The postpartum period is a time of transformation and growth, not just for the baby but also for the new mother. Across the world, cultural traditions have evolved to nurture and support women during this delicate phase.
From Scandinavia to Asia, the significance of resting, family support, and baby care shines through in these time-honored practices.
So many beautiful postpartum traditions often intertwine with cultural beliefs and practices. Let’s look at some unique traditions that showcase the richness and diversity of postpartum traditions worldwide – and what we can learn from them.
Postpartum customs and traditions worldwide
Let’s take a closer look at some postpartum traditions around the world, including:
- Latin America
Scandinavian countries are ranked as the best places to be a mother – especially for the postpartum period! Children are a priority in these cultures, reflected in their policies.
Finland is an excellent example of this. Since 1938, the Finnish government has provided expectant mothers with free baby boxes with 63 essentials for newborn and postpartum care. The box even doubles as a baby bed!
Today Finland has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world, partially thanks to the baby box.
In some Asian cultures, such as in India and China, there is a tradition of ‘confinement’ where new mothers are encouraged to rest and recover at home for several weeks.
Special diets, massages, and herbal remedies are often employed to aid in the healing process.
In particular, the Chinese tradition of zuo yuezi takes a new mother’s recovery seriously. New moms will practice a lie-in period of 40 days, focusing on nourishing their bodies, staying warm, and balancing their flow of chi.
While mothers focus on themselves and their babies, while their family cares for everything else. China honors this time so well that they even have all-inclusive postpartum hotels.
In Japanese tradition, new mothers often return to their mother’s homes to be with their families. Like the Chinese tradition, the new mother rests with her baby, and the family takes care of the household.
In Bali, Indonesia, a mother undergoes a ceremony known as Nelu Bulanin to show gratitude and introduce the baby to their community. These ceremonies occur at the mother’s home, where she buries the placenta when the baby is three months old.
Some Latin American countries practice ‘cuarentena,’ or the forty-day period post-birth, during which rest and traditional herbal remedies are emphasized.
Nourishment, family, and community support are the focus during this time. A new mom only needs to worry about bonding with her baby – and her support system takes care of the rest.
Another ancient practice in Latin America is postpartum “sealing.” This time focuses on re-introducing warmth into the mother’s body through herbal baths, womb massages, belly binding, and other practices.
A difference in postpartum healthcare standards
Here are some standard postpartum healthcare practices in different countries:
In Denmark, a midwife will make a follow-up call the day after leaving the hospital, followed by a visit from an at-home health visitor within four to five days after birth.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, new mothers are provided with a kraamverzorgster, a maternity nurse who offers at least 24 hours of care within the initial eight days after discharge, right in the comfort of their homes!
Swedish mothers benefit from insurance-covered breastfeeding counseling, and midwives make as many home visits as necessary during the initial four days after delivery (with additional visits available as required).
In France, in-home postpartum care is available, and all birthing parents are automatically referred for pelvic floor therapy.
In the United Kingdom, pregnancy care is led by a midwife, which follows over into the postpartum period.
Postpartum doulas are rising across South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and North America. Doulas help with the continuation of care you receive after leaving your OBGYN by providing emotional and physical support.
Related: What is the 555 Postpartum Rule?
What can we take away from these postpartum traditions?
Regardless of cultural differences, one universal theme in postpartum traditions worldwide is the emphasis on resting. A version of the 40-day lie-in period is a common practice seen in almost every continent around the World – except in North America.
There’s no denying that rest is crucial for a new mother’s physical recovery and mental well-being. So then, why do we typically ignore it in Western culture? Implementing physical and emotional healing support is essential but often overlooked.
Taking time to relax and recharge allows your body to heal and adapt to the changes it has undergone. It is vital to understand that the postpartum period is not just about caring for the baby but also about caring for the mother. Mothers can better cope with these challenges by prioritizing rest and self-care.
Many of us don’t have a large community of support systems during our postpartum periods, so please know that it is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed.
Transitioning into motherhood comes with a rollercoaster of emotions, hormonal fluctuations, and the added responsibility of caring for a newborn. Remember, asking for help and leaning on your unique support system is okay.
Having someone (anyone!) to share the load with can make a world of difference. Consider your partner, family member, or close friend. Connecting with other new mothers through support groups can also offer reassurance that you are not alone in your experience.
Other articles you might find helpful
Macy Tollefson is a full-spectrum doula, breastfeeding specialist, and certified prenatal yoga teacher. She is passionate about guiding the modern mama through the beautiful (and wild) transformation of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. With over 100 hours of breastfeeding education, Macy is about setting mothers up for success on their baby-feeding journey and helping them find their flow. She believes that yoga and meditation have the power to enhance any part of your motherhood journey.