After childbirth, resting early will prolong health later.
Lunch Hour Lesson #52
Many of you know that I am pregnant, but for those of you who didn’t, now you know! I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy and am looking forward to welcoming our little one in mid-December.
So it is time for me to focus on preparing for childbirth and also preparing for the first forty days after the baby makes its way into the world, a period which some are now calling the “fourth trimester”.
At my recent baby shower, I received a book called The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing The New Mother by Heng Ou, and I wanted to do a little book preview for you today.
The author describes how the practice of mother and baby dedicating a period of time, about forty days, to staying fairly isolated after the birth is a common practice in many cultures around the world, and particularly in the Chinese culture of her origin.
This time is spent with mother and baby resting together, learning to breastfeed, leaving the bed as little as possible, staying warm, and eating, as she says, “healing soups, replenishing meals and snacks, and warming, calming, lactation-boosting teas.”
Traditional cultures recognized that “a dedicated time of postpartum recovery could help to keep future illness–and equally important, depression–at bay.”
In our fast-paced culture here in the United States, women often feel the pressure to get up and out as soon as possible after birthing their child, get back to work, start losing the baby weight, and in general, keep life moving pretty much as it was in the days before baby was born.
But Heng Ou explains that the way women take care of themselves in this short post-partum period can affect their hormone balance positively or negatively and even set the stage for menopausal comfort or discomfort later in life.
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After reading this book, I recognize that women’s post-partum bodies need to rest and recover much longer than I had thought necessary in order to preserve good hormone balance and keep unwanted symptoms at bay. It makes sense that my body, which has been undergoing dramatic changes these past months of pregnancy, needs a period of at least a month to reset and transition to the next stage.
I am going to do my best to create a “nest” that I and baby can snuggle into for this recovery time, and not put any pressure on myself to start doing housework and taking care of guests, etc. It’s helpful that it will be the middle of winter when I give birth to this little baby, so the weather will be quite conducive to cocooning up inside as we watch the snow fall through the pines outside our window.
To make this nesting period doable, I will need to prepare food and stock my freezer well ahead of time, and also select some recipes that my husband and visitors can easily prepare for me.
If you or someone you know is pregnant, I would highly encourage purchasing this book. It is an interesting read and I enjoy the idea of giving myself permission to rest!
If you know a woman who is pregnant, consider gifting her the book The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing The New Mother by Heng Ou. Encourage her to take an extended period of rest after the birth of her child, and offer to make her a nourishing meal to have on hand when needed!
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