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Chinese Postpartum Traditions & Chinese Confinement Food Recipes

June 21, 2018 No comments

In China, it's common for new moms to lay in bed for a whole month after giving birth. This period is called “zuò yuè zǐ” (坐月子) is which literally means “sitting the month”. In the West, we call this postpartum confinement.

We've prepared this guide carefully with two goals in mind:

  1. We would like to offer new moms a guide for fast post pregnancy recovery;
  2. We want to explain Chinese postpartum customs and traditions to those who want to understand this part of Chinese culture.

Origin & Importance of Confinement after Giving Birth in China

This tradition of confinement can be traced back to the Western Han Dynasty which is more than 2,000 years ago. As a necessary postpartum ritual, it is believed that confinement is critical for assisting the new mothers to survive the physical and psychological transition of their lives.

As living conditions have improved since then. Some of the requirements of confinement have become less common, such as not showering for a month (which will be explained later in the article). Yet, there still are some basic principles to follow to enjoy a super fast recovery:

1. Get A Chinese Confinement Nanny

In China it's common to hire a nanny that is specialized in taking care of the mom and baby in the first month. For those who can't afford a nanny, the grandparents will come to help out.

It's easy for new moms and dads to be overwhelmed as taking care of a new born is more tough than a full time job. Yet, both physically as well as psychologically new moms are in a bad state. After all, giving birth can be compared to a serious surgery. Moreover, it's easy for moms to get a post pregnancy depression, which can be potentially quite severe.

Hire a good nanny, and she'll be able to take care of you and your newborn. You'll recover faster and enjoy your time with the newborn so much more.

  • Tip 1: Start looking for a nanny 6 months before you're expected. Popular nannies are often booked for several months. If you don't know any nannies don't worry. Simply ask your Chinese friends and acquaintance for referrals. You'll be surprised.

2. Avoid Getting a Cold

You may think this is just common sense, but after pregnancy there's a higher chance for moms to catch a cold. While the body focuses on recovering, it's more sensitive to disruptions from outside. The number one rule of recovering fast is to avoid a cold at all cost.

Here's what you can do:

  • Tip 2: Adjust the temperature and humidity of the indoor living environment, it is best to set the temperature at 25 ~ 26 °C and the humidity at 50% ~ 60%.
  • Tip 3: Wear loose long-sleeved clothes, trousers and socks and make sure the joints are covered.

3. No Shower, Seriously???

It's true that in the very past, the Chinese didn't shower for a month. Instead, they cleaned their bodies with a wet cloth. The main reason was to avoid catching a cold or prevent 'wind' to entering the body.

In modern times, we live in well isolated homes with proper heating. The risks associated with taking showers are therefore very low. The idea of not taking showers is therefore outdated. There are still people out there who maintain this tradition, but it's not something we recommend.

In fact, not taking showers can increase the risk of infections, which we'll discuss in the next paragraph.

4. Hygiene

New mothers need to be more careful of their personal hygiene than usual. After all, they'll still be suffering from a wound that needs to heal. Not taking care of hygiene can therefore lead to infections.

As most of the time is spend in the bed room during the confinement period, this space should be at least kept very clean and the bed sheets should be changed at least on a weekly basis to avoid infections. The bathroom should also be kept clean.

  • Tip 4: If there are two toilets at home, one should be one be exclusively used by the mom.
  • Tip 5: Take warm showers. If taking a bath, use a thermometer and set the temperature of the bath to 40°C;dry the body and hair immediately after washing.

5. Chinese Confinement Diet

At last, to speed up recovery, the most common features of a good diet is one that is easy to digest, keeps the body warm and improves blood circulation.

However, the ideal diet should be different depending on each individual’s situation. For instance, the diet should be adjusted if there are problems regarding postpartum lochia and breastfeeding. If complications arise one should contact a doctor.

  • Tip 6: Determine all ingredients you need in the first month. Then check which ones aren't easily available in your local supermarket. These ingredients should be stocked up the month before delivery.
  • Tip 7: If you've a postpartum nanny, discuss your plans with her first.

Below we introduce some common Chinese style confinement recipes.

Hawthorn And Brown Sugar tea

Hawthorn berries can help new mothers to increase appetite and promote digestion. Same as brown sugar, it’s good for blood circulation. This drink can help speed up the lochia discharge rate.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Boil the slices of hawthorn berries with 500ml of water until they turn soft.
  2. Add in brown sugar and continue to boil for 3 more minutes.

Motherwort (Yi Mu Cao) With Eggs

Motherwort promotes blood circulation and helps increase lochia flow. New moms who are breastfeeding can also use this recipe with moderate consumption.

Ingredients:

  • Motherwort (Yi Mu Cao) 30g
  • 2 eggs
  • Chopped green onion (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Boil the motherwort with 250ml water for 30 minutes.
  2. Discard the motherwort. Wait for the motherwort tea to cool down.
  3. Beat the eggs. Add the tea into beaten eggs and mix well.
  4. Boil or steam the mixture with low heat until it’s coagulated.
  5. Add chopped green onion (optional).

Chicken Soup With Jujube, Astragalus Root And Angelica Root

This recipe can help new moms get rid of bloating and gain strength. Jujube is used for nourishing blood and soothing the nerves. Astragalus root is known for its anti-Inflammatory and diuretic properties. Angelica root can boost immune system and stimulate blood circulation. And chicken soup is great for physical recovery!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Chicken drumsticks
  • 6 Jujubes
  • Angelica root 15g
  • Astragalus root 15g
  • Ginger slices 15g
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Put the drumsticks, jujubes, angelica root, astragalus root and ginger slices in a pan.
  2. Add water in the pan to cover all the ingredients.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, then simmer it for 30 minutes.
  4. Add salt to taste in the soup.

Ginger porridge with red sugar

Porridges are great for during postpartum. Instead of normally cooked rice, a porridge is way more easy to digest. Adding ginger and red sugar can help warm the body, which makes it an ideal and easy to make dish.

  • White rice
  • Ginger slices 15g
  • Brown sugar

Instructions:

  • Cook the white rice ginger slices with 3 times more water than you usually use for cooking normal rice.
  • Add brown sugar, the amount depends on personal taste.

Food to avoid during confinement

  1. Spicy food
  2. Raw meat
  3. Raw salad: go for cooked vegetables instead.
  4. Crab and shrimp: may cause skin irritation, go for white fish instead.
  5. Whole milk: for better digestion, go for skimmed milk instead.
  6. Alcoholic drinks

We really welcome questions regarding this topic! If you've any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section! We'll try our best to answer your questions within 2 days.