Should you skip the babymoon in favor of a postpartum hotel?
The term ‘babymoon’ initially referred to the postpartum period. Here’s how Boram, a postpartum hotel, is bringing that concept back.
Chances are if you’re in your second trimester of pregnancy, you’re starting to think about or plan your babymoon, as the last vacation to solidify your relationship with your partner before your new baby arrives. Similar to a honeymoon, a babymoon is a time to enjoy quality time together before the birth of a new baby. This trend has become a rite of passage for many expecting parents, with the travel industry capitalizing on the babymoon idea as a couple’s getaway.
The babymoon is now almost as common a hotel package as Mother’s Day deals, Valentine’s Day weekends and honeymoon offers. Ovolo Hotel Group, for example, offers a babymoon package called ‘The Snuggle is Real’ which includes a pregnancy pillow, an in-room pregnancy massage for the mom-to-be, and even a personalized 30-minute Q&A phone consultation to guide expectant parents on what to expect and newborn sleep sleeping program. While the Four Seasons in Scottsdale’s “Hello Baby” package offers pregnancy perks like a maternity pillow to use during your stay, a Four Seasons-branded onesie for your baby, and $100 resort credit for dining or spa services.
Related: Take the trip: In praise of a vacation without your kids
A brief history of the babymoon
You might be surprised to discover that the babymoon was originally intended for the postpartum period. The term ‘babymoon’ was coined in the early 1990s by pregnancy and childbirth author Sheila Kitzinger, who described it as a period of nurturing and rest needed by new mothers and their babies to ensure a good start and strong bonding. In her book, “Year after Childbirth,” Kitzinger explains, “The transition to fatherhood is easier when a man can take time off to be with his partner and baby in what I call a ‘Babymoon.'”
So how did Kitzinger’s original meaning as a pampering in postpartum switch focus to pregnancy? It seems that the concept of a babymoon slowly evolved to mean a time during pregnancy, becoming popular in the 2000s when celebrity couples started taking babymoons and featuring their round, sun-kissed bellies strolling tropical beaches.
Related: I took a solo babymoon and it made me a stronger mom-to-be
Prioritizing the postpartum babymoon
In contrast, expecting Korean mothers have kept the original meaning of babymooning intact, making it a priority to book a place to stay—after delivery. In South Korea, mothers have the option (and many do) to check into posh postpartum hotels for those who “want a luxury postpartum experience [the last vacation before facing the reality of life with a newborn],” explains Adele Vitale of Calm Morning Birth, a certified birth doula and childbirth educator (CBI), located in South Korea.
These aren’t wellness establishments that promise a return of one’s pre-baby body and self in just a few short weeks so that you can resume life and work, unchanged from the birth of your baby. These are postpartum centers that provide pampering services and accommodations, often under medical supervision, for women who want to observe some part of the traditional postpartum confinement period that is commonly practiced in Asian cultures.
Related: Babymoon bliss: Your guide to planning a trip before baby
Rowena Shek, originally from Scotland, but currently working and living in Seoul, says that looking back almost a year later, staying at a postpartum hotel was one of the best decisions she made as a new mother.
“After getting married and becoming pregnant with my first child, I soon found out how different Korea was to Scotland when it came to pregnancy care and postpartum care. Postpartum care has always been a very big focus in Far East Asia,” Shek explains. “In South Korea, postpartum care comes in the form of postpartum hotels, or postpartum nannies [veteran maternity nurses who come to your house everyday to cook, clean and hold your baby while you nap and shower].”
Shek goes on to say that initially the concept was shocking, particularly after growing up in a Western culture where the norm is to return home after birth and take care of your baby by yourself from day one. In South Korea, many new mothers move into a postpartum hotel after two nights in the hospital, where their baby is cared for by maternity nurses for the first couple of weeks.
Related: 3 ways a postpartum doula can help
“The purpose of the hotel,” Shek points out, “is to ensure the new mother can fully rest, recover, heal from stitches [if any], reduce postpartum bleeding and replenish nutritionally before going home to take care of a newborn all by yourself. It’s a platform for recovery, between birth and newborn care.”
Shek goes on to share her own experience at a postpartum hotel with her newborn baby. “I went for one week, regularly breastfed, regularly pumped breastmilk for the nurses to feed my baby at night, and when I came home, I had no problems bonding or breastfeeding my child. Personally, those seven full nights of sleep helped tremendously. By the time I went home to ‘do it myself’, I had stopped bleeding heavily, had no more stitches and felt super rested and energetic and ready to be a full-time mother.”
You can watch Shek’s postpartum hotel experience in this video: 24 hours at a postpartum hotel.
Boram, a postpartum hotel, aims to close the gap in postnatal support
Replicating this Korean concept in the U.S. is Boram, a postnatal retreat for mothers and newborn babies located in The Langham Hotel on 5th Avenue in New York City offering postpartum care to aid in recovery after birth.
“There has been a black hole and a total gap in society, at least in America, when it comes to postpartum support,” says Sarah Mallin, director of operations at Boram and a registered nurse. “This needs to be looked at. It’s so important to provide mothers with support during the 4th trimester, especially if we want to retain female leaders in the workforce. I myself was in a leadership role when I had my second child and if I just had a little bit more support during that time, I believe the transition would have been easier.”
Related: Going back to work after maternity leave hurts—but these 5 things made it a little easier
A NICU nurse by trade, Mallin was surprised when the postpartum experience after the birth of her son was much harder than what she had imagined. Mallin shares, “I thought that it would be so much easier for me. I had all the training for a baby, and yet, I had a very tough postpartum journey, probably not different from many other people, but I was so shocked that I had delays going back to work. This really woke me up because if as a NICU nurse, I struggled, then what happens to someone who has absolutely no experience with a newborn and no support.”
Mallin’s experience opened her eyes particularly noting the lack of support during postpartum. Mallin shares, “[The lack of support] is putting us on a journey of pain and suffering during a time that should be, ultimately, very happy and joyful. Although I think setting that expectation has its own consequences, I think if we had the support needed, we could actually get to that point.”
Related: 10 tips to save on your babymoon
Mallin was introduced through friends to Boram Nam, a Korean mother who had given birth in New York City and experienced the gap in postnatal care education and services in the U.S. compared to Korea’s sanhujoriwon (postnatal retreats). After Boram shared her mission to create Boram Postnatal Retreat in NYC and to flip the concept of babymoons to essential postnatal care in the U.S., Mallin was all in.
“A lot of Asian cultures already understand the need for this type of postpartum support. However, in America, and particularly in New York, the understanding of postpartum is just not there. Our challenge is bringing awareness of Boram and why it’s important for you to be cared for during this time.”
Related: The magic of a month of rest: How a Chinese tradition can help postpartum mothers today
Boram is the first of its kind in the U.S., offering 16 guest rooms and services including a 24/7 trained care team, postnatal massage services, sitz/foot baths, a tailored food and beverage menu, a series of seminars on baby care and self-care and more, all with the aim of nurturing mom and baby and equipping new moms with the tools to take care of their baby. Packages come in three, five or seven night stays. Some guests have even stayed a full month.
Currently these offerings may be out of reach financially for many new families, but the future may tell a different story. “We are partnering with companies to begin offering this as a corporate perk and part of their company package to make it more accessible to working families,” says Mallin.
Adele Vitale is a certified birth doula and childbirth educator (CBI) in South Korea. After completing her education as a conference interpreter and translator in China, Vitale moved to Korea and found her true calling: helping couples get the birth they are hoping for.
Sarah Mallin is a registered nurse and the director of operations at Boram Postnatal Retreat. Sarah oversees all aspects of the Boram Retreat operations including guest services and training.
Rowena Shek, a mother and Youtube user sharing her motherhood experience in South Korea. Born and raised in Scotland, Rowena gave birth in Korea and experienced an entirely different culture around postpartum care.