The First Forty Days Book Review

Book Review: The First Forty Days by Heng Ou

March 14, 2023

The First Forty Days by Heng Ou is literally the postpartum bible and my number one recommended book to read while pregnant to prep for postpartum. I’m a huge fan of this book and have this book out on my kitchen counter constantly even now ten months postpartum. I was originally gifted this book when I was pregnant for the second time and I am so glad that my friend gave this to me. I didn’t have these teachings my first postpartum experience so it felt like a breath of fresh air to have this wisdom.

The first half of the book is devoted to describing and teaching on the traditional teachings of the first forty days time period in postpartum. The author, Heng Ou shares her experiences with postpartum and her ancestors traditional service of the first forty days. She describes how in different cultures than the American culture, mothers, aunties and women in the birthing family’s circle will also take a leave of absence and come live in with the postpartum family and take over all of the housework, childcare and responsibilities of the family so that the birthing mother can rest and bond with her baby. This critical time period of the first forty days is a sacred time where mothers need to rest, heal, establish breastfeeding and bond as a reborn family. These cultures honor postpartum and the birth of the mother. Heng Ou describes how we can cultivate this for ourselves in the new world or “modern society” in America. How possibly seeing the array of benefits these teachings show for new families and mothers we can advocate for a lie in period of deep rest and bonding.

One of my favorite parts of this book is how she realistically helps to paint the picture of how you can cultivate this for yourself. There is a whole chapter called, “Do you deserve the first forty days?” It reads, “The biggest obstacle to preparing for your first forty days may be your belief system. Through postpartum recovery has a long history, today, simply the thought of making time for yourself or asking for help may seem extravagant, luxurious, or even greedy. Ask people to cook food for me? Or clean the house? Refuse to accept visitors before I’m ready?” says Heng Ou page 45. Feeling deserving of deep rest after the most intense physical event your body can ever go through, giving birth is not a luxury. It is necessary.

The book also helps to walk you through a pregnancy check-list for preparing for postpartum – love this! Realistic steps to help set you up for success to be able to sit in deep rest and bond with your baby. Maybe you don’t have “a village” to come live in with you postpartum and cook all of your meals but you sure as heck can fill your freezer with forty days worth of nourishing meals for yourself. The fill your freezer chapter is on page 51 and chapter six: what to eat kicks off on page 97. Which leads into the second half of the book which is all about food, nourishment, meal preparation and of course recipes! Here are some of my favorite recipes from the book that you have to make…

Quinoa, Lentils & Greens Soup

Shiitake Immune-Boost Broth

Seasonal Greens Soup

Ginger Fried Rice

Joyful Green Smoothie

Blueberry & Oat Pancakes

Peanut butter & honey rice crispy treats

These are just the top picks, but I’ve made majority of the recipes in this book and have loved them. Seriously incredible resource for the postpartum period. The recipes we still make frequently even ten months postpartum are the ginger fried rice and the blueberry & oat pancakes. We usually have these pancakes once a week! The kids love these recipes too, especially the pancakes and rice crispy treats.

A tip that I did that really supported me postpartum was sharing this book with my support team ahead of time. I shared the book with my mom and bookmarked pages out of it with recipes that I asked her to specially make for my freezer. I also shared this book with my husband Graham to read ahead of time and book marked my favorites in here for him to make for breakfast and lunches during his parental leave. He made the ginger fried rice, joyful green smoothie and pancakes multiple times and still makes the fried rice for us often!

Let me know in the comments section what you thought of the book and what your favorite recipes are that you enjoyed postpartum!


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