Becoming parents is overwhelming, exciting and the best experience of your life. Bringing your little one home to start your new life as parents or bringing them home to their siblings can be a big adjustment for some and making sure you have the right support system in place to adjust to your new life is super important. How mums are treated around the world after giving birth is different for every culture.
Women in Western nations, such as Australia, typically resume ‘normal’ life shortly after giving birth. This can help regulate weight and facilitates bonding between mother and child. Autonomy around food choices and activity levels remains, but there’s considerable variation in the support received by new mothers, especially since it largely depends on personal circumstances. Your partner may take paternity leave, your mum might come to help, and your friends may drop off a meal or two to help support your transition into motherhood.
Other traditions around the world:
- To avoid hurting their eyes, new Vietnamese mums aren’t supposed to cry, read or watch TV.
- Cambodian women are encouraged to stay calm while avoiding strong emotions and overthinking.
- New mums in Guyana have a special celebration nine days after birth, where guests bring golden bangles for the newborn. During the celebration, some mums burn their placenta to symbolise the parting of mother and baby.
- In some Hindu families, a new mum’s breasts are washed by female relatives before the baby’s first feed.
- New mothers in Japan are treated to a month (or longer) of rest and pampering at her parents’ house, known as ansei.
- Some women in Thailand also enjoy yu duan, a 30-day rest period, though mums of baby girls get a longer rest period. Why? Well, it’s believed women deserve longer with their mums at the beginning because they work harder than men throughout life!
The fourth trimester is the 12-week period immediately after giving birth to your baby. It’s a term coined by the us paediatrician Harvey Karp in 2002, that highlights the fact that even though your baby is outside your body, they’re still very much connected to you. Essentially, once you have birthed your baby, you are always in postpartum. During the fourth trimester, your baby wants to be near you – or preferably on you – for most of the time. You are all they’ve ever known and it’s helpful to remember that you are their home; they are comforted and soothed by your touch, smell and voice.
The fourth trimester is a period of vulnerability for yourself and your baby. It’s good to keep this in mind as you prepare for postpartum because it will encourage you to create a solid foundation of support for yourself.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and its true. When it comes to parenting, new parents don’t often hear that it’s okay to ask for help. As parents we tend to turn away help because we feel like we should know what we are doing and be able to handle the situation we are in without asking for help from others around us. It takes a lot of strength and courage to reach out to the people in your life for a helping hand—whether it’s for babysitting, getting some me time or seeking advice from a fellow parent. There’s no shame in using all your available resources to care for your newborn, so don’t let guilt hold you back.
Building a village means nurturing relationships so that you have people to turn to for support. As you develop your village, you will have moments where you need or want support from an understanding adult. Remind yourself it’s okay to ask for help. Building your village can include leaning on your friends and family. Getting to know other local parents who live in your area and taking part in group activities where you will meet other parents. Your village can also include people that specialise in this area such as maternal health nurses, midwives and postpartum doulas.
So, when you arrive home, what can your village do to help support you without being intrusive? There are so many things family members and friends can do to support you without being in intrusive. Sometimes the last thing you want is a house full of visitors holding your baby and intruding your personal space when you have just given birth. This time is so precious to you and your partner, and you should be resting, healing your body and soaking up the moments together. You can write a list of things down that you think is supportive to you and don’t be afraid to send this to your family and friends. They then know to give you space but also know what will support you in your postpartum period.
Getting family to make meals for you is a great way in knowing you are nurturing your body with nutritious meals. It is so important for a woman to eat a healthy diet because her body has just been through a major change, and it deserves to be well nourished to promote healing. Family and friends making some fresh meals for the first couple of weeks when you’re settling in at home means you don’t have to stress about cooking and let your body relax. You can even prepare meals and freeze them, so they only have to be heated up. You can get family and friends to organise meal deliveries from services around your area. Other things family and friends can do to help you are chores around the house, such as cleaning, outdoor jobs, baby-sitting siblings if you have more than one child. Even watching your baby while you have a nap.
If you feel like you are not settling in at home and you are needing extra support you can reach out to online resources such as Raising Children’s Network, Panda, Beyond Blue, Red nose, Australian Breastfeeding Association or local resources such as general practitioner, maternal health nurse, midwife and postpartum doula, just to name a few.
When the time comes for family members and friends to come meet your little one there is some things to take into consideration. It is super important for the mother or father to hold their baby and for bubs to not be passed around to heaps of visitors and this is why. Germs being the biggest issue. Babies do not form their blood brain barrier for around two months, as well as don’t receive their first lot of needles till two months old, which means they are at higher risk for more serious infections until then. So, make sure if people are visiting that they are not sick, and are up to date with their vaccine status.
Your baby Is in the womb for 9 months, knows your smell, knows the sound of your heartbeat and is familiar with your voice. When it comes to palming baby off to visitors, baby can become unsettled, due to loud noises, not having mothers’ warmth, strong perfumes, colognes and smell of smoke that can trigger baby. This then stays on their clothing which means this is stronger than the mothers natural scent causing baby to become unsettled.
Don’t be afraid to put rules in place before visitors come over and let them know these rules are:
- Wash hands after entering and before touching baby.
- Stay away if feeling unwell.
- Do not use perfumes or smoke before visiting.
- Stay for a short period of time.
- No vax no visit
Remember that visitors can come visit without needing to hold baby. Your baby is going to be most content with you, their comfort zone, their familiar place. This is going to keep baby and yourself much calmer and at the end of the day people can just wait to hold the baby!
My name is Amika Cripps, and I am a doula who has completed extensive training at the Doula Training Academy with Vicki Hobbs. I am based in Prom Coast, Victoria and if you would like more information about how I can support you on your journey, then feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Prom Coast Doula
0427 644 896