’s to ‘get on with things’ and ‘nail motherhood’ quickly. Accepting help feels uncomfortable and asking for it is almost unheard of. Throw a pandemic into the mix and this is a recipe for disaster. More than 1 in 7 mamas and up to 1 in 10 daddio’s will experience postnatal depression (PND) and anxiety in Australia,2 with postnatal depletion also on the rise. If we want this to change, we need to start doing things differently.
From a biological perspective, we know that the physically taxing feat of motherhood is a lot, but let’s unpack this a bit more to really understand. From the moment our little person starts growing in our belly, they are relying on what we are consuming and our nutrient reserves to help them along.
Based on the current pregnancy nutrition guidelines (more to come on why this needs an urgent makeover soon), most women are not consuming enough nutrient dense foods, which means that their stored reserves are going towards baby’s development.
Read more about it here. 3
Follow this up with the physical act of birth (regardless of the experience it is a big tax on the body) and some nutrient sucking breastfeeding to top it all off, and it’s easy to see how and why mama becomes depleted and overwhelmed. Throw in some broken sleep patterns, dysregulated blood sugar levels from inconsistent eating patterns (because #newbornlife) and poor hormone and brain chemical production due to all of the above, and the picture starts to become even clearer. Mums (and Dads) need more support.
So what can you do? Here are my top 4 recommendations to help you smoothly transition into motherhood:
1. Postpartum Meal Train:
Have a nutrient dense postpartum meal train organised well before baby comes. We know that mostly, people like to help. And the food you eat will be a game changer – it will influence how you recover, deal with stress, sleep and bond with baby. Hand this job over to your bestie and get her to orchestrate the whole thing. Use our TNN postpartum recipes as a guide!
2. Postpartum Doula:
If it’s within your means, consider employing a postpartum doula so you can spend those early days resting, establishing a breastfeeding routine and getting to know your bub. They can cook, clean, hang with other siblings, and provide an ear to listen or, a shoulder to rest your weary head on.
3. Healing/Nurturing Activity:
For the first month, do something truly healing and nurturing once a week while baby sleeps or gets cared for by someone else (such as a sitz or epsom bath), mobile postnatal remedial massage, guided postnatal yoga nidra.
4. Blood Testing:
At 6-8 weeks postpartum, get a full blood panel done and work with your health care provider to build a supplement support plan unique to you. This one is essential because when micronutrients get missed and continue to become more depleted, it can exacerbate mild symptoms and stop healing and recovery in its tracks (e.g. zinc is vital to wound recovery and healing and immune support, and magnesium helps to calm our nervous system down).
At The Natural Nutritionist we know how important the transition from maiden to mother is! That’s why we’ve carefully curated our Postpartum Replenishment Program to take you through the steps that will make a big difference, and guide you forward towards nourishment, calmness and an enjoyable early mamahood experience.
Get in touch today to find out more or book online for a Complimentary Consultation (15 minutes) with Bianca online here.
Read about post-birth cultural differences and PND here. 4
- Ou, Heng. The First Forty Days. Abrams; 2016
- Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia 2017. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.panda.org.au/
- Wu G, Imhoff-Kunsch B, Girard AW. Biological mechanisms for nutritional regulation of maternal health and fetal development. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2012;26 Suppl 1:4-26. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3016.2012.01291.x
- Stern G, Kruckman L. Multi-disciplinary perspectives on postpartum depression: an anthropological critique. Soc Sci Med. 1983;17(15):1027-1041. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(83)90408-2