Why New Mothers Should Stay in Their Pyjamas For 30 Days
How did you spend the first few weeks after having your baby? Here in the West, we usually associate the time after childbirth with sleep deprivation, endless nappy changes and forgetting about oneself as you focus on your new baby.
This is not how it’s done everywhere though. In the Far East, women practice something called confinement which is a tradition that has been around for thousands of years helping women recover quickly after having a baby. Chinese women, for example, adhere to strict rules about the dos and don’ts for the first 30 days after giving birth.
The idea is that after childbirth, a woman loses a lot of her strength and needs to take out time for recovery which makes perfect sense — if you’ve given birth, you know how energy consuming labour is and how tired your body is afterwards.
The confinement practices, which cover many aspects — from diet to hygiene, provide time-tested guidelines which ensure a fast and full recovery and help prevent any ailments later in life.
A key component of this is the food. Confinement diet is focused on eating a natural, nutritious and wholesome diet, harnessing the power of natural foods and herbs, to help the body replenish nutrients and also to boost milk production for feeding your baby. It involves lots of herbal soups and stews, using ingredients which are “warming” to the body, such as ginger, sesame oil, red dates / jujube, goji.
Other traditional practices include:
- Avoid fans and wind drafts to keep warm at all times and ideally to stay indoors too if you can. This practice is aimed at dispelling “wind” from the body.
- Avoid cooling foods such as cucumber, eggplants, pears and do not touch cold water. Keeping the body warm is essential to avoid stagnation in circulation.
- No visitors. This is meant to allow the new parents and baby plenty of rest without any disturbances, and also to allow the baby to build up her immune-system in the early days before introducing germs from the outside world.
- Do not wash your hair for 30 days. This was practised back in the days when heating and running warm water in the house weren’t as prevalent.
- As these practices require discipline to follow through, the new mother is often helped by a family member such as her own mother, her husband, or hired help. It is common to hire a confinement lady for 30 days who will attend to the needs of the mother and baby such as take care of the cooking, washing, and feeding the baby at night.
A Modern Approach
Some of these practices may sound extreme and a bit outdated but it gives an idea about the principles of confinement — keeping the body warm, avoid catching “wind” or damp air, prioritising getting rest over anything else, and getting someone to help!
It is believed that these practices help prevent post-natal ailments such as hair loss, backaches, rheumatism, and premature ageing. Nowadays, confinements are still very widely practised in China, although not all rules are followed as strictly such as not washing your hair as warm water can be used.
Whether you believe in the Chinese confinement practice or not, one thing that it does do is to help take away pressure from new mothers. The early days with your baby do not have to mean neglecting your own needs. Take something from the Chinese culture that expects new mothers to have a month of rest and pampering while they recover and bond with their new baby. The focus is not just on the baby but also on the mother who more than anyone else deserves this attention.
You don’t have to stay in your pyjamas for 30 days but don’t put too much pressure on yourself, look after your own well-being too and stay comfortable.
If you would like to try your hand at Chinese confinement practices, below are two confinement recipes which can give you a first flavour.
Red Date Tea
- 8 dried red dates
- 3 slices of fresh ginger
- 400ml of water
- Put ingredients into a small sauce pan and boil on a very low heat for two hours.
- Drink hot (but let it cooled down a little first)
Sweet Potato And Red Date Soup
- 500 grams sweet potatoes
- 50 grams fresh ginger
- 5 cups of water
- 10 red dates
- 15 dried longan
- Optional: 2 tbsp brown sugar
- Peel, wash and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes. Peel ginger and cut into thick slices.
- Boil the sweet potato, ginger, red dates, longan and simmer for at least 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft. Add brown sugar if you wish.
- Enjoy hot.
Thank you to Abakus Foods for sharing this information with me!
Who is Abakus Foods? London-based healthy food start-up Abakus Foods was launched in 2016 by Helen Wang, who was born in China, raised in Germany, then moved to London and worked in finance. Helen’s mum would send care packages including Jujube to help keep her workaholic, stressed daughter in full health — and they worked so well that Helen decided to bring the Jujube fruit into the UK and spread its health-boosting benefits.