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Okinawa Pref. facility provides respite for moms after childbirth with cafe, midwife care

The "zeroplace" lounge area is seen in this image provided by the company of the same name.

A facility where mothers can receive postpartum care in a relaxed setting has been set up in Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.

    The care center was launched in the prefectural city of Urasoe by "zeroplace," a local firm headed by Ayaka Shimabukuro. While a midwife is permanently stationed at the facility, it also contains a cafe. The firm aims to expand the care center to areas across Japan.

    Amid a rise in the number of nuclear families and changes in lifestyles, support for women who have just given birth has been lacking. There has also apparently been an increase in cases where mothers with newborn children become isolated and face concerns.

    Ayaka Shimabukuro, a midwife who heads the company zeroplace, managing a facility of the same name, is seen in this image provided by the company.

    Shimabukuro is also a midwife who has experience working at hospitals in Okinawa and Osaka. She said she realized how important it was that women who gave birth were smoothly led into postpartum care after being discharged from the hospital, and resolved to open the facility. Although it was initially scheduled to be opened sometime in September, full-scale operation of the center began on Oct. 14 due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The facility, also named "zeroplace," can be used by parents and their babies below the age of 1, as well as families and friends. Mothers can receive advice on childrearing as well as midwife services, including breastfeeding assistance and pelvic care. They can also leave their babies in the care of professionals to spend time alone in the lounge area as well as the napping room.

    A cafe booth is set up in the lounge area, with the cooperation of Kobe-based Nestle Japan, which also works to solve issues faced by pregnant women. Caffeine-free coffee is additionally offered for mothers during their breastfeeding period.

    A coffee machine set up in the "zeroplace" cafe space is seen in this image provided by the company of the same name.

    In a trial run before the facility officially opened, users apparently commented that the facility "directs its attention to not just babies, but also the mothers." Shimabukuro explained that while the facility "allows babies to spend their time safely, " she also tried to create "a fancy space where adults can also relax."

    Nestle Japan manager Jiro Takaoka commented, "I hope that visitors will be able to enjoy their time there and relax at ease."

    (Japanese original by Tsubasa Terada, Digital Media Division Editorial Group)

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