Generations of postpartum practices around the world have shown us the importance of thoughtful postpartum care. In today’s world, finding a postpartum protocol that works for and resonates with you as a modern mother is as important as ever. When done well, you receive essential rest and nourishment through food to repair, recover, and restore your body.
Western cultures tend to focus postpartum care on immediate physical recovery for the mother and infant, which often lasts for only a few days after child birth. Meanwhile, Eastern cultures tend to focus on a protracted postpartum recovery journey with social support rituals. In other words, postpartum traditions in most of the world play the long game to invest in your physical and emotional well being over the long term.
It also takes a tribe to do so, to slow cook nourishing foods and support you around your home so that you can focus on getting rest and bonding with your child. These loving rituals are essential for keeping modern conditions like postpartum depression at bay. In Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) culture, the saying goes “forty days for forty years”, signaling that a postpartum protocol that focuses on you -- the new mother -- builds the essential foundations for you to thrive for many years.
Warming the Body
Many postpartum philosophies across the world believe that warming the body is an essential element of postpartum care. The fundamental principle is that during pregnancy your body is in a warm or fortified state, while after giving birth your body (especially your uterus) is in a cold or depleted state.
The benefits to keeping your body warm, whether through heat, bundling, or consuming warm foods, after giving birth are both physical and emotional. In Latin America, your abdomen is wrapped in cloth to keep her belly warm. In India, you drink warm herbal tonics and receive warm oil massages to soothe your nerves. In many Native American tribes, you enter a “sweat lodge” after giving birth to boost circulation and help your body eliminate toxins. In East Asia, you drink slow-simmered, nutrient-dense soups that supply protein, iron, and antioxidants to aid tissue repair and rebuild your blood supply.
Whether it's through food or heat, these cultures impart the importance that warmth is important for combating blood stasis and promote healthy circulation during a key time when your body undergoes dramatic shifts.
Bowls of Soup
Warm soups are more likely to be made with nutrient-dense ingredients which can support physical recovery, whether after child birth or another hardship. Slow-cooked foods are more easily digestible, aiding the absorption of nutrients. Soups that incorporate meat stock further supply protein with complete amino acids, iron, and collagen, essential for repairing connective tissues and rebuilding blood supply. In postpartum tradition, they are also cooked with healthy fats and carbs to replenish your body and aid digestion. This is not the time for diets or losing weight. You will have plenty of time for that after you have regained your strength and fortified your body. More and more, doctors in North America are also imparting the importance of eating warm, digestible foods as part of postpartum recovery.
There is also a compelling anthropological reason we associate a warm bowl of soup with comfort and nourishment. Whether we feel under the weather, physically or emotionally depleted, or otherwise not ourselves, eating a warm bowl of soup feels good to your body and soul. The bowl of soup is both a powerful and timeless aid for nourishment and fortification and a loving ritual of self care.
Mugs of Tea
Sipping a mug of hot tea is an effective way to promote warmth, calm nerves, and receive additional antioxidants and minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium to aid your postpartum recovery. Steeping selected herbs and berries in hot water for extended periods of time can be especially effective for releasing medicinal properties of these ingredients. Raspberry leaves not only stop postpartum bleeding by increasing uterine tone but also is a galactagogue which increases milk supply. Jujube dates and goji berries help digestion, support spleen and blood health, and help calm the nervous system. Staying hydrated after giving birth is also crucial for supporting milk supply. Practicalities aside, a daily ritual of sipping a warm tea can be soothing, calming, and grounding, important when the often sporadic and restless demands of being a new mother can have you feeling drained.
These warming postpartum practices may sound comforting or even second nature to you. Perhaps you have heard about them from your family, friends, or neighbors. Perhaps you incorporate some of these philosophies in your daily routine. Or perhap you are familiar with these practices from a previous postpartum journey. Regardless of your situation, our hope is that after the difficult journey of birthing a child or any other hardship, you prioritize your own warming rituals of self care and love.