First-of-its-kind retreat offers Canadian families extensive postnatal care

For Hana McConville, a day or two of rest after giving birth wasn’t enough. In her culture, it is not normal for mothers and fathers to be discharged from the hospital so soon after giving birth. That’s why she decided to found soul care.

“I think there’s a stigma because there’s a gap in postpartum care,” McConville told CTV News Toronto. “They release you from the hospital 24 (if you’re lucky, 48 hours) after giving birth, and they don’t really give you any guidance or assistance. And then not only are you sent home with a newborn baby, but you are also sent home with a lack of information and knowledge about how to take care of yourself…”

In Eastern cultures, she said, a common practice is “sitting the month,” in which new mothers prioritize relaxation for between 26 and 100 days, and includes specialized care routines such as avoiding cold liquids, emphasizing connection between parents and children and provide postnatal education.

The practice has its roots in ancient Chinese medical theory dating back thousands of years, with some beliefs documented as early as the 6th century. Part of its philosophy, according to the Pacific College of Health and Science, is based on the concept of balance that occurs in yin and yang and, in this sense, through internal and external temperatures.

“Avoiding ‘cold’ is a concept rooted in the traditional Chinese medicine philosophy that our bodies have a hot/yang and cold/yin nature, which must be balanced for good health,” writes Dr. Lily Yeh Gillespie . “Giving birth places the body in a ‘cold’ state, causing the body’s qi or energy to move slowly. In a typical vaginal birth, women push and open their body, meridians and pores for 12 to 14 hours.”

McConville was there twice a month, after having each of her children. She says her experience left her feeling well-rested, well-equipped and supported.

“It’s not a panacea, but I think just being well rested, feeling supported and not so overwhelmed, I think that really changed how I felt,” she said. “I felt great.”

Alma Care currently operates out of the Kimpton Hotel in Toronto, where clients can choose to stay for a single night or up to a month. Rooms are stocked with hospital-grade products such as nursing pillows, bassinets and postpartum supplies, all designed with baby in mind. According to their website, it is the first postnatal retreat in Canada.

At the hotel, parents can choose to attend workshops in their parents’ lounge. There is also a baby nursery on site, giving parents the option for their baby to stay with a care team if or when they wish.

Parents rest at Alma Care. (Photo credit Candice Linkie)

They also offer home care with the same services.

Speaking with CTV News, Jasmin Tecson, a midwife in Ontario, said rest is an important part of the postpartum period.

“In many cultures around the world, and something we see are these cultures where midwives are part of the norm of birth care and postpartum care is as part of the idea of ​​what constitutes a healthy period for new parents and the new beta. The period is a time of rest and support,” Tecson said. “And this helps with parenting.”

“Also, there are emotional health, psychological elements and also physical health in the short term, but perhaps also in the long term – if you have healthy, well-bonded parents and children, then there are also good reasons for this to happen.” They will also have long-term social benefits.”

Since opening in February 2024, McConville says there has been a lot of excitement about it.

“I think a change is happening,” he said. “People are seeing a different way of experiencing those products… And there’s a lot of excitement about it, which has been really nice to see.”

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