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.”