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Mothers Care for their Babies, Does Anyone Care for Mothers? Part I

As a Lactation Consultant in the Central Jersey area I have had the pleasure of working with many lovely families from India. When I walk into their homes, one of the first things I consistently notice is a pot on the stove or a pressure cooker simmering a fresh homemade meal. There’s almost always a mother or mother-in-law taking care of all the mother’s physical needs from cooking gourmet meals to cleaning the house to diapering and burping the baby. A couple of years ago, one of my patients explained to me that had she delivered in India, she would go home to a household of 10 family members whose sole responsibilities would be to care for her and her newborn baby. Ten family members? This sounded a little extreme and almost unbelievable! But I have since confirmed this with several other Indian families who have all corroborated that this is in fact how new mothers are cared for in India.

I began to wonder to myself, is India unique with its caring approach toward new mothers or is America unique in its lack of support for new mothers.

I decided to do a little research and googled “post-partum support in America.” I was somewhat disheartened when the top search results were for post-partum panties and girdles!! The remainder of the page was filled with medical websites explaining the definition of post-partum depression. This was it?? This was consistent with what I often see in my private practice: mothers who appear overwhelmed, who haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch by 3PM and even feel uncomfortable asking their hired help to kindly bring them a plate of food or even a quick snack.

I was somewhat relieved when I found a link to a fascinating article (buried between all the girdle and post-partum depression websites) by Hillary Brenhouse entitled “Why Are America’s Postpartum Practices So Rough on New Mothers?” which explained that things weren’t always this way for new mothers in America. Until the nineteenth century in America, we also used to practice “lying-in”, where new mothers were given 3-4 weeks to rest in bed and bond with their newborns while other women, relatives or friends would assume responsibility for household chores. Similar versions of the “lie-in” are still practiced today all over Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and in parts of Europe. But while other cultures around the world have made some updates and modifications to the way in which they care for new mothers, the practice remains in place- while here in America it seems we have little to offer new mothers other than post-partum panties.

To be continued next week... until then we would love to hear about the post-partum support you received after having your Little One!


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