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Traditional Chinese Postpartum Care

by Annie Por | 1 year ago

Postpartum care is one of the most important traditions for women in Chinese culture. Prior to me getting pregnant and giving birth, my mom had always stressed the importance of women letting their bodies recover from the traumatic experience of childbirth. Apparently, if you don’t take care of your body after you give birth, you are setting yourself up for aches and pains later on in life when you’re older and more prone to ailments. My mom nags me on a lot of things (out of love of course), and although I don’t fully believe everything she says, I will respect it (sometimes, haha) and just go along with what she asks of me.

So, having recently given birth to my baby boy Parker, I was able to experience all the wonders of having a postpartum care nanny and what we call “one month sitting”, or in Chinese, zuo yue zi. The role of the postpartum care nanny over the course of one month is to—

  1. Take care of all the needs of the newborn (feed, burp, change, bathe, soothe)
  2. Take care of the recovering new mommy by cooking healthy, nutritious meals that will help restore the yin and yang in the body, spirit, and mind

During one month sitting, there are a lot of strict rules and a laundry list of dos and don’ts that a mommy has to follow. Some rules include not showering or washing your hair, not being exposed to wind, not eating “cold” foods, not going outside for a month, not accepting any visitors to the house, so on and so forth. A lot of these rules were born out of age-old practices due to the living conditions back in the day. For example, I’m sure the rule of not taking a bath or washing your hair was because at that time, heaters and hair dryers (electricity) didn’t exist, so it was easy to catch a cold and get sick.

I personally know a few people who followed all the rules to a tee, even though a lot of the rules don’t really apply to us today. I, however, was a little more lax with following these traditions because my main goal with hiring the postpartum nanny was learning how to care for an infant, getting food made for me three times a day, and having someone watch over the little one overnight.

Food for me was the most important aspect of the whole one-month sitting experience. Eating the right foods can help shed post-pregnancy water weight, increase milk supply, and build help balance out internal qi (energy flow). Each week during one-month sitting, my postpartum nanny tailored my meals according to the needs of my body.

For the first week, in order to help me shed water weight and remove impurities from the recent childbirth, she brewed a bunch of different waters for me to drink which included black bean water, red bean water, and rock sugar and ginger tea (to help me pee). She also cooked with minimal salt so that water wouldn’t be retained in my body. A lot of the meals included very basic stir fry with little to no seasoning. My husband thought these meals were pretty bland, but I actually really liked all the food she made!

Pictured here: Steamed fish with ginger, mountain yam and carrot stew, steamed egg with ground pork, and boiled veggies


Pictured here: Mountain yam and goji berry soup, steamed fish with ginger, tomato and cauliflower stir fry, brussels sprout and beef stir-fry

During the second week, she really wanted to help boost my milk production since I was breastfeeding so her meals included fish soup, chicken soup, and mountain yam soup. I had soup at every meal, since staying hydrated and drinking a lot of liquids help with milk production. I was not allowed to eat anything that was literally cold or considered a “cold” food (foods that may not be cold to the touch but cools the body) because cold foods can decrease milk production. Cold foods include pears, watermelon, celery, lettuce, salads, cucumber, etc. During the final weeks, the food got less bland since I no longer had to eat a low salt diet. She used a lot more sauces for the stir fries but still focused on preparing balanced meals for me which included a meat, a veggie, and a soup.

Pictured here: Sauteed cabbage, grilled tofu, soy braised pork ribs with steamed broccoli, and steamed fish with ginger


Pictured here: Black chicken and tofu soup (I ate a ton of black chicken which has less fat and calories compared to regular chicken), boiled veggies, beef and onion stir-fry, and steamed ground pork with chopped carrots and mountain yam wrapped in cabbage

Over the course of one month, I was able to lose all the weight I gained during my pregnancy, AND THEN SOME! I’m pretty sure that had I not had the help of my postpartum nanny, I wouldn’t have lost as much weight since I probably would have been eating quite terribly. I definitely wouldn’t have had time to cook anything for myself, while taking care of a newborn baby– I could barely function, let alone figure out what my next meal was going to be!

Besides not worrying about making food during the first month after my son was born, I was able to learn quite a lot about taking care of a newborn baby from my nanny. She taught me how to troubleshoot his cries— baby is hungry, baby needs a diaper change, baby needs to be burped, baby needs help with digestion (which included belly massages). Overall, the experience was pretty awesome. I feel really fortunate that I was able to experience having a one-month sitting nanny and highly recommend having one if you’re a new parent and could use the help. After my nanny left, I felt 100x more confident in my ability to take care of my fragile little baby and glad that I was able to take all the knowledge I learned in that one month and apply it myself!