Author: Hana Halim
It’s common for new moms to assume everything is enough. I naively did not get feeding bottles for my first delivery because I thought I was going to breastfeed only! How optimistic I was! That was until my babies were admitted to the hospital due to jaundice and I had to supply the milk bottle and milk. Instant regret and panic to search for the bottle ended up me getting whatever was available in the mini mart at the hospital. I felt so depressed the day I was released that I detoured to the baby shop on the way home to buy bottles. (This action, if you are not familiar with Malaysian postpartum belief, is a definite no-no as you are NOT ALLOWED to wander out during your confinement period)
By my second and third pregnancy, I was definitely ready. Here are the other 5 things I found most useful that new moms may forget to prepare for:
1. Basin for sitz bath if you had a perineal tear during delivery.
For those without access to a bath-tub, I recommend just getting a small kiddy pool that you can reuse for your kid later. Don’t forget to have enough supply of salt or herbs!
2.Postpartum abdominal binder.
Either you delivered via C-sec or vaginally, you will want to have a postpartum abdominal binder on hand. Especially on the first day as you were leaving the hospital! This is the best support you can have for your torso! Plus you can continue to use the binder for the next month to help your body realign and recover from childbirth.
3. Meal plan for yourself!
Some mistakes new moms will make is not planning ahead with groceries or stocking up food for her postpartum period. Bearing in mind that you might feel too exhausted to cook or prepare food, that you might just resort to eating whatever is convenient or on hand, which may not be necessarily nutritional enough for a recovering mom. Make nutritious food readily available so that you can have access to good food all the time.
In traditional beliefs, a postpartum mother is considered weak and therefore vulnerable to illness and ‘wind attack’. This requires serving mothers hot-cooked meals with warming ingredients, while keeping the mother covered and warm. Warm cooked foods are much easier to digest, breakdown and be absorbed as the food passes through the digestive tract.
The aim of the diet is to boost your immune system and strength. You will be encouraged to eat fresh fish, avoiding dried and salted fishes. It is believed fresh fish, such as snakehead fish (ikan haruan) will promote healing internally. Certain fishes, such as mackerel (ikan kembong) and shellfish, prawns and cockles must be avoided as they are believed to cause allergies and itchiness.
The Malays also believe cooling elements found in foods such as cucumber, young coconut, or families of spinach should be avoided. ‘Cooling’ foods are said to cause rheumatism, arthritis and weak joints in a mother’s body.
4. Plan for exercise and weight loss.
Something a lot of mothers forget; your postpartum period is actually the golden period for weight loss! Asians believe that the mother’s body goes through a reset each time she gives birth. Although it shouldn’t supersede healthy postpartum recovery, with the right diet, movements, exercise, wearing of the binder at the right time, the ritual can actually help you lose the extra weight gained during pregnancy, or in some cases, the extra weight prior to the pregnancy itself. Plan out your routine so that you can include some fitness daily such as The Gentle Birth Project exercises.
Friends, family, support system. Plan ahead for days when help comes by. You will want help on certain days so that YOU can just have time to yourself. Maybe initially you want to have your bonding time with the new baby and husband as a new family, but eventually you both will need the break. Being new parents can be exhausting and mentally challenging. Research has shown that having community support even as early on during the pregnancy will reduce the risk of a post-depression. So, plan out the visitation hours for family and friends so that you can take advantage of another adult’s presence to do whatever it is you need to get done, even if it’s just a solid 1-hour sleep. Getting help will NOT make you less of a mom. Instead it will make you a responsible mom who continuously fills her own teapot so that she can keep pouring out to others.