Pregnancy and labour, especially the first time round is an exhilarating, terrifying and joyous experience all in the same moment. Growing another person inside of you and then helping the little bundle enter the world is both overwhelming and exhausting for the mothers mind and body.
In western society in most cases if you choose to give birth in a hospital you are sent home after the first day given no complications have arisen and that is it! No starter manual, no take home kit and definitely no rest or time to comprehend that life as you know it has completely changed.
In those first few days and months care for you and your baby is so important. I scoured the earth to showcase how women all around the world are looked after postpartum and it is beautiful.
China – In Chinese culture zuo yuezi which directly translates to ‘sitting in month’ is practised. As the name implies no leaving the house for you or your baby alongside a number of rules such as not eating raw fruit and vegetables and being limited to sponge baths all for the health and wellbeing of the mother and baby.
Zuo yuezi is observed to restore the mothers yin and yang after childbirth and to strengthen the baby. Mothers are given special soups which increase milk supply and encouraged to rest and bond with the baby while the family attends to household tasks.
Affluent mothers can check into luxury postpartum centres in cities such as Beijing. Although it is worth noting that they cost an eye watering £400 or more a night but you are waited on hand and foot and have access to specialist nannies who look after your baby and focus on their development while you recuperate.
Here is a video of one mothers decision to opt for a postpartum centre.
Korea – For the first three weeks after childbirth, getting out of the house is strictly forbidden. Seaweed soup is consumed in heaps and you are discouraged from taking a shower or being exposed to the cold for at least 1 week.
Japan – The three week rule is also observed and ansei, which loosely translated is peace and quiet with pampering is encouraged. This is typically done at the grandparents home so that the new mother is once again relieved from household duties and can spend her time in bed bonding with her baby. Ansei is linked to a better recovery postpartum as it allows the uterus sufficient time to recover from the trauma caused by labour.
Malaysia – Practices include hiring a traditional masseuse to massage and bind the belly to encourage healing whilst hot stones are placed on the stomach to encourage cleansing of the womb post birth.
To find out how to do it watch the video below:
India – Mothers practice confinement anywhere from 40 to 60 days, depending on the region. Regular massages with oils are encouraged to keep the mothers’ body relaxed and supple whilst staying home is believed to protect both mother and baby from infection and allow her to recover from childbirth. Extended family is key to the support received and often the new mum goes to stay with her own mother or mother figure for the duration of the confinement period.
Caribbean – Mothers on this side of the world are encouraged to stay home for 8 days. Nutritious food is provided for the mother and rest is encouraged.
The above is a small slice of the cultural practices around the world for a new mother. What seems to be the most prevalent factor which recurs is the practice of confinement alongside the act of being cared for by female elders and loved ones at a time when a woman is at her most vulnerable.
They will teach the new mother how to look after their baby and most importantly will look after the baby when you need to sleep. It is understood that what you have gone through and what your body is still going through is challenging and exhausting.
Compare this care to western cultures where the new mother is expected to entertain her visitors from day one. Even whilst still in the hospital and left with google as her guide to all baby related queries inevitably leaves no time for mother to bond with the baby.
Western culture does have it’s positives and we are not saying it is all bad however after reading this if you can help at least one other mama, Muslim or not following birth then we have done something right!
What was your experience and cultural traditions after giving birth? Let us know in the comments.
All guest writer articles come from our Muslim Mamas community or from our network of supporters. Some contribute one-off stories; some contribute as anonymous mamas. All experiences and opinions are those of the writers.