After enduring possibly the most physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting event of their lives (birth!) postpartum birthing parents are expected to immediately start providing for others. With just a few hours of sleep, they have to feed the baby, adjust to a new sleep schedule (a.k.a. no sleep), and somehow grab a granola bar to survive in the chaos. For many in the United States, with no established national paid maternity and paternity leave requirements, on top of this, they have to return to work just days to weeks postpartum. This tracks with a spiking concern about postpartum mental health conditions, as well as some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, especially for Black and brown birthing parents.
New postpartum hotels and retreats, such as a TikTok viral Boram Care Postnatal Retreat in New York City, aim to prioritize the parents as well as the baby in the days directly after birth. Co-founder Boram Nam was inspired to create such a place based on the principles of East Asia’s rest principles postpartum, such as in China where birthing parents stay home resting and recovering for a month, called “Zuo Yue Zi” or “sitting the month.” (Sleepopolis reached out to Boram Care for more information and comment, but they did not respond to our request for an interview.) The hotel aims to bridge the gap between medical staff at a birthing hospital and the part where parents are at home, sleep-deprived, with questions while trying to recover. They offer nutritional meals, baby “boot camp,” where parents receive support and resources on caring for the baby, along with lactation support and more. Basically, it’s every parent’s dream support system, the nanny, nurse, sister, mom, or helper not everyone has at home.
“[It] recreates a community environment for the new parent, such as being fed nutritious meals, learning baby care skills, and making sure feeding the baby gets off to a good start,” says Sheila Dukas-Janakos, MPH, IBCLC, LE, RLC is CEO and Co-founder of Healthy Horizons Corporate Lactation Programs and Breastfeeding Center, whose nickname is the “Milk Fairy Godmother”. “This is a solution for people who do not have family or community readily available to help and would like some additional support.” She adds that, in some cultures, a new family wouldn’t be left alone unattended, but would be “protected, fed and pampered” and this fills that need here.
But, the hotel comes with obvious accessibility issues, namely the price. At around $900 per night, many postpartum parents on unpaid leave would never be able to afford this level of necessary help. Dukas-Janakos calls it “cost-prohibitive to most people.” In addition, she has some concerns about how establishing proper lactation could be disrupted if a hotel was to have a baby sleep in a nursery, instead of staying with the birthing parent. “It could impact lactation if the parent isn’t feeding throughout the night and the baby sleeps in a nursery, which could also impact one-on-one infant bonding and close contact with their parent including reading baby cues which could set up an unrealistic expectation of sleep and what parenting a newborn typically entails.”
Christine Hernandez, of Saratoga Springs NY, certified birth + postpartum doula & founder of Allo Saratoga, says “I love the idea of postpartum people having space to rest, heal, bond with their baby, and have nutritious meals brought to them. The idea of a postpartum hotel is genius but sort of sad, because these things should be able to happen in a postpartum person’s home.”
She adds that a new parent’s relatives, neighbors and friends should be bringing over food, caring for siblings, taking care of household chores, etc so the birthing person can take the time to heal. “However, this is not the reality for most new parents, so they have to look outside their family & social network for the support that they need and deserve. While I am glad we are starting to recognize the need for more support postpartum, I wish it was just a given for every family.”
Luckily, Hernandez predicts that we are in a time of positive change and that hopefully soon more parents will have access to necessary services for free. “Similar to how a postpartum hotel may seem like a luxury to many people, postpartum doula support has also been seen as a luxury. However, the benefits of doulas during the birth and postpartum period are starting to become more obvious to legislatures, insurance companies and in some cases, hospitals,” she says. “Some insurance companies have started reimbursing for doula support, there are Medicaid doula reimbursement pilots beginning and these are huge steps in the right direction. In an ideal world, we will get to a point where a postpartum hotel is commonplace, and something everyone can access. Or, hospitals can redesign their postpartum care model and make the experience more supportive, restful and family-centered.”
Until then, she hopes communities will do everything they can to support the number one need of the birthing parent: “rest.”
Dukas-Janakos, Sheila. Author interview. June 2024.
Hernandez, Christine. Author interview. June 2024.