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Birth Outside Our Backyard, Part I: The Cuarentena.

At Welcome Baby Care we’re always striving to determine and develop best practices for serving and providing for women in the post-birth season. But we realize that the way we ‘do birth’ in the U.S. isn’t the only way and many times not even the best way. We are continually fascinated by the customs and traditions of non-U.S. countries and cultures. We ask: What can we learn from the ways many developing nations care for their new moms and babies? This week we’ll be taking a look at some birth wisdom that comes from outside of our own backyard. Do you have experience with non-U.S. birth models and traditions? Share in the comments!

The Cuarentena by Jen Wittes

Over a year ago, I wrote an article for Skirt! Magazine called “40 Days.”  It touched on my desire, as a postpartum doula, to give American women what is strictly and lovingly enforced and observed in other cultures:  the lying in period.

You can read the article here:


What the “40 Days” refer to is something that Latin cultures call la cuarentena, or “the quarantine.”  The Chinese call it Zuoyezi, which roughly translates to “sitting out a month.”  In Africa, India, and several other cultures around the globe, lying in is the norm.  And 40 days does seem to be the average.  About a month.  A whole month of nursing, bonding and recovery.

In America, we would think such a thing spoiled, lazy, or overdramatic.  I’m not going to get into that too much—we all know how it is—but I do want to point out that this period of 40 days is not a luxury or part of some exotic foreign ritual.  The lying-in period is a necessity.

And let me be clear about what “lying in” means, around the world.  It means that you don’t leave the house.  You don’t go to Target.  You don’t go on a date.  You concentrate on health—you eat foods that agree with the post-pregnant body, you don’t lift anything, you don’t entertain, you don’t worry or scramble, and in most cases, you don’t even shower much…and on that note, you don’t even think of having sex.

In most cultures, the village model of family care is a comfortable practice.  Grandma will be there cooking.  Little sis will play with the older kids.  Aunty will instruct on breastfeeding.  Your own mother will clean the house and groom you, protect your lair and advocate.  Neighbors and village elders will fill in the blanks.

In America, we have our boundaries and our gadgets and our own lives, not to mention long distance separating many new mothers from their loved ones.  But our stretched out, stressed out, disjointed villages are only part of the problem.

Our.  Women.  Are.  Restless.

The solution? We need to allow the full month of recovery.  Women need to give themselves permission to take it.

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