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  • Writer's pictureMidwife Diane

Embracing the Tradition of La Cuarentena: Rest, Recovery, and Support for New Moms

New moms experience a range of situations in the preliminary weeks after delivering Some might have ample time off to recuperate and bond with their babies, and others return to work soon after, relying on relatives or caregivers to look after their infants. Although postpartum experiences differ in the United States, many cultures worldwide preserve customs to support and nurture new mothers throughout this period.

In many Latin American nations, a treasured custom called la cuarentena is observed, which directly translates to "forty days" or "quarantine." This special period allows new mothers to form a deep connection with their newborns, and while it might not be practical to follow every aspect of this tradition, integrating some of its core concepts can still be extremely enriching.

In Latin American custom, women are expected to spend the first 40 days (six weeks) of the postpartum period in quarantine, also referred to as la cuarentena. The families who honor la cuarentena believe that after a birth a woman's body is "open" and therefore vulnerable to illness. La cuarentena is a time for enabling the body to "close."

Cuarentena emphasizes the significance of rest and healing. Female relatives and older women in the neighborhood offer structured help to new moms, promoting rest and prioritizing breastfeeding. Dietary guidelines might vary based on the new mom's cultural background, but generally include consuming warm foods and drinks while staying away from cold ones to support the mom's wellness.

A traditional routine during the cuarentena period involves covering the belly with a specialized postnatal wrap, which is designed to warm the body and accelerate the return of the abdominal area to its pre-pregnancy shape. This binding technique is intended to offer support and help firm the abdominal muscle after childbirth, a practice that is commonly observed throughout various cultural traditions.

In Guatemala, following giving birth, women are advised against bathing, especially in cold water, due to worries that it may trigger infections, abdominal pain, and a reduction in breastmilk production. While some Latin American cultures allow bathing in warm water, others, such as in Mexico, impose a complete restriction on bathing to protect new mothers from the problems connected with cold air exposure.

While particular customs surrounding cuarentena may strike Western mothers as unusual or outdated, the core advantage of this practice lies in offering new moms with sufficient opportunity to recuperate and get care, allowing them to prioritize their physical healing and devote attention to their newborns. In spite of cultural and geographical differences, cuarentena remains a widespread and long-lasting custom in Latin America and amongst Latinx communities in the United States.

For many new Latina moms, the idea of honoring la cuarentena might be attractive, however seem difficult, whether that's because of an absence of support and resources, living far from family, a too-short maternity leave, a reluctance towards a few of the more conventional beliefs and gendered standards, or other reasons. But the general approach of getting rest and being looked after throughout the early postpartum period is something that all new mothers-- Latina or not-- could take advantage of.

Many new mothers worry about how they will look after their infants while also still keeping up with the laundry, washing the dishes, taking the dog out, cooking supper, and marking off everything else on their daily to-do list. However this mindset of doing everything yourself can rapidly result in fatigue and a longer recovery time. You may not be able-- or desire-- to have a full-fledged cuarentena, however there are some ways you can integrate the custom of rest and healing into your postpartum experience:

Look for help when required. If you need assistance or a member of the family offers to help with household chores, be open to accepting the offer. If a neighbor visits to see the baby, don't hesitate to ask them to assist with jobs like removing the garbage. When your partner's mother offers to assist, assign her jobs such as doing the accumulated laundry and holding the baby while you take a shower. Consider hiring a postpartum doula if it fits your budget for additional assistance at home.

Have a good friend arrange a meal train. Among the secrets to a restful cuarentena is not needing to fret about cooking meals daily. If you or your partner can prepare ahead and have some meals in the freezer before you deliver, that's fantastic. But you could always ask a friend to organize a meal train, so that you have daily fresh food dropped off at home without having to stress over it.

Enjoy nourishing fare that radiates warmth. Hearty, soothing beverages and dishes, like calming cups of tea and steaming hot bowls of chicken soup, are quintessential components of a cozy quarantine regimen. Treat yourself to a daily dose of your favorite tea, sweetened with a spoonful of honey, and explore herbal blends instilled with invigorating spices like cinnamon and ginger.

Catch some Z's when your baby does. Getting enough rest is important, although it may look like a daunting task. Nevertheless, even a quick 10-minute power nap throughout your newborn's sleep time can be extremely helpful. The more you rest, the quicker your body will recover and recover from childbirth.

Have your partner take some time off, too. Although dads and partners aren't featured prominently in cuarentena customs, having your partner's assistance can be a big help during the postpartum period. If your partner has the ability to or can afford to take paternity leave, encourage them to do so, and lean on them for assistance throughout this time.

Making use of a custom like la cuarentena can have a profoundly favorable effect on your postpartum experience, specifically if you're discovering it challenging to prioritize rest and recuperation. While it can be challenging to accept support, and various commitments might limit your capability to devote a complete 40 days to healing, having a strong support system in place - whether it's through loved ones or a postpartum doula - can substantially accelerate your recovery.

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