Around midnight, four mothers were sitting quietly in the nursing room, breastfeeding their newborn babies. As one mother nodded, her eyelids heavy after giving birth less than two weeks earlier, a nurse came and took away her baby. The tired new mother returned to her private room to sleep.
Sleep is one of the luxuries provided by South Korea’s postpartum care centers.
This country may have one of the lowest birth rates in the world, but it is also home to perhaps the best postnatal care. At centers like St. Park, a small, boutique postpartum center, or Joryvon, In Seoul, new mothers are pampered and given hotel-like accommodations for a few weeks after giving birth.
Fresh meals are served three times a day, and there are also facials, massages and babysitting classes. Nurses take care of the children around the clock.
New mothers are called from their rooms when it is time to breastfeed in the community nursing room, where they are monitored by nurses. Women who do not wish to breastfeed are free to focus their time on treatment. (Babies are kept in the nursery throughout the day, although mothers can request to have their newborns sent to their room at any time.)
The cost of living in Joryvon can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollarsAccording to Korean custom, depending on the length of stay, which is often 21 days, is how long a woman’s body takes to recover after childbirth. But the centers weren’t always so luxurious, said Sohyun Sara Kim, 46, owner of St. Park.
“When I had my first child, there was no place to go,” she said. “Normally in Korea, a grandmother should take care of a newborn, but my mother did not have this skill, so we decided to go to Jorywon.”
In 2007, when Ms. Kim was pregnant with her first child, Jorywon was still not popular. The joryvon he visited was in an office building. The elevator was shared by workers returning from daily smoking breaks. The room was small and uncomfortable. “At that time, there was no nurse to take care of the child,” Ms. Kim said.
She opened Saint Park in 2008 with the mission of providing exceptional care for new moms in a Balinese-inspired retreat. It became one of the first high-end jorywon in Seoul. “It’s kind of like we’re transitioning between the hospital and home,” Ms. Kim said. “We don’t want moms to suffer at home, that’s our approach.”
Throughout the hallways of St. Park, staff quietly collect dirty clothes and distribute food, Including the expected Miyok GukOr seaweed soup, Korean food after birth.
In the lactation room, beads of sweat run down the forehead of a lactation specialist who squeezes droplets of breast milk from nipples to help production — not always gently. A flexible Pilates instructor gives tips on body alignment and recovery during classes on the rooftop.
While Ms. Kim advises guests to stay for 21 days, she has mostly abandoned the folk customs that were still prevalent when she had her first child, such as making sure the new mother’s hands never touched cold water. Do not put it in and also avoid air conditioning. In summer.
“We have air conditioning,” she said.
Joryvon’s new class also hired nurses, nutritionists, and pediatricians, and as the overall quality of care at the centers improved, more mothers, especially first-time mothers, booked stays.
Now Eight out of 10 South Korean mothers Visit Jorywon after giving birth, and private centers like Saint Park are known among Korean women as one of the best parts of recovering from childbirth. Pregnant women scramble to get into the Jorivon of their choice, and competition has become so fierce that some moms send out booking requests as soon as they see the double lines on their pregnancy test.
Chun Hye-rim, who is expecting her first child in March, said her husband had to use two phones to make a reservation at Heritage Cheongdam, one of Seoul’s top jorywons. Trinity Youngson, another popular center, put her on the waiting list. “They were like, ‘You just called?'” Ms. Chun said. At that time she was only seven weeks pregnant.
Part of the appeal of booking Joryvon is the chance to spend time with other first-time moms who have kids of a similar age. Seoul Jorywon, Anidar, which opened in October, says its goal is to help moms stay connected after receiving their postpartum care. “We bring together moms with similar interests and personalities,” said Jeong Minyu, CEO of Anidar.
Ms Chun said she chose Heritage because friends had recommended it to her. “People in Jorywon try to make good friends,” she said. “That culture continues throughout the child’s life.”
“You want to mix your kids with people of the same social class,” he said.
The issue of class and cost is highly sensitive in South Korea, where inequality is rising. Two weeks at Saint Park – not including massages, facials and hair treatments – costs more than $6,000. Insurance does not cover the fees, but they may be subsidized by the government through stipends aimed at encouraging more families to have children.
As expensive as some jorywon may be, their cost accounts for a small portion of the total expense of raising a child in South Korea, a fact that may help explain the country’s low birthrate.
“One reason people don’t want to give birth is because the postpartum care here is so good, it’s only for two weeks, and then there’s life after that, which is forever,” Ms Chun said.
Alison Kang, a Korean American living in Seoul, had her first child in March. She said that staying at Joryvon helped her recover from the complicated delivery. “I think it works in Korea because there is such an emphasis on reform, and I really wish there was that same emphasis in the United States or anywhere,” she said.
Some mothers say that it is too unsafe for newborns in the Joryvon system to be left in the care of strangers. But Ms Kang said her room was just steps away from her daughter’s in the nursery and she never felt distanced. “It’s incredibly important to allow ourselves to rest and not feel bad if we are to get better,” he said.
Standing in front of St. Park on a recent afternoon, owner Ms. Kim said that even though her business was driven by profit, she still thinks “as a mother.”
She added, “Every mother always cries when she gets tested.”
jin yoo young Contributed reporting from Seoul.