Enjoy your babymoon!
From the information often presented in magazines and the media it would seem that there is often an emphasis, even obligation, on women to get back to their pre-pregnancy routines as soon as possible after childbirth. Yet in the early weeks of motherhood, most new mums are likely to need the same amount of emotional and physical support as they did during pregnancy and birth. While it is better for your overall health to be up and about as you are able, the emphasis placed on returning to normality focuses on women’s strength and capability while disregarding their need for physical and emotional recuperation following the strain of pregnancy and childbirth and the responsibilities of
parenthood. This expectation prevails even where women have experienced a difficult birth or caesarean section; it also impacts on the growing numbers of women who are balancing motherhood with successful careers. Consequently, the early weeks of parenthood are even more precious, which perhaps reflects the current interest in ‘babymoons’?
The idea is, of course, taken from the period of time following a marriage and known in western cultures as the honeymoon. A ‘babymoon’ is a postnatal lying-in period, where a new mother gets to know and care for her baby whilst being looked after by her partner, family and friends. Worldwide, many cultures have upheld a tradition for a time of peace and quiet for the mother as identified in the babymoon phase; it can last for up to six weeks and is also referred to as ‘nesting’ and ‘rooming-in’. Mothers are often fed rich, nourishing food to help them recuperate, are massaged daily and customarily pampered by their family and friends. This period is also thought to ease the baby’s transition from life inside its mother’s uterus (womb) to the world outside. This philosophy is gaining support in western societies and, while a daily massage may be unrealistic, spending protected time with your newborn is often more feasible.
New mums often yearn for a safe and tranquil environment where they can just be themselves, and, alongside their newborn, rest and recuperate from the labour and birth. New mums should trust their feelings and listen to their body’s needs at this time; if they can rest, relax and keep the early weeks and months stress-free, there is more opportunity for them to get to know their baby.
If you are breastfeeding, it is even more important to get adequate rest, which helps establish breastfeeding and encourages a good milk supply. Having privacy so you can spend uninterrupted time with your baby in skin-to-skin contact helps breastfeeding and soothes baby’s transition into the world – the familiar scent of your skin is a comfort.
When planning your babymoon you may decide that you just want your partner to be there; if this isn’t practical or you’d prefer friends/family, think carefully about the support they would be able to offer you. Would it be the support that you need or will you end up caring more for them than yourself?
Many parents will have already stocked up on freezer foods and non-perishables in preparation for the early days/weeks after the birth. Making sure that you have nappy changing provisions, a supply of drinking fluids, even some leisure activities for yourself are also important. Now is the time to relinquish the household chores and hand them over to your partner, or perhaps there is a relative or friend who would be willing to manage your household laundry and the ironing? Similarly, is there someone who could prepare simple nourishing meals for you, so that you can keep away from the kitchen? The arrival of a baby often prompts offers of support from neighbours, whether it is sending around a plate of hot food, doing your grocery shop, or amusing your newborn’s older siblings.
The important thing is being able to focus solely on what you and your baby need. This will mean putting your needs and those of your baby first – for many mums, this is not very easy to do but your partner can help by fielding well-meaning phone calls and eager visitors. Placing a notice on the door eg ‘New mum and baby resting; please don’t disturb’ and providing a notepad for any messages can be helpful. Use of new webcam technology can also be a way to communicate with friends and family without having to provide hospitality. This way you can control contact to suit you rather than your visitors who can disregard parents’ fatigue post birth and the sleep deprivation associated with caring for a newborn. They must appreciate that they might have to wait to see your new baby and because they care about you, they will, and do, wait. Similarly, if you or your baby’s health means there is a delay in your returning home together; there is no reason why you cannot delay your babymoon until the time is right for you all.