Indian Traditions give a lot of emphasis to the postpartum period. This is the period after birth where you are in a period of confinement for 40 days. These six weeks are pivotal as you recover mentally and physically from child birth. This is necessary to bond with your baby, rest and establish breastfeeding. Your body needs to recuperate and rejuvenate after physical stress of labor.
Tradition says that strictly following these methods ensures fewer backaches, arthritis, joint and pelvic ailments later on in life.
Here are some of the traditional methods Indians have been following for many generations.
- Food: Vegetables are cooked in ghee to enable bowel movement and nourish the body. Lentils, cereals and whole grains are seasoned with spices and served hot. Vegetables like potato, cabbage and cauliflower are considered gassy and are avoided in the first six weeks. The new mother is asked to eat on time, not too little nor too much, no leftover food or frozen food for the new mother.
- Supplements: The new mother is given a lot of ayurvedic supplements. These different tonics help strengthen the bones and muscles, provide immunity, enhance the quality of breast milk, and help in the contraction of uterus and pelvic area.
- Massages: Massages are given to the body of the new mother. The oils used are sesame or coconut oil. Sesame controls the blood pressure and has cooling properties. Coconut oil also has cooling properties and is a good moisturizer.
- Bath: These massages are followed by baths in hot water. Neem leaves are boiled in water. They act as a natural antiseptic. Hot water is poured on the lower half of the body. It soothes the aching and tired muscles. Instead of soaps, chickpea flour with a pinch of turmeric and a milk cream is used for the baby and the mother.
- Belly binding: After bath, the belly is tied with a cloth. The advantages of this are several fold. It pushes the uterus back and keeps it in place. It gets rid of stomach gas. It gives a good posture while breast feeding. It gently pushes the stomach muscles back together and reduces stretch marks.
- Covering of the head: Covering of the head prevents loss of body heat and prevents infection.
- Restrictions: The new mother is advised not to catch a cold. Therefore, use of air conditioner is restricted. Reading and watching television is kept to a minimum to avoid headaches. She is advised to sleep whenever the baby does. She is not allowed to do house work or take on stress of any kind. This is to aid her complete physical and mental recovery.
The holistic approach towards postpartum care is designed to help the new mother adjust to the new role without complications. She gets all the help and love she needs to recuperate and heal both physically and mentally.