Nourishing Postpartum: The 40 Day Sacred Window

Pregnancy and birth are hard work. Your body undergoes massive changes in a relatively short period of time. You need to physically and emotionally recover from your body’s transformation to motherhood.

Babies come with a learning curve, even when you have given birth previously. Learning to mother your newest bundle of joy is like learning a complicated dance with a new partner. There is bound to be some toe stomping and awkwardness, even if you know the dance.

Many cultures have traditional practices surrounding the first 30-40 days following birth. They tend to have similarities that include a period of rest and pampering for the new mother, and isolation from those outside the immediate family or female members of the community.

In China, women “sit the month”, a practice called zuo yuezi. This practice includes not bathing for the entire month, eating warming foods such as lactation inducing soups, avoiding cold foods and raw fruit and vegetables. Chinese mothers are cared for by the family or a woman who specializes in postpartum care, similar to a postpartum doula. At the end of the month, a celebration is often planned where the community is invited to meet the baby and celebrate the birth.

Korean families wait 100 days before bringing a new baby outdoors. At the end of the 100 days, a sort of birthday celebration is had!

A three-week lying in time is practiced among Japanese families. The new mother mostly rests in bed and gets to know her new baby while being cared for by her own mother. This practice is called ansei and loosely translates to “peace and quiet with pampering.” Ansei is thought to be the reason Japanese women have reduced uterine disease and fewer hysterectomies later in life than American women.

How does a daily massage sound? In India, there are a variety of different customs surrounding the postpartum period. Depending on the region, new mothers spend 40-60 days resting after birth, only bathing in herbal infusions and enjoying daily massages with special oils.

Latin American countries may practice “la cuarentena” which means quarantine. While this may sound torturous to North Americans it enhances the bond between mom and baby and allows the mother’s body to recover. A period of quarantine also allows the baby to build up immunity through colostrum and breastfeeding.

You will find these types of postpartum practices all over the world. The common theme is a period of isolation, much rest, and care provided by the family or women of the community.

The benefits of a lying in period are numerous.

Nine months is a short period of time to have so many changes happen to the body. The uterus needs time to go back to its non-pregnant state, there is postpartum bleeding to manage, breastfeeding to learn and bonding to cultivate. Not to mention the spiritual and emotional changes that take place when you become a mother. Literally every cell of you changes. Having a lying in period helps you to integrate this incredible shift from ‘maiden’ to ‘mother.’

While many North American women cannot fathom being confined to their home or bed for 40 days, it can be beneficial to take some key features from traditional postpartum practices.

You may choose to plan for a modified version of a traditional month of lying in after your baby’s birth.

Ideas include:

  • Getting plenty of rest and spending most of your time in bed or on the sofa enjoying skin to skin time with your baby.
  • Keeping postpartum visitors to a minimum for the first few weeks.
  • Have plenty of help but limit caregivers to those you feel comfortable with. A postpartum doula is an excellent option.
  • Avoiding strenuous activities and limit outings.
  • Eating warm, nutritious foods. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the postpartum body is thought to be cool and dry. There is a common theme among many cultural postpartum practices where it is recommended that new mothers eat warm, cooked, and nutrient dense soups and broths. Avoiding spicy food is also thought to be best is several cultures.

Postpartum expert Kimberly Johnson from emphasizes how special this immediate postpartum period is. She says that many cultures see this time as a very transparent window, where great healing can take place if we allow it to.

“Ayurveda says 42 days for 42 years. In other words, how you’re cared for in those 42 days can set you up for a lifetime of great health and you can even heal prior lifelong illnesses during that liminal space because it’s such a transparent window. Special things happen in this window and when we are attending to those special things, the web of life flourishes.”

Kimberly goes on to say that it isn’t a luxury to care for yourself in this way, instead, it is simply “right relationship” to respect this delicate time.

Julia Jones from reminds new mothers:

“You only have two jobs during the first six weeks postpartum: falling in love with your baby and learning to breastfeed.” 

Remember to listen to your body and your inner wisdom. An extended lying in period may not be right for you but be sure to take it easy, and create a private space for you and your baby to bond and breastfeed. Make yourself open to receive as much pampering and help as you can. Soon enough, life will return to its usual pace.



**Are you preparing for a sacred, unmedicated birth and a healthy postpartum? You won’t want to miss my upcoming interview summit “Reawakening Ancient Feminine Wisdom in Pregnancy, Birth & Motherhood.” Kimberly Johnson and Julia Jones will be two of many women featured this upcoming free series that I’ll be launching at the beginning of 2018. Be sure to sign up for my blog updates to receive the news of the summit! **


Need extra support during your postpartum period? Receive loving guidance through my New Mom Coaching. 


Nancy Lucina

Nancy Lucina

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