In many cultures around the world women enjoy a ‘lying-in’ phase – attending to her baby in bed and being looked after by family and friends. Traditionally this period lasts for up to six weeks and is also called rooming-in, nesting or the babymoon phase. Here we explore the benefits.
Mothers are encouraged to rest and recuperate after the physical and emotional strain of pregnancy and childbirth and the new baby can adapt to life in the world outside of the mother’s womb. In practicing Catholic societies, mothers do not emerge until the baby is christened and in Asia the rituals surrounding the postnatal period are complex and nurturing. New mothers can expect to be fed rich, nourishing foods, be massaged daily and generally be pampered by family and friends.
Create a safe, quiet haven
In the West we may feel a drive to be up and about as soon as possible. Unfortunately, in our culture a woman is seen as stronger and more capable the sooner she returns to her regular daily routine after childbirth. As a new mother you may feel under obligation to introduce the new baby to the world but also feel drawn to creating a safe, quiet haven in which to rest.
“Nesting with your newborn is a wonderful sensory experience.”
Trust your instincts
It is important to follow and trust your instincts in this situation and to be aware that if you ask them, friends and relations can, and will, wait to meet the new baby. This might be something that you want to discuss before the birth so that you don’t have to field well-meaning phone calls after. Keeping the first weeks, and even months as relaxed, calm and stress-free as possible will allow you to get to know your baby and will ensure a calmer, less fretful child.
Breastfeeding and nesting
Breastfeeding mothers will find this time even more vital as daytime rest allows your body time for recuperation and a calm, quiet environment encourages a smoother start to getting feeding established. In fact, medical professionals say that it takes six weeks for a woman’s body to recover from birth and for her to establish a good milk supply. Some practitioners believe that a woman should allow nine months (the same as the gestation period) for her body to heal completely after bearing a child.
Nesting with your newborn is a wonderful sensory experience and gives you plenty of time to get to know him. Val Clarke, author of Instinctive Birthing says, “Creating an environment that helps your baby feel safe and secure is very important.” She believes that enabling as much close skin-to-skin contact as possible in those early days will have manifold benefits in later life. “If you nurture your newborn intensively from day one, you will dramatically influence the adult that he will become and thus the contribution he is able to make to society throughout his lifetime.”
“For millions of years newborn babies have been held close to their mothers from the moment of birth.”
For many who choose attachment parenting the nesting period is an instinctive ritual. Australian GP and author of Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, Sarah Buckley refers to this as ‘stone-age parenting’; it works because it is what babies and their mothers are adapted to, hormonally, physiologically and developmentally. She explains, “We are not a ‘caching’ species, designed for long absences from our mothers, in nests and burrows.” The milk of these animals is extremely high in protein and fat in order to sustain the young for prolonged periods. We are biologically closer in nature to continuous feeding, carrying mammals. Our babies are reminding us of this when they cry to be carried, fed frequently and when they crave skin-to-skin contact at night. Author of The Continuum Concept, Jean Liedloff expands, “His newly exposed skin craves the expected embrace, all of his being leads to his being held in arms. For millions of years newborn babies have been held close to their mothers from the moment of birth. The state of conciousness of an infant changes enormously during the in arms phase.”
Make the most of a babymoon
• Ask for help. Think about ways in which friends and family can really support you.
• If you do not have a chance to lie-in with your newborn after the birth, for medical reasons or otherwise, postpone your nesting period and enjoy it when you and your baby are able to.
• Unleash your mother tigress! Guard your privacy and do not allow outside demands on your time and energy to get in the way of forming an attachment with your child.
• When feeling under pressure, try not to give in due to guilt and instead celebrate your choices as those that are most nurturing for your new family.
• Leave chores or ask someone else to manage these. Ask someone to prepare simple nourishing food and ensure that you have plenty to drink.
For more information on creating a safe secure haven for your newborn baby see the full article in Issue 22 of The Green Parent. This is our Pregnancy and Birth special with articles on yoga during pregnancy, home birth and also adoption.