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Traditional practices in many Indian communities include a 40 day rule of confinement as well as pampering for the new mother. Here’s a personal experience of this 40 day postpartum period.
After two days of rest at the hospital post delivery, it was time to go back to my sweet home where everybody was waiting eagerly for our arrival. (Well, mostly for the little angel who would be going home for the first time.) After two days of queen-like treatment at the hospital, I was wondering how my baby and I would be treated, as I was not able to even get up by myself, and not able to walk properly. I wondered how I would feed the baby by myself, and had a whole lot of such questions.
I had already arranged a maid for household chores and cooking as I was aware that my mother-in-law who came to stay with us would not be able to give us any kind of support beyond some time. So, I had to take care of my baby and myself, which was the toughest task in that postpartum period. Sleepless nights with the newborn had already became a crucial part of my life by then.
In the initial days, the baby does not always cry to indicate that he is hungry, so the doctor advised me to breastfeed him at every 2 hours by the clock, which helped in curing mild symptoms of jaundice at the initial stage itself. (Apart from the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding, there is a convenience factor too – you can feed your baby whenever he wants, and you do not need to get up and wash, sterilize bottles, utensils, prepare milk for the baby – this takes a lot of effort in the postpartum period.)
I was lactating enough and nourishing my little one with breastmilk, which was of course the first miracle I saw after giving birth to a baby (which is the ultimate one!) I was happy to see a magician inside me who was performing new tricks daily. However, apart from the happiness of a magician, there was a lot of tiredness and weakness due to the after-effects of delivery and the sleepless nights. In the initial days, the baby pees and poops very frequently and this task of changing diapers was taken up by my MIL and my husband voluntarily. In return though, I got to hear that I do not know how to clean baby’s poop because I was not doing it. Well, though I overheard this, I relaxed as I knew that in the coming days, I would be the only one doing this task most of the time.
This 40 day postpartum period when MIL and husband took of charge of various tasks and helped me in recovering and feeding the baby properly, was like a complete rest period for me. My routine was the same as the baby’s, our nap and waking times were the same. If the baby did not soothe and needed a lap, then MIL and the husband were always ready to soothe the baby to sleep. My baby was born in the chill of December, so I did not go out except for doctor’s visits.
As per the traditional 40 day rule, a new mother and baby are not allowed to go out or to entertain guests visiting the house. It may be because the new mother needs complete rest and time to recover and bond with the baby. Plus, if you go out or people come to meet you, they may spread infections to you and your baby as at this time, both have low immunity. In my case, coincidentally, it was winter; so I enjoyed winter fully by keeping us warm in the quilt. However, some sort of exercises and walking should be done during this time to avoid weight gain and joint pains.
I also got to taste the traditional recipes of the 40 day period cooked by MIL, which give your body nourishment so that you can have good lactation, heal faster and of course, gain some weight. (Some recipes may cause weight gain as they are prepared with lots of ghee and dry fruits I think at this point of time we should consider our own health and that of the baby’s over weight gain.) Foods which increase lactation and improve digestion are given to the new mother like moong dal khichdi, ajwain, jeera, and methi water. I had light meals over oily and spicy ones as the mother’s feed directly impacts the baby’s tummy and I have observed its result on my baby.
The 40 day rule also allowed me to have a daily body massage from a hired maalishwali which I enjoyed a lot. As it was a cold winter, I did not take bath daily but cut it to a weekly routine so that I could avoid catching a cold and spreading it my baby. I did of course maintain good hygiene which was also needed for baby and me. The traditional 40 day rule advises one to not take bath daily, and the advice to cover your head and feet may also be for the same reason.
The 40 day rule does not allow new mothers to go to the temple as well, though God only knows why! Till now, I am not able to identify any scientific logic behind this. The 40 day postpartum period worked like magic for me and I enjoyed it with the flexibility I needed. You can adopt this period with the measures you like, and whatever you do not like, you can skip it in your own way. After all, happiness is also a must for recovering and bringing up a healthy baby in the 40 day postpartum period.
If you feel the 40 day period is like confinement in jail, then forget this rule and do it your own way, keeping your health and that of the baby’s as priority. There are many women who do not follow the 40 day rule because of their own preferences or because there was no support for them; they still did not face any complication in recovering and bringing up a healthy baby.
Follow your heart and enjoy this period. Bring up your ideas, speak to your elders and take them along in the journey of those happy 40 days. You definitely know how to do it. And a happy mother makes for a happy baby!
Happy 40 day Postpartum Period!
Top image via Pixabay