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

Hana McConville sits with her baby at the Alma Care retreat that launched in February 2024. (Photo credit Candice Linkie) Hana McConville sits with her baby at the Alma Care retreat that launched in February 2024. (Photo credit Candice Linkie)
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For Hana McConville, a day or two of rest after giving birth wasn’t enough. In her culture, it’s not normal for mothers and parents to be discharged from the hospital so soon following childbirth. That’s why she decided to found Alma Care.

“I think there’s a stigma because there’s a gap in postpartum care,” McConville said to CTV News Toronto. “You’re discharged from the hospital in 24 – if you’re lucky 48 hours – after you give birth, and you’re not really given guidance or assistance. And so not only are you sent home with a newborn baby you’re sent home with a lack of information and knowledge of how to care for yourself…”

In eastern cultures, she said, a common practice is ‘Sitting the Month,’ in which new mothers prioritize relaxation for anywhere between 26 to 100 days, and includes specialized care routines such as avoiding cold liquids, emphasizing parent-child connection, and providing postnatal education.

The practice finds its roots in ancient Chinese medical theory that dates 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’s presented in yin and yang, and, in this sense, through internal and external temperatures.

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

McConville sat the month two times, after having each of her children. She says that the experience left her feeling well rested, well equipped and supported.

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

Alma Care is currently operating out of the Kimpton Hotel in Toronto, where clients can choose to stay for a single night or up to a month. The rooms are equipped with hospital-grade products, such as breastfeeding pillows, bassinets and postpartum supplies, all designed with a baby in mind. According to its website, it's the first postnatal retreat in Canada. 

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

The parents lounge at Alma Care. (Photo credit Candice Linkie)

They also offer home care with the same services.

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

“Across many cultures around in the world, and something that is something that we see are these cultures where midwives are part of the norm of birthing care and postpartum care is like part of the idea of what constitutes a healthy new parent period and new beta period is a time of rest and support,” Tecson said. “And this helps with parenting.”

“Also, there’s emotional health, psychological elements of like psychological and also physical health for the short term but also perhaps for the longer term – if you have healthy, well-bonded parents and children, then there is also a good case for it to have societal benefits over the long term as well.”

Since opening in Feb. 2024, McConville says that there’s been a lot of excitement around it.

“I think there’s a shift happening,” she said. “People are seeing a different way to experience those products… And there’s a lot of excitement about that, which has been really nice to see.”

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