A Greek mother is often “expected” to stay at home with her newborn baby for the 40 days after the birth of a child. She doesn’t leave the house, she doesn’t go grocery shopping and if she is lucky enough to have family support, she doesn’t cook or clean or do any of her normal household duties.
The only time that a new mother can leave the house is if she needs to take the baby to the doctors. In fact, she is not even allowed/permitted to go to Church during these 40 days.
Old Fashion Superstition
Up until recently, I thought that this tradition was old-fashioned and superstitious. I published a post about it a little while ago called: Yiayia’s Advice To Protect A New Mother From The Evil Eye. This post talks about the Evil Eye (to mako mati) and how to protect the mother and child.
Protecting The Child
To protect the child from the evil eye, the child will often wear a little blue bead with a black dot inside of it. It looks like an eye – the mati. This practice is not a religious tradition and it is not endorsed by the Orthodox Church.
A Religious Perspective
A woman is not allowed to attend Church during the 40 days after the birth of a child. This is for very specific reasons which I am yet to research and learn more about. I need to discuss it with my Priest and find out exactly why a mother can not attend Church.
Here is what I know so far:
- The mother can not attend Church for 40 days after the birth of a child
- The mother is ‘not clean’ during this period because she is still bleeding and this is one of the main reasons why she can not attend Church.
- At the end of the 40 days, the mother will attend Church and ask for a special blessing. This blessing is known as Sarantismos (Σαραντισμός) or the 40 day blessing.
Do you know any other reasons why a mother can not attend Church during this time?
Please share in the comments.
A Modern Perspective
I’m pregnant at the moment and lots of people have been asking me if I will “do the 40 days”. At first I thought that it all seemed a bit silly and as I said before ‘old fashioned’. However after a bit of research I have changed my mind.
According to all of the pregnancy journals and websites that I have been reading, the 6-8 weeks after the birth of a baby is a very crucial time for both mother and child. Doctors, midwives and health professionals advice the following:
- A newborn child is sensitive to bright lights and loud noises during its first 6 weeks.
- Parents are told that the baby should not have any visitors (who are sick or who have not been vaccinated) for the first 6 weeks
- A child receives its first vaccination at 6 weeks
- A new-born baby is at high risk of infection during its first 6 weeks.
- A mother needs to rest and take care of herself for 6 weeks to ensure optimal recovery
- Post natal depression is likely to occur in some mothers during the first 6 weeks after birth.
- Couples should avoid sexual relations for at least 6 weeks
- A new mother should avoid driving for 6 weeks and if she needs to drive then she will often have to check with her insurance company before doing so.
- It takes at least 6 weeks for a new mother to learn and to feel comfortable with breastfeeding – if not longer.
- There is a need for bonding time between mother and child, especially during the first 6 weeks.
All of the information that I have been receiving suggests that the “safe” time for most activities occurs at 6 weeks. This is about “40 days”.
In my opinion, making a conscious effort to stay at home with my new-born baby makes a lot of sense. It will give the baby time to get used to his/her environment and it will give me time to rest and recover.
I don’t know how strict I will be and I don’t know if I will go a bit crazy locked up in the house all day long, but I’m willing to give it a go.
Did you stay at home for 40 Days?
Please share your story in the comments.
Photo Credit: The beautiful photos in this post have been sourced from the website Just Mommies. The mother’s name is Anna and she uploaded these images to a public forum. I have tried to contact Anna with no luck.
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