The first 40 days after a woman gives birth is known as “postpartum period”. In most customs and religions all over the world, this is “the confinement period for the mother and baby” during which she is expected to rest, recuperate and bond with the baby. However, most of you would be working and would be physically active till the day of your baby’s birth. Hence, the thought of ‘confinement for almost 6 weeks’ would sound almost impossible. You might also wonder, “Is that really essential?”
YES, it is extremely important. Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy to help sustain the healthy growth of your baby. So after you deliver, it needs at least 4 to 6 weeks to get back to its pre-pregnant status. It is a slow and gradual process, so you should learn to respect your body and just relax. Those postpartum hormones make you feel anxious, worried, stressed and guilty. They drag you into ‘the baby blues’. You are already exhausted from lack of sleep, crying baby, endless nursing sessions and your own aches and pains.
So what should you do?
- Take adequate rest – Just lie down, even if you cannot actually sleep. This helps to relax your muscles and spine.
- Learn proper breastfeeding technique – This ensures that the repeated nursing sessions are not responsible for your back or shoulder pain.
- Have a healthy diet – The traditional postpartum food, though not very delicious, is extremely nutritious. It helps to repair your body tissues and also supports your lactation. So just go for it!
- Learn about baby care – No matter how many books you may have read or videos you may have seen, the actual process of baby care may overwhelm you. Hence take practical guidance from elderly people and your doctor.
- Share responsibilities – Whether it is house work or baby care, make it a point to take maximum help from people around you, so you can get some rest.
- Keep yourself happy – Remember to spend some quality time with ‘yourself’ daily. You may listen to music, watch something on the television, read a book, meditate, go for a stroll or take a nice body massage. These activities keep you sane and help maintain your emotional balance.
- Visit your doctor for routine checks – Your doctor will need to examine you to check your abdomen, uterus, cervix and vagina, to make sure that you are healing well. She will also need to discuss about contraception, birth spacing and about the medicines which you may need to continue.
You will be in good physical and mental health, and enjoy your motherhood thoroughly, only if you take good care of yourself in ‘the postpartum period’. Hence, although it may seem foolhardy, there is a lot of sense in going through the confinement for those 40 days.
Dr. Preeti Gangan
MBBS, DCH, IBCLC
Paediatrician and Lactation Consultant