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The Postpartum Practice of Lying-in

Lying-in is an age-old childbirth practice where it is expected that a new mother stay in bed after giving birth, while the other women in her family attend to the needs of her and her household. Many cultures believe that a woman should remain in bed for up to 40 days after giving birth. In fact, the United States happens to be one of the only countries that does not have some sort of postpartum care practice.

In Chinese culture, Zuo Yue Zi, or “doing the month”, suggests a month of rest and specific dietary guidelines for new mothers. One eastern Indian culture encourages a 40-day confinement and a special Ayurvedic diet. In Mexico, where La Cuarenta is observed, new moms receive 40 days of specialized care. Many cultural practices include special prayers or blessings performed over the mother and baby, as wells as ritual baths, massages, and belly binding to promote health and healing. Although specifics may vary by culture, the theme of an extended period of rest and care for the new mother is prevalent all around the world.

There are different ideas on why this should be done, but the main reason is to promote healing and healthy bonding for the new mom and baby. This idea of confined rest has been all but forgotten in our fast-paced culture. But just because something has lost popularity doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. There are still many benefits to taking a period of rest after labor. By staying in bed, your postpartum body is afforded the appropriate time and condition to heal. Your postpartum bleeding, or lochia, will more than likely be lighter and subside quicker if you choose to lie-in. Taking this time to relax also encourages the breastfeeding relationship between baby and mother. Creating a comfortable space for you and your newborn to spend these first few weeks away from visitors and other distractions makes nursing less intimidating for a first-time mom.

I often advise expecting moms to write out their postpartum care plan in the months before they have their baby. This plan should outline how you want your first few weeks at home with your new baby to look.

Cecilia Pearson
Cecilia Pearson


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