Cuarentena: 40 Days Postpartum Recovery & Bond With Baby

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What is cuarentena?

In Latin American tradition, cuarentena refers to the first 40 days after giving birth. It literally translates to “quarantine,” and it’s a time for new mothers to rest, recover, start breastfeeding, and bond with their baby. During cuarentena, it’s customary for family and friends (typically women) to help with housekeeping, errands, and other needs so the mother can focus on her new baby.

Traditionally, cuarentena involves some pretty strict rules about staying home, sticking to a specific diet, wearing a postpartum faja, and abstaining from sex. Today, in the U.S., many new mothers find ways to honor the spirit of cuarentena while opting out of the practices that don’t fit their lifestyle. It all comes down to three things: prioritizing your rest and recovery, letting people help you, and bonding with your bundle of joy!

Cuarentena 40 Day Rule After Birth

In Latin American tradition, cuarentena refers to the first 40 days after giving birth.

The Origins of Cuarentena

The Latin American tradition of cuarentena can trace its roots all the way back to the Bible, where the book of Leviticus says that women need a 40-day purification period after having a son (80 days for a daughter). Fortunately, the tradition has evolved over time. Now, it’s less about “purification” than honoring and supporting a mother so she can focus on postpartum bonding and recovery. A major belief at the center of cuarentena is that giving birth “opens” your body, making it more vulnerable. Cuarentena is said to make space for the mother to rest and allow her body to “close.” 

Cuarentena Traditions in Latin America

Cuarentena traditions can vary between cultures (and even between families), but the main practices follow these guidelines. As with any postpartum practice, the most important thing is to listen to your body and follow the advice of a trusted healthcare provider.

Support the new parents. 

In tight-knit communities, everybody bands together to support a new mother. Female friends and family members coordinate to cover household chores and errands, care for any older children and give advice on caring for the new baby. The idea is to free up the mother’s time to focus on recovery, breastfeeding, and bonding with the baby.

Nourish the mother’s body.

Different cultures have different dietary restrictions for mothers during la cuarentena. Some recommend hot soups, others say to stick with bland foods, and still, others advise drinking herbal teas to relieve postpartum pain. No matter the specifics, the cuarentena diet is supposed to nourish a new mother’s body and help it heal after carrying and delivering a baby.

Support recovery with a postpartum faja.

A faja is a traditional girdle worn by women during their cuarentena. It’s supposed to support the abdomen after delivery and help the tummy and organs return to their pre-pregnancy positions. A faja can be pretty restrictive, so many women nowadays choose to wear shapewear instead.

Abstain from sex and bathing.

Sex and bathing are restricted during cuarentena. For sex, the restriction is absolute, following general guidelines for avoiding sex after delivery until you’re given the okay by your healthcare provider. Bathing is a little more complex. Some cultures restrict it completely, while others only restrict bathing in cold water. 

Some cuarentena practices may seem outdated to modern mothers, but the core of the tradition is timeless — new parents deserve all the support they can get! Whether you get 4 days or 40, the time you spend with your newborn after delivery is so special, and receiving help from your family and friends during that time can be incredibly healing.

In celebration of the Hispanic Heritage Month, Katrina Fernandez shares some of her favorite cooking activity with her two daughters, cooking!

 

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Please be aware: JunoDx.com and the materials and information it contains are not intended to be and do not constitute medical advice, other health advice, or diagnosis.  Do not use JunoDx.com or the materials and information published at JunoDx.com as a substitute for medical care and treatment. You should always consult with a qualified physician or healthcare provider about your specific circumstances.

September 28, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock