During pregnancy, women spend nine months tending to their baby’s every need. Some get a little R+R on a babymoon, and others treat themselves to a killer postpartum exercise routine. But for lots of ladies, it’s hard to get a break during the first few sleepless months of motherhood. MotherBees founder and mama wellness expert Heng Ou thinks that’s a mistake, and she shared with us why this time period is so important for moms.
Western countries often don’t give women enough time to physically and emotionally heal after childbirth. “There are a lot of career-driven women these days, and we have a lot more on our minds,” Heng says. “If you don’t have that care, a mom can hormonally shift into a place of loneliness and a place of being lost.” According to advocacy group Postpartum Progress, one in seven women struggle with postpartum depression.
Her new book, The First Forty Days, offers ways to better care for yourself and your infant. Drawing from zuo yuezi, the Chinese practice of postpartum rest and confinement, she shares recipes and thoughtful tips for supporting the needs of new moms. Keep scrolling for her advice on blissfully welcoming motherhood.
How to Have the Happiest Postpartum Ever
1. Practice saying no. Physically and hormonally, you’ve got a lot going on right now. “This overwhelming feeling will happen, and it’s natural,” Heng says. That means it’s your prerogative to stay at home totally absorbed in your new life. “The best thing to do is keep yourself in a place of happiness and joy, and practice that before you give birth,” she says. “It’s okay to say no, thank you to the ones that aren’t bringing you that same joy. ”
2. Put a little money aside. With you (and probably your partner) taking time off from work, finances can get tight. Heng recommends saving what you can earlier in the pregnancy to avoid any unnecessary stress. Free up extra cash for unexpected expenses.
3. Stock up on food. Preparing meals when you’re tired and stretched thin is the last thing you should be doing as a new mom. “Your adrenaline is completely depleted, and if you don’t have that nourishing food, you go through a deep sadness,” Heng says. Stock your freezer with nourishing soups and stews to have on hand before giving birth. Keep healthy fats on hand — like salmon, nuts and avocados — for when you need a snack.
4. Get some outside help. Think of postpartum as your fourth trimester. Now your cuddly baby is in the world, but you still have to take care of yourself. In zuo yuezi, a family member or close friend moves in with the couple to make food and take care of the family. For Heng, her aunt was always in the kitchen churning out batches of porridge and warm broth after her first child was born. “The smell from the kitchen was comforting to me,” she says. “All I had to do is lay here.” Even if this model doesn’t work for your family, consider hiring someone to clean the house or watch your other children while you’re getting the hang of things.
5. Improve communication with your partner. “Look inside yourself before you make a quick judgment or an outward statement,” Heng says. When both of you are tired and hungry, arguments are bound to arise. Before the baby comes, practice effective listening. Diffusing conflict helps you to better support one another. “Develop some languages with your partner to let them know you need some help right now,” she says.
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(Photos via MotherBees)