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Chinese Postpartum Confinement?

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Just kidding -- well, not really.

woman and baby behind locked door

Angela Chee: In many cultures -- especially the Chinese culture -- the first month post-delivery is the most important when it comes to a woman's health. Ancient Chinese traditions dictate a mother must stay inside, avoid bathing or washing her hair, not be with anyone other than her baby (even her husband), and avoid certain "cold" foods and load up on "hot" foods. If you don't follow the traditions, it can hurt the woman's body and cause health problems and disease later in life.

When I first heard this, I thought, That's crazy. My mom won't make me do this ...? Well, she didn't make me, but definitely insisted on a few things. The first thing most moms do after giving birth is take a shower and eat whatever they want, right? Hmmm! After no sushi for nine months, a spicy tuna roll sounds good.

But are these traditions really crazy? After reading about their origins, they made more sense to me. From an early medical context, many of the traditions were practical. Women were to avoid bathing to prevent water-borne illness, stay indoors so they and their babies avoid communicable diseases and colds, and eat protein, iron, and hot soup to stay hydrated, strong, and help promote breast milk production.

I was able to follow some of the practices after my first pregnancy (with the help of my family), allowing my body to heal -- and now I'm planning to do it again.

Especially during cold and flu season, it may not be such a bad idea to take it easy the first month. Of course, I'm not going to avoid seeing my husband and taking a shower, but avoiding cold, crowded places doesn't sound like such a bad idea. I guess I can put off sushi for another month and have more healing "hot" foods. Here's a link to a list of "cold" foods to avoid and "hot" foods to eat.

In Taiwan and China, they even have postpartum centers and hotels which cater exclusively to mothers, where they are pampered and cared for the first month postpartum. Now that's not a bad tradition.

next: New Year's Un-Resolutions
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Tara January 2, 2010, 6:47 PM

I would’ve LOVED a post-partum hotel to cater to me after my C-section. Why does the US culture expect us Moms to just jump back into our lives while EVERY other culture caters to new mothers?

Gigohead  January 2, 2010, 7:09 PM

How odd to be reading this. When my premature baby boy was in the NICU, there was a Chinese baby also there, I assume she was premature as well. I never saw the mother only the father to to see her everyday. About two weeks later the mom shows up and tells the NICU nurse that she can’t see her everyday due to Chinese custom. Well. the nurse didn’t want to hear any of it and scold her to come each day and care for her baby because she needed to learn the skills necessary to care for a preemie.

I can understand custom, but I have to agree with the nurse, there has to be circumstances that must dictate necessity over custom. The young mother did not know how to feed her baby and I did see the baby go into apnea. So both mom and baby needed more time before going home.

Lisa January 2, 2010, 7:10 PM

Why is “confinement” in the title? Very misleading.

Elizabeth E.  January 2, 2010, 10:42 PM

The hispanic culture does the exact same thing. They actually go 40 days of not being allowed to really do more than get up to use the restroom, eat and feed the baby. It’s call Quaresma (sp?). No cold foods; lots of warm soups and warm drinks like tea, hot chocolate (this one wasn’t so bad)and milk. Another thing we do is wrap our bellies as soon as we get home. This is done so that your stomach reduces quickly and we are not left with pouches… Works for some…but not all of us :-).

Elizabeth E.
Suburban Mommy of 2!

ilovehorseyrides January 24, 2010, 1:30 PM

That baby looks like me when I was a baby!

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