Caring for the new Mother
The new mothers experience can be one of wonder, miracle and overwhelming love, but can be equally filled with fear, judgment, exhaustion and profound loneliness. We are living in a time where the 'powermum’ that can do it all on her own' and the expectation of 'getting back to her pre-baby body' is highlighted in the media.
This has not always been the case. Traditions to care for the mother in her first 40 days, the golden month or the fourth trimester have been around for centuries. Did you know that typically in a village, there would be an average of 11 adults to take care of the food, safety and day to day chores per baby born so that the mother can rest and rejuvenate in order to feed and care for her new baby. In other cultures, sisters, mothers and family members live with the new mum to take care of the household.
We’ve made a lot of progress as women in this world, but I challenge the notion that women need to be and do it all when their role as a mother has only just begun...the day she brought her child into the world! While old sayings like “1 week in the bed, 1 week on the bed, 1 week around the bed” may not fit our current culture, as partners often take a week or two off before they have to go back to work to keep the family afloat. But there is some gold in this idea, and taking a moment to acknowledge that having support from women that have walked the path
before you is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Creating a “village” of respected women can be empowering and bring some much needed connection into a life changing, identity-shifting and often isolating experience. These people may be sisters, aunties, mothers, friends and health professionals that listen, understand and offer gentle support wherever you may need. Perhaps your experience was traumatic; breastfeeding hurts, you may feel exhausted with no sleep while adjusting to parenthood, and it ain't easy!. Having someone there to listen and prioritizing your own healing will be well worth making time for.
In these first 40 days, it is paramount to refuel the mothers body so she has the strength to nourish her baby with milk, love, patience and care.
The general rule in Chinese Medicine is to nourish with warm, well cooked, real foods. A wonderfully nourishing tea that can be easily gifted is “red tea”. Boiling a handful of red dates, a few black dates and a handful of goji berries in 1.5L of water can be put in a thermos and sip as a tea. This will help build the energy and blood lost during birth and pregnancy. A teaspoon of black sesame seeds a day can help move and lubricate the bowels, and a cup of bone broth a day will be warming, soothing, replenish the blood, build collagen, rehydrate the body and is high in glutathione which will help rebuild muscles (especially in the case of repair after a c-section).
It’s more common for new families to educate themselves on fertility, pregnancy, birth and babies, but I encourage you to read up on caring for the mother in the first month also. It is an incredibly powerful time, that can ensure both mother and baby can nourish rest and recover so that they may enjoy this special time.
The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Ann Johnson and The Golden Month book and website are great gifts for any mother in the making. Of course, if there are any specific issues or needs, we are a wealth of knowledge in this area and feel privileged to get to work with mamas at this powerful stage of life!
In good health,
Dr Lisa Schaeffer
Illustration - Louisa In The Studio