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Why You Should Try Lying In Postpartum

Let someone take care of you while you take care of baby.

Why You Should Try Lying In Postpartum

With all the pressure on new mothers to quickly rebound from birth, we love the concept of “Lying In,” or taking some time postpartum to heal and bond with your baby. We’ve partnered with Earth Mama Angel Baby to share a real life story of “lying in” from Motherbees founder Heng Ou, and show you how important it is to slow down and adjust to your new life as a mama.

The day after I gave birth to my first daughter Khefri, the old ways of China showed up at my door in the form of my Auntie Ou. Fresh off the bus from Oakland, her shopping bags brimming with knobs of ginger, ruby-colored goji berries, and freshly harvested chicken feet, she bustled into my Silver Lake home with her daughter Wendy at her side.

They’d come, she briskly informed me in Mandarin, to induct me into the postpartum tradition known as zuo yuezi, which means “sitting the month” or less poetically, “confinement.” This month-long regimen of nourishing foods, deep rest, and seclusion was critical for ensuring my strong recovery from childbirth, my future reproductive health, and plentiful breast milk for my baby, she said.

I had long since fled the restricting atmosphere of my first-generation immigrant upbringing in Maryland for art school and a more bohemian life in Los Angeles. But I always remained close with Auntie Ou, a renowned Chinese herbalist who diagnosed ailments with a glance and was renowned for her prowess in the kitchen. Ordering me to stay in bed with Khefri, she set black vinegar on the stove to purify the air and shook her head disapprovingly at my “open” or “yin” state. If left untreated it would lead to fatigue, back pain, ill-health, and depression. Deep in my bones, I knew her presence was non-negotiable. “Lying in” was my only option.

Besides, who was I to argue? Like many women, I thoroughly prepared for a healthy pregnancy and birth, but I hadn’t planned for postpartum. I had some fuzzy images of myself, glowing and triumphant, with an adorable, pink-cheeked babe swaddled in my arms. But the reality was not so rosy. Sore, achy, and sweaty, still bleeding post-birth, my tiny daughter and I fumbled through the first steps of breastfeeding while my hormones were roller-coastering and days and nights blurred together in a haze of sleeplessness.

So, I did not protest when Wendy heaped blankets on my bed, popped a wool hat on my head, and banned showers until further notice (they were too cooling). I gratefully received the warming, ginger-spiked tea, soft and digestible rice porridge swirled with black sesame paste, immune-boosting bone broths, and breast-milk-enriching soups. I let Auntie Ou sequester my cell phone and police visitors for this fleeting phase of bonding with my baby.

My bed became the center of my universe. There, I surrendered to a simple, repetitive existence of nursing, eating and sleeping. And after two-weeks of dedicated care, my relatives returned north leaving my freezer stocked with pig trotters to fortify the blood and fish-and-papaya soup to promote lactation. I maintained this restorative regimen and a few weeks later began emerging from my cocoon, physically stronger, emotionally steady, ready to meet the world as a mother.

Zuo yuezi’s practice of woman-to-woman care stretches back thousands of years and is still prevalent in China today (though well-heeled women are now doing it their own way by checking into luxury postpartum hotels). Its tenets are simple and universal: From India to Mexico, from Russia to Indonesia, to the Ivory Coast and beyond, remarkably similar cultural codes dictate that a new mother is to be encircled with support for 21, 30, or 40 days. In that space, freed from all responsibilities, she can focus on recovering from pregnancy and birth and nursing and bonding with her newborn. Most importantly, she is never to be left alone.

The first weeks after giving birth can be blissful; they can also be isolating, stressful, exhausting, and lacking in vital nutrition—four factors that contribute to postpartum depression. Time-honored protocols like zuo yuezi have protected new mothers’ well-being and ensured baby’s best start for eons. Sadly, this attention and care is a far cry from what most first-world women—especially in the U.S., the only developed nation with no mandatory maternity leave—experience today.

Sitting the month and lying in inspired my passion for reviving this lost art—for my generation of mothers and our daughters when they follow. I began creating modern interpretations of these restorative recipes and gathering wisdom for what I call “the first forty days”—the roughly six-week period of postpartum. I discovered that the cocoon of maternal care can be spun without a squadron of aunties on hand. It can be built from small acts of giving by friends, family, and neighbors. A pot of soup made with simple, nourishing ingredients; an offer to stop by with groceries and clean laundry; a listening ear on an especially fatigued day, and a gentle gaze that says, “I see you.”

In a society that pressures women to “bounce back” right after giving birth, forty days of loving gestures offers the mother a rare and precious alternative: to sink into stillness with her newborn, and receive.

Find out more about about lying in with Earth Mama Angel Baby here.

*We are so grateful when brands support our content and community. This post was sponsored by Earth Mama Angel Baby.

Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

$9.99

This article was sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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