Ever since a woman becomes pregnant, all that she focuses on is having a healthy child. She endures the pregnancy with just one ultimate aim – that the baby who is to be born should be healthy. But a mother needs to be healthy and happy too! She needs to be given the time to recuperate, regain her strength, and bond with the baby. She needs to be supported with loving care and be given the time to recover, and spend cozy, warm time with the newborn. Thus comes into place the reverence of confinement period practices after birth.
What Is The Confinement Period For New Mothers?
Traditional Indian practices advise a “confinement” period of new mothers for 40 days or more– during which the mother is advised to stay indoors and do minimum house-work thus giving her full time and attention to the new born baby. Many Indian communities follow different ways of the post-pregnancy confinement period, which actually aims at protecting the new mother and the baby from infections, and help the mother to recover from the exhaustion of childbirth – though the customs may differ. Some women recover pretty quickly, and they may find that the restricted confinement period is way too long a time to stay indoors and rest, while for those whose recovery is taking time, this period would be a very welcome phase.
Why Is A Confinement Period Advised To New Mothers?
A new mother is exhausted after the birth, and as it is, a mother needs to feed her new-born multiple times during the day, due to which she hardly gets any rest. The confinement period also helps the new mother to recover and recuperate. This tradition comes from the olden times where a new mother was surrounded by various women of the house to help during and post delivery. Family members and friends get together to do the household chores, take care of the elder kids, cook and feed etc. and give the new mother well deserved rest. A confinement period can be possible for a mother only if she has help from family, like the women who stay with their in-laws or move to their parents’ house for delivery are more likely to indulge in confinement practices.
How Long Is The Confinement Period?
A confinement period is dependent on the beliefs and religious practices of the family, extending anywhere from a few days to 3 months, though a 40 day confinement period is most popular. In the Northern and Western parts of India, women stay at home for 40 days, while in the North-Eastern and East states, confinement is not practiced rigorously and is much shorter. In the South region, women stay at home for even 60 days. Whatever the length of the period, it is aimed at providing maximum rest and comfort to new mothers. However, with more and more nuclear families, many women choose not to indulge in this practice- owing to the lack of support and the working culture.
Traditionally, the confinement period is made up of several restrictions on the new other on her eating, drinking, sleeping and dressing habits. Some traditions also confine women from doing a lot of things, and some families also impose a lot of restrictions. If you feel it is too much to take on, do talk to your family members, since stress and post-natal depression could not only hamper your health but also affect your milk supply. You might feel that 40 days is too long a period to stay indoors and may not appreciate the restrictions. On the other hand, you might be relieved that the 40 day period will mean lots of rest and bonding for you and your baby.
How Long Will I Take To Heal From Delivery?
A body post birth recovers at its own pace, and the time that you will take to heal and get back to routine will depend on the birthing experience you have had. Pains and aches will stay for quite a long time, especially if you have had a C-section delivery. Though it is difficult to rest with a newborn baby who will be required to be fed every two hours, yet you can try and help yourself by eating well, watching for any signs of infection, keeping yourself away from other household chores and taking as much sleep as possible. This is also one reason that confinement period is advised, else you would find yourself in the kitchen just a few days after delivery.
How Can I Indulge In My 40-Day Confinement Period?
A woman can indulge in the 40-day confinement period only if she has help – parents, in-laws, cousins etc. One could also hire a part time or a live-in maid, or a dai to help with baby care and housework if family is not near. We’d say that instead of feeling gloomy about it, make the best use of this period and take this as an opportunity to bond with your new-born baby before the rush of life sets a routine again. Some things that might help you feel the best during the 40 day confinement period are –
- Time for elders: Being a mother changes everything – if you have your mother or mother-in-law staying with you, you might start feeling gratitude for them since you have gone through the overwhelming time yourself now
- Get over your emotional state: Post delivery, you could be very happy and be emotionally satisfied, or you could be feeling emotionally drained and depressed. Some women experience severe mood swings, sadness, depression and guilt – signs of postpartum depression. If you do feel the same, it would be wise to consult your doctor and be refreshed emotionally as well in the confinement period
- Look for tips: A baby is a very delicate creature – ask for help from family members and do seek out tips on baby care from the mothers of the house. Bathing, holding, playing with the baby can seem a daunting task since the tiny being will look so fragile and will be so dependent on you. Experienced mothers can help you get over this phase
- Indulge in sleep: You’d not be getting enough of it, but sneak in a nap whenever you can. Every minute of post delivery sleep will be a step forward to recovery and health. Enjoy this time, after all, you are on a break from your household duties now!
- Post-Delivery massage: Hire a local ‘maalishwali’ who knows about post delivery massage and we’d say you would love them. Massages after the delivery can relieve you from the pains and aches and will also help strengthen your body. You will feel very relaxed and light after the massage
- Post-Delivery food: India has region and culture specific post delivery foods – enjoy all of them but the key is moderation. These foods are high in calories since they are made from ghee and sugar and it is believed that they will help a new mother to recover quickly and better. Eating healthy with all vital nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins present in your diet will make the recovery faster. Eating right now will also help loose the pregnancy weight later in a sensible way
- Care for your stitches: Your body has undergone a tremendous change – take some time to sit in a hot water tub or sitz bath, using ice-packs and help your stitches to heal quickly. Keep an eye for any infection and do consult the doctor if anything makes you feel uncomfortable
- Master breastfeeding: Try out the various positions, and know how you and your baby find it comfortable. Get used and comfortable with breastfeeding. Read more on breastfeeding here
- Sneak in some couple time: Make little time for your husband as well – after all he is as overwhelmed as you are!
Postnatal care is very important for a mother, as she has gone through immense physical and psychological changes. The main aim of having a confinement period for new mothers is to provide proper rest and nutrition to the new mom. Many health issues in later life are linked to inadequate postpartum care, and hence make the most of your confinement period. Let your body heal at its own pace and seek help when required.
More on North Indian Postpartum Period Care South Indian Postpartum Period Care here.