“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers — strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”Barbara Katz Rothman
You have just brought a new life into the world. Cared for it, nourished it—and watched as it grew and changed in your body. You’ve come through the experience of giving birth—a wondrous moment that transports you into the world of motherhood. You’re now in the First Forty Days of Motherhood. If you take one thing away from this – it is that you don’t rush. Give your body time. Give your mind time.
Rid Yourself of the ‘Bounce Back’ Culture
Creating another human is no easy task—in fact, it’s one of the most raw, intense and transformational experiences we undergo as humans. Yet so often these days, after we go through pregnancy and birth, we are left feeling unsupported. We are expected to rush back to normality and bounce back. We are praised for how much they can get done while having a newborn. Donned a “superwoman” for letting go of our own needs to keep up with the expectations of a damaged society. Expected to ‘bounce back’.
This hasn’t always been the case, and in most cultures outside the fast paced ‘Western World’ we live in today, it still isn’t the case.
The Sacred Postpartum Healing Period – First Forty Days
In so many cultures around the world, the First Forty Days after a child is born is the most sacred time in a woman’s life.
It is a time to rest and recover, bond with your baby, and reflect on the experience of giving birth. It is a time when everyone around you knows their role is to support the postpartum mother. In China, it is called Zuo Yuezi “the sitting month”, in Latin American countries it’s known as “la cuarentena”– forty days, in the Middle East, it is coined ‘al-arba’een’ – also meaning forty days, in Japan it’s known as “Sango no hidachi“. So many cultures and countries around the world have a term for this sacred period after a child is born.
Forty days represent the time needed for a woman to heal after birth, and for their infant to adapt to life outside the womb.
These practices celebrate and honour the postpartum period by providing familial, community and cultural support for mothers – something that we have gotten so wrong in our ‘developed Western societies. Where the idea of “bouncing back” is idealised. Women and infants are often rushed through the first weeks of postpartum life, neglecting their need for deep healing.
So how do you honour this time within a society that may not? It takes understanding, preparation, and utilising what resources you have.
Preparation For Postpartum
Preparing for your postpartum period before the baby is born, can help you create a nurturing environment that will support you once you have had your baby and are deep in your postpartum bubble.
Meal prepping can help take the stress off of new families, by ensuring they have nutritious meals ready to go. Meal subscriptions like Mindful Chef and similar can be helpful.
It’s perfectly fine to ask people not to visit right away, and you have the right to set your own limits. If you do have visitors during your Fourth Trimester, arrange for them to take some tasks off your and your partner’s plates. Simple things like washing dishes, doing laundry, or holding the baby while the postpartum mother has a shower can make all the difference but are often overlooked. Having care set up for other children and pets will help to alleviate stress so that you can focus on your healing and your new baby.
A huge aspect of healing postpartum is giving your body the proper tools to do so with nutrient-rich foods.
Many women find they need to eat as often as every two hours, especially if they are breastfeeding. There are certain essential nutrients needed that are crucial during this time. Healthy omegas can be found in seafood, seaweed, and hemp seeds. Wholesome sources of cholesterol, like nuts and olive oil. Protein from animal or vegetarian sources. Broths are a great place to start. B vitamins from whole grains and fresh produce to help stabilise moods and regulate the nervous system. Stock up on these postpartum pantry staples before you have your baby so they are readily available when needed.
Iron rich foods like red meat and dark leafy greens help restore blood loss after birth and prevent or treat anaemia. Plenty of fresh water- hydration is a crucial part of producing milk to feed your baby if you are breastfeeding. Vitamin C can be found in red peppers and papayas to support the immune system, cell membrane healing, and prevent infection.
All these and more can be found in a diet rich in whole, organic foods, as well as by taking a good postpartum supplement.
For many women, the combination of changing hormones, sleep deprivation and caring for a new human can lead to postpartum depression or anxiety. Make sure that you have people who support you, such as your partner, doula or family members around when you are in labour. These people should know what to look out for during each stage of your postpartum healing journey and be prepared to contact the midwife if necessary.
Give yourself space to process your experience, no matter the outcome of your birth. If you are experiencing symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder, please don’t be afraid to ask for help – whether professional or from a loved one.
Always remember that reaching out for help is not your failure as a mother. It is the biggest act of love for yourself and your new family.
The Transformation to Motherhood During the First Forty Days
The transformation you are going through as a new mother is unique and should be treated accordingly. Your postpartum experience may differ from that of another woman, but it does not make your feelings any less valid.
Your needs may change as the child grows and becomes more independent, so be flexible. Like birth, parenting is unpredictable. Begin your relationship with your baby by honouring the Fourth Trimester or First Forty Days, respect the body that just created life and allow it to rest and recover.