Chinese postpartum traditions

My postpartum is finally over! In China, the postpartum period is called yuezi 月子 and it lasts 30 or 42 days, depending on who you ask. The tradition says that this is a very delicate moment in the life of a woman and she basically cannot do anything at all apart from staying in bed, feeding the baby and eating some particularly nutritious foods.

The new mum surrounded by her mum, mother in law and aunties, who say: You cannot shower, leave the bed, touch cold water, wash your hair, be exposed to the wind or cut your nails.

 

The most important rule of the Chinese postpartum is that you have to avoid cold at all costs. This means you cannot shower, wash your hair, brush your teeth, open the window or turn on the air con, eat cold things (and cold does not necessarily mean low temperature, but “cold” as per traditional Chinese medicine)… I don’t even want to imagine how that poor lady and her room would smell after one month.

The mum/mother in law says: “Stop! During the postpartum you cannot take a shower or wash your hair, otherwise you will have headaches when you are old!”. And the text below the arrow says: “Hair so oily that you can fry food in it”.

 

To stay warm during the postpartum, Chinese women say bye bye to normal clothes and wear some “pretty” pyjamas and “stylish” hats which are special for this time. It doesn’t matter if you gave birth in the middle of the summer, you still need to be covered from head to toe to avoid getting all kind of pains in your old age, mostly in your joints. Yes, my dear ladies: old people have pains not because they are old and their bodies have been used for decades, but because one day at 2 weeks postpartum they opened the window and some cold air that got inside their joints is now back 40 years later in the form of arthritis. Ergo, old men cannot possibly have joint pain and they are all lying.

Newest outfits for the spring-summer season of 2018. The hat is available in two versions: “fishmonger” (pictured above) and “head injury” (below). Get yours before they are sold out!

The other day we went to the hospital for the 6 weeks check up and I saw a couple of young women dressed like this. I wanted to take a picture but I’m too shy.

 

Food is also very important during the postpartum. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are even special food delivery services that prepare postpartum meals (and in case you were wondering, no, they are not cheap). The key dish in the postpartum diet is chicken soup, pig trotters soup, fish soup… as they are supposed to help you produce more milk. You also have to drink brown sugar diluted in water, as it is marketed as high in iron and good for women (I can think of many things that are way higher in iron, no need to drink sugar water, especially when you cannot brush your teeth). Some people eat something like 6 eggs a day because they are very nutritious. In some places they even have a special postpartum wine, because everybody knows you have to drink alcohol when you are breastfeeding. Hey, maybe this way the baby will sleep through the night!

 

During my postpartum I have paid special attention to all these rules and I made a great effort to break them all, just to prove that absolutely nothing happens. Some old ladies say I will regret it when I am old, but others just say that “foreign women are stronger and don’t need to sit the month, but Chinese women must do it”. I took a shower and washed my hair the day after giving birth and the doctor approved of it (many Chinese doctors are trying to stop people following these old rules, as some women have even died of heat stroke during postpartum). I left the hospital carrying my baby and a man in the elevator gave me the thumbs up and said I was very strong (the other new mums leaving that day were wearing the horrid pyjamas and looking half dead while their babies were carried by their mums/MILs/nurses). I ate fruit and even ice cream. I wore shorts (gasp! I exposed my knees to the cold September wind!) and sandals without socks (the horror! I will regret it when I’m 40, which in China is the start of old age!). And I didn’t spend the whole month in bed, obviously.

However, there is something that I like about the Chinese postpartum traditions: the notion that the new mum has to rest and the rest of the family have to take care of her. No need to try to prove you are superwoman, juggling a new baby while you do house chores! C. spent his two weeks of paternity leave changing diapers, taking care of the baby’s umbilical stump, bathing and dressing him… His mum was also here, cooking, cleaning and washing the clothes. My only task was to rest, recover and feed the baby, so I am a very relaxed new mum!

 

Had you ever heard of the Chinese postpartum traditions? Would you follow them?