If It Takes A Village, Why Are Parents Told They Should "Babymoon" Post-Birth

Family babymoons are a nice idea to spend more time with your newborn, but they aren't a perfect fit for every family

When my husband and I were expecting our first child, we asked friends of ours who had recently become parents for the low-down on life with a baby. What was it really like, those first few days and weeks? As much as we valued our parents' advice, we wanted to hear our peers' take because it was so fresh in their experience.

They told us it was great to have relatives over and helping with keeping the household running—cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, etc.—but that they felt it was really critical that they themselves did everything directly to do with the baby, so that they could master baby care skills and gain confidence as new parents. They also talked about how it could be very overwhelming to have a lot of people around, and that they really wanted to fiercely protect their own new little family of three. 

They spoke with such conviction in this regard that as I did more reading in preparation for our new arrival, I was not at all surprised to learn that there's a concept in popular parenting media called the "babymoon". Not the pre-birth one-last-romantic-getaway that (confusingly) goes by the same name, but the post-birth, hunkered-down, cozy bubble a family is strongly encouraged to create after the birth of a baby. The rationale for the babymoon is to prevent the family from being overwhelmed by visitors, bond with their new addition and just generally get as much rest as possible.

Now, I am absolutely, completely, passionately in favour of taking care of new moms (and their partners) after birth. I think our society places an absurd amount of emphasis on getting back to "normal", losing the baby weight, not letting your baby change/run your life... you know what I mean. The list goes on. In my view, it's tragic that the amazing, supportive postpartum practices that other cultures have held onto (such as the cuarantena) don't really exist in North American culture. But especially as families become more and more geographically dispersed, it seems that many women are basically left to fend for themselves at precisely the moment they most need to be cared for themselves: when they are giving every last bit of their own physical and emotional resources into caring for a small, utterly dependent person.

So, I can't help but think that this admonition to take a babymoon—you MUST hibernate! you MUST say no to visitors!—is rooted in sound logic. But in practice, it may actually be very isolating and demoralizing for new parents. With my first baby, I was so blue and exhausted, I lived for the times we had visitors (who for the most part were considerate, brought food, held the baby to give us a break and just generally took good care of us). It was also really comforting to benefit from the experience of older moms who showed me their tricks and tips with swaddling and breastfeeding, since my own mother hadn't arrived from out of town yet. I actually wish that I'd been more vocal about wanting visitors; when we later admitted how hard things had been, so many people told us, "You just needed to ask... we wanted to help, but we didn't want to impose." (I filed that away mentally, for the next time.)

With my second, I felt the same way only for different reasons. I actually felt fantastic, and wanted to show off my beautiful baby, share my birth story and feel connected to my circle of family and friends instead of being stuck inside the house, nursing for hours on end (it was a hot summer!). Having people around to keep me company, entertain my older child and lend a hand with household tasks made it so much easier for me to really rest and stay in good spirits, despite obviously being tired and in the midst of a life change. I think being able to ask for help and enthusiastically inviting people over made a huge, positive difference to how I handled that second postpartum stage. It was all a bit surprising to me, as I'm definitely an introvert and don't cope well with being "on" all the time. But I think there is something really powerful about just knowing you're not alone—even just sitting quietly together while I nursed and someone else folded laundry was very comforting to me.

Now, everyone is different, and that's just how I felt. And not all friends and family know how to be supportive and considerate when visiting a family with a new baby (my own mother still remembers visitors who showed up just a few days after my brother was born, with their rambunctious toddler in tow, stayed for hours... and didn't even bring a meal!). If you know your visitors aren't likely to be helpful, will overstay their welcome, or worst of all, expect to be entertained, then by all means, a babymoon is the way to go. But I don't think the blanket statement that families absolutely must isolate themselves after the birth of a new baby is useful, and actually discourages the type of help that all new parents need: to be fed, comforted, and nurtured. After all, it takes a village to raise a child... and parents, for that matter, too.

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