Postpartum mothers have expectations of getting up and feeding the family and taking care of their homes immediately after birth. This is what is common in United States of America.
However, Traditional postpartum of other cultures is quite different to our own in USA. We need to look to the East to see what traditional approaches are there. What do other cultures offer?
I have read a book that I recommend titled "The First Forty Days" by Heng Ou - which covers a lot more than I can in this post. But, I'll try to kind of summarize somethings I have learned.
In other cultures such as Chinese, Indian, Malyasian, and others the mother is cared for beyond just a week or so like USA. In these countries, the mother is given a 40 day resting period in which she can enjoy resting up and enjoy her newborn baby.
One of the ideas from this book, I found a lot of planning for your upcoming baby's birth by planning a pantry and recipes to make ahead of time. So, this is a great idea!
The book emphasizes "warming" the mother after birth. She loses alot of her circulation and natural energy - so the warming of soups, stews and such will help the mother postpartum. In this book "the First Forty days" the author has some "Mother Bowls" you can make that are great for postpartum. She also recommends Ginger Fried Rice as a staple food item.
Another part of the book is having rest and retreat time. A mother should not expect to entertain guests immediate postpartum. There is a time and place for this, however, in these other cultures the mother is the one pampered and taken care of not the other way around. So, offering a ceremonial time of resting and retreat is important so the mother can heal from childbirth.
One of my own birth experiences, I don't mind sharing a bit. My daughter was a wonderful homebirth, but I did suffer a bad tear from her birth. I almost said I did not want any more children. However, I had a wonderful midwife who knew herbal recipes to help me heal up. So, I basically did take around at least 30 days to really fully not do much after birth. I would take daily sitz baths in the special herbal combo that my midwife provided and I took it easy on any household tasks. We even had a temp postpartum doula come in to help with a few tasks. So, I slowly healed up and finally felt well enough to do more around 30 days or so after birth. I guess we were blessed so much by our midwife "down the lane" - I got a bit spoiled by her. I truly miss those first postpartum days in a way - I look back on them as some of my happiest time.
So, more postpartum mothers need this support becuase many do suffer from postpartum depression and do not have the help they need.
Another part of the support network is having friends or family member delivering meals to the postpartum mother. Leaving the meals on her front porch so she can rest or so her baby can breastfeed and not be disturbed. (Or baby can nap without a door ringing!) This is really a time for baby and mother and immediate family only.
So, when can relatives visit the mother after birth? We recommend waiting towards the end of the 40 day rest time frame - like 30 days or so later - as by now breastfeeding is well established, mom is better rested, and having a few visitors would be okay by then. The family that does come and visit should still "pitch in to help" the postpartum mother - not expecting her to make meals, clean, etc. I truly believe if we look at the postpartum phase like this then less mothers would be depressed - as she is receiving support.
The few mothers that do have postpartum depression should receive help. But there are natural ways to consider first. Another great book is titled "Creating Postpartum wellness" in which Laura Rude the author talks about alternative natural methods and when to talk to the doctor for medications. So, the one reason I recommend this book is that Laura wants to balance natural and blend with medications if necessary. It is just nice to have a good way to start out in most natural as possible so it affects the baby less and the mother maybe able to find a good alternative approach.
A friend of mine tried a natural approach to her depression and it really did work for her - so I am glad for her.
So, I would like to end this post with a question to postpartum or expecting parents out there - What does your family expect of you after your birth? Do you have any traditions in place for visiting after birth?
So, think of this and here are a few resources below to help you with postpartum time frame. I am also trying to write a Catholic postpartum book! If you want to contribute any ideas or have questions for me to answer in it - I would love to do so! Email me at email@example.com for contributions!