Post-partum confinement – traditionally an Asian custom where new mothers don’t leave the home, shower or see anyone outside immediate family members for 40 days – is being adopted more and more by women in the Western world.
Sydney mother Kate Alexandra, 33, is one of those mothers.
“I wasn’t using the term ‘confinement’, it was more about honouring my recovery after birth and giving myself permission to not rush back to everyday domestic duties and regular life,” she told Mamamia.
“It was really about giving myself time to recover from the birth, and giving myself and my baby time to bond, and it meant spending a lot of time together skin-to-skin. If you’re trying to practice skin-to-skin, you don’t want to be jumping up and rushing off to the grocery store or going out and visiting friends for coffee.
“The term ‘confinement’ feels like imprisonment or locking yourself in, but it felt the total opposite for me.”
Kate said she told family and friends she would be spending 40 days at home and asked for their support and help with errands and helping out with her three-year-old son.
“I think for women nowadays to ask for that much help and support, I was quite out of my comfort zone,” Kate said.
“I felt like I was putting so much pressure on my family to help me out. My doula said to me: ‘Get it out of your head, you’re not putting pressure on anyone. It takes a whole family, a whole village and a whole community to raise a child, and by being brave enough to ask for that support, you’re changing the tide of what women should be expected to do and inviting the community to participate and be part of the beginning of your journey into motherhood and your baby’s journey into the world’.”
Kate said she decided to embark on a “postpartum retreat” after having issues with sleeping and breastfeeding with her first child.
“I just didn’t want to rush to anything and wanted to make sure I established breastfeeding, and give my baby time to ease into it, and just do what feels good, and not have this agenda of coffee-dates and catch-ups,” she said.
“It is a bit full-on having your first baby and you’re trying to reconnect with people because there is a sense of feeling a bit isolated sometimes.
“Staying home felt a little bit isolating to me but I sort of reframed it this second time around, that it was sort of this postpartum retreat for myself.”
The yoga teacher spent most of the 40 days at home or in the backyard, with a few walks around the block thrown in. She stocked up the freezer with meals and her husband cooked a couple of meals each week using a food delivery service. She didn’t wash her chest for two weeks so her smell and hormones helped the baby form a strong attachment. attaching to help the baby – I wanted the hormones and the smell of my body to be accessible to my baby so it could facilitate good breastfeeding and good attachment.”
“Last time was too much of a rush. I definitely felt incredibly rejuvenated by the time the 40 days came to an end, it was amazing.
“The most challenging part of it was going back to regular life after the 40 days – it was really full-on reintroduction into the world and I was really exhausted. I realised how fast I had been going because I slowed down so much – I’d almost grounded to a halt – in the post-partum period. If I did it again I would probably ease myself into it more.”
Kate will appear on SBS’s The Feed on Monday – here is a preview:
She said the experience had made her a more mindful and present mother and partner and she would highly recommend other news mums enjoy the “newborn cocoon”.
“Take the time to get to know your baby, fall in love,” she said.
“The world will still be there. This is a moment you only have once or a handful of times in your life, depending on the number of children you have, and those first 40 days can help set the tone for the rest of the baby’s life.”
For more on post-partum retreats and confinement, watch THE FEED tonight at 7.30pm on SBS2.