Many cultures adhere to a precious post-partum recovery period for Mother & Baby. This enables the new mother to slowly transition back into “normal life” after the incredible journey of gestation and child-birth.
Chinese Confinement-”Zuo Yuezi”
When I was studying Chinese medicine I had always heard about this 30-day indoor period that was required after childbirth. I chalked it up to the lack of indoor heating in 300BC and the fact that some traditions never die but I have to say I am starting to think that there is more to it than that. I definitely didn’t stay indoors for 30 days-I was eager to get out and mingle with other moms, push my stroller around and well, just get more tired. So I started thinking that maybe some elements of this confinement period would be really useful?
The idea that the body needs to recover after childbirth is no mystery-but just how long? The western concept is 6-weeks for a vaginal birth but what can you do during that 6 weeks? You are still allowed to shower, drink water and eat vegetables-all activities that are forbidden in traditional Chinese post-partum recovery.
The theory is that the body is very weak after childbirth and there is usually substantial blood loss. This makes the body more susceptible to chills and pathogens which will further weaken the woman. Avoiding showering keeps the pores closed and pathogens out.
Cold foods also weaken digestion and can dilute the blood which, needs to be thickened. As a matter of fact the whole body is considered “cold” after childbirth so all the foods are aimed at “warming up” the body.
Women must stay at home and stay warm. She must avoid cold temperatures, cold water, cold wind and cold foods. She must refrain from washing her hands, take occasional warm baths and only eat certain “warming” foods.
Stricter rules include, no drinking water (only boiled red date water) and absolutely no washing your hair for 30 days.
Hispanic “La Cuarentena”
Cuarentena is a period of approximately 40 days, or six weeks, during which the new mom abstains from sex and is solely dedicated to breastfeeding and taking care of her baby and herself. During this time, other members of the family pitch in to cook, clean, and take care of other children, if there are any.
In some Latin American countries it’s traditional to use herbal remedies during this period to aid in recovery. It’s also common to offer the new mother special meals, such as vegetable soups made from scratch. Once this period is over, it’s believed, the new mom is ready to return in full to family life.
Some warming foods include:
* Chicken with sesame and ginger
* Soup stocks: stock, beef marrow, ox tail
* Root vegetables; sweet potato, turnips, beets
* Boiled red dates
Recipes & Breastfeeding Foods
Congee or Jook is a great food for getting the body up and running fast. Congee is a diluted rice soup that is very easy to digest…and it can me made a million ways. The following recipe is great for post-partum recovery because the adzuki beans help tonify the blood, the sesame oil nourishes the uterus and ginger and garlic keep the internal organs warm.
* 1 cup of rice (white, brown, jasmine etc)
* 1/3 cup adzuki beans
* 6-10 cups of water
* 2 scallion stalks
* decent wedge of ginger
* 2 garlic cloves
* sesame oil to taste
* soy sauce to taste
* salt & pepper to taste
Cook the rice and beans with the water in a pressure cooker or regular pot. Bring to a rapid boil and then let it simmer for about an hour or two. The mixture should be the consistency of drippy gruel when it is complete.
In a seperate pot saute the ginger & garlic and add to completed congee. You can also add cooked chicken or pork to the soup. Garnish with scallions and sesame oil….. Delicious.
· Beans, tofu, tempeh
· Citrus fruits
· Cabbage family, kale, broccoli
· Dried fruits
· Bubbly drinks
· Garlic and onions
· Rice, grains
· Spelt bread
· Avocado, papaya
· Carrots, squash
· Apples, pears, bananas
· Cranberry juice
· Fennel, fennel tea (Mother’s Milk tea)
· Amazake, mochi
· Chicken and Fish
· Almond milk
· Protein shakes
Acupuncture treatments are also fabulous to help restore mom after the long journey.
Treatment within the first few days of pregnancy is geared towards moving blood through the uterus to ensure that all of the products of birth are out. After three days or so treatments involve a lot of moxa to help warm the center to strengthen mom. These treatments are suitably called “mother warming”.