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Postnatal care from around the world

We’re a culture of modern mums: superheros who manage babies and business with a dust buster in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. But when it comes to nurturing ourselves post-pregnancy, are we too ready to jump back into the daily grind without a thought to what’s best for our bodies and our children?

Mum with newborn

It has long been a tradition in many of the world’s cultures to nurture post-pregnant mums as much as the new addition, with careful thought put into just what will allow new mothers to regain their pre-pregnancy vitality. However, in the West we rarely borrow from these ancient principles — instead jumping back into a life of work and worry as soon as baby’s off the breast—giving little thought to our body and its needs in order to recover fully.

It’s a concerning and widespread trend, says mother-of-two and author of A Modern Woman’s Guide to a Natural and Empowering Birth, Katrina Zaslavsky, who diligently followed the guidance of other cultures to rest fully and regain her pre-pregnancy shape.

“A new mother’s most important role is to take care of and bond with her new baby and allow her body to fully recover from birth and this should be her only focus in the early weeks of motherhood,” she says.

Rest and recovery

“The importance of adequate rest and good nutrition for new mothers should never be underestimated. Yet in our modern Western society we are expected to just “get up and get on with it” the moment we give birth—we may feel uncomfortable to ask for help or accept it if it comes our way.”

From China to Haiti, there is a strict period of rest for mother and baby, spanning 40 days—the time needed to recover fully and ensure the best start to life for the newborn. As far as mum is concerned, there is no housework, meals are made on request and her tummy is comfortably bound to ensure the womb contracts properly. Failure to get this adequate rest can result in low milk supply and an unsettled baby.

Mumpreneur Kim Vespa discovered belly binding when she was “heavily pregnant” with her first child and suffering from “shocking” abdominal separation. She was surprised she hadn’t heard of wrapping the abdomen before—and that adequate wraps weren’t available in Australia. It is such an important ritual, she says, that she decided to manufacture and sell post pregnancy recovery shapewear, under the name Vespa and the Ladybird, which now caters to a global audience.

“Other cultures are totally on the money,” she says. “They take post-pregnancy belly binding very seriously—women from Asia, the Middle East and South America are by far my biggest clients… somewhere along the way the Western world really lost touch with this practice.”

She adds: “I don’t believe that health professionals spend enough time—or any in fact—educating women about how to look after their bodies post-pregnancy.”

Top tips for ultimate postnatal care

  • Chinese and Haitian wisdom suggests staying warm. Take lavender baths, drink warm teas, eat only warm foods and wrap up if it’s winter.
  • Rest in bed, lying flat on your back when possible, for the first month post-birth.
  • Have someone you love and trust sign on as your caregiver and house cleaner, taking care of chores so you can rest your body and your mind, while nurturing your baby.
  • Treat yourself to in-home massages and take therapeutic baths, rather than showers, as they do in Indonesia.
  • Book in for a Mayan massage, a treatment that’s said to speed up recovery and treat postnatal issues such as prolapsed uterus.
  • Wrap your belly in a Mayan faja to fast track abdominal and womb recovery.

More pregnancy and baby

How to shift that baby weight
The pros and cons of breastfeeding
4 Ways new mums can look after themselves

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