6 Latinx Doulas Give Us Their Best Postpartum Tips for Cuarentena

The 40 days after birth have long been revered as a sacred recovery period throughout Latin America. Here, Latina doulas and postpartum experts offer new birthing parents their best advice for making the most of this time.

mom in bed with baby
Rest, recharge, and re-center, Mami!. Photo: Brat Co/Stocksy

When Perla Farias, of Phoenix, had twins two years ago, she was intentional about carving out space to recover. As a descendant of a long line of Mexican midwives, she knew of the cuarentena, the traditional Latin American practice in which a mother spends the first 40 days after childbirth recuperating and bonding with her infant at home. "I wanted to honor that ritual and also protect my energy since it's such a delicate time in life," Perla says. So she and her newborns spent the first few weeks after the birth anchored at home, where she was able to "hibernate" and receive support from her partner, her children's abuelos, and their community—from meals to child care—for her two older kids, then 4-years-old and 1. "Living in that bubble really allowed me to focus on nurturing my babies and my body."

While not every mom has the privilege to observe the full cuarentena period, most women can still reap the benefits of this postnatal tradition, says doula Jasmin Olvera-Dena, the Mexican American founder of Oxomohco Birth & Body Work in San Jose. "Whatever it ends up looking like for your family, use it as a time to re-center, trust your gut, and use your voice to get exactly what you need to heal."

Follow these tips from Latina doulas and experts to customize your cuarentena and move into motherhood feeling supported and empowered.

Best Advice I Got

Nivea Voltran, a Brazilian mom in Germantown, Maryland

Parent friends advised me to do one thing each week without my newborn—the more ordinary, the better. Whether it was grocery shopping or penciling in a quick mani, it really made me feel like my own person again.

— Nivea Voltran, a Brazilian mom in Germantown, Maryland

Building Your Inner Circle

Be specific. "When loved ones visit, align your needs with their skills. Got a tío who's an organizational wizard? Let him work his magic on the baby's closet. Is your best amiga an amateur chef? Ask her to bring along a home-cooked meal when she stops by."
—Lola Katschke, a Brazilian certified birth and postpartum doula in Seattle

Find social support. "Mothers always ask me where to look on Instagram for practical advice. Go to @postpartumsupportinternational for tons of information on virtual chats and online support groups for everyone from military moms to NICU parents. You can also search #this_is_postpartum for posts that normalize life after birth (like what a realistic postpartum belly really looks like)."
—Eugenia Martinez, a Dominican doula and childbirth educator in Brooklyn, New York

Set boundaries. "Your parents or older relatives will have suggestions on topics like sleep training or breastfeeding, based on what they did some 30 years ago. Just remember—you are the expert on your body and baby. If you get any unsolicited advice, all you have to say is, 'I'll talk to my pediatrician about it.' "
—Anette Perel, the Panamanian American founder of Clearbirth Doula Services and host of The Clearbirth Podcast in New York City

Best advice I got

Alyssa Bourmeche, a Cuban mom in Orlando

'You and the baby are top priority, everything else can wait.' That's what my mom told me, and she was so right. The laundry doesn't have an expiration date. The dishes aren't going anywhere. So let your baby nap on you, and soak it up because they won't be a baby forever.

— Alyssa Bourmeche, a Cuban mom in Orlando

Prioritizing Emotional Well-Being

Speak up. "Postpartum is considered una benedición in our culture, and women are expected to not complain. If ever you feel overwhelmed, don't keep it to yourself: The only way you can get help is if you tell someone, like a partner or therapist."
—Roshnee Vázquez, Ph.D., a Puerto Rican senior psychologist at the Partial Hospitalization Program of The Motherhood Center of New York in New York City

Zen your environment. "You'll be spending a lot of those first few weeks in bed or on the couch, so make sure you have soft pajamas, body pillows, a robe, and a heating pad to ease epidural pain. Dim the lights, play soft music, make your space soothing. So much in your life is changing that the more consistency and comfort you can give yourself, the better."

Seek help early. "We all hear about postpartum anxiety, which affects about one in three Latinas. But what does it actually look like? Feeling weepy and emotional, getting irregular sleep—that's expected. Disturbing or intrusive thoughts, hopelessness, and heightened anxiety for more than two weeks—that's when you should get professional support."

Laugh out loud. "Many new moms add products like nipple balm and tuck pads to their postpartum kit, but laughter should be in there too. Research shows that humor reduces tension, releases endorphins, improves circulation, and boosts your immune system. So put on your favorite comedy show, ask your pals to keep the memes coming, or play that video of your baby that always makes you giggle."

Release your birth story. "Some moms don't realize that they need to process the trauma of labor, whether it was a C-section or an early delivery. It doesn't register in the moment because you're too preoccupied. So when you have a moment, write out your experience or share it with a trusted friend. It can help you make peace with your labor, however it unfolded."

parents in bedroom with baby laying in bed
Laughter really is the best medicine!. Brat Co/Stocksy

Best advice I got

Ruby DeSantiago, a Mexican mom in Fayetteville, Arkansas

My mom suggested, 'Find small things everyday that bring you joy.' For me, that turned out to be taking longer-than-usual showers and chatting with my amigas over the phone about anything other than diapers!

— Ruby DeSantiago, a Mexican mom in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Loving Your Body

Harness shower power. "Indigenous peoples, like the Mixtecs and Nahuas, have long recognized the importance of warmth to restore the womb, aid reproductive health, and regulate your temperature during this transition period. A simple hot shower can do wonders. Bring in natural aromatics—through a body scrub or steamer—to cleanse yourself of stagnant energy. I like lavender for purification, rosemary for remembering all that's good, and spearmint for daily sweetness."
Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz, a Xicana curandera and author of Earth Medicines in Phoenix

Embrace your mom bod. "Whenever you have doubts about your fluctuating weight or changing breasts, give yourself grace and remember you grew a baby. Then do something to show your appreciation for your body's resilience, like a massage or foot rub."

Keep warm. "During birth, the body, mind, and spirit open to bring life into the world. It takes time and self-care for everything to close back up. New moms are especially vulnerable to the elements, so abrigate by wearing a rebozo, or shawl, wrapping your womb and hips, and wearing socks."

Don't stress about hair loss. "Your hair was probably lustrous during pregnancy, but don't be surprised by the strands in the tub. That's totally normal—it's hormonal and, thankfully, temporary. A vitamin B supplement can help promote growth, but it's safest to consult with your doctor first."

Jasmin Olvera-Dena

Moms, you too have been reborn and must protect yourselves.

— Jasmin Olvera-Dena

Feeding the Soul

Think soups. "There's nothing like Mami's chicken soup. Not only will a hearty sancocho remind you of your childhood, but it's loaded with antioxidant-rich root vegetables and hydrating broth."

Sip something soothing. "I always recommend atole—a warm corn masa drink—to new mothers because of the comfort it provides. Every family has their own recipe, but I make mine with water, cinnamon, oat milk, pinole, masa harina, and amaranth, which supports milk production."

This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's March 2022 issue as "Curate Your Cuarentena."

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