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The Sitting Month: The Chinese Approach to Postpartum Care

Sesame Chicken (not the kind in restaurants!!!!)
Ingredients: 1 whole chicken leg (skin & bone included)
3 inches of baked ginger
1/2 cup of sesame oil

1. Clean chicken leg and chop into pieces
2. Leaving the peel on, slice the ginger into .25-inch slices
3. Add sesame oil to a pan; reduce heat and fry ginger until it browns
4. Add chicken and stir fry until outside is brown
5. Add three cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat and cook for about 20 minutes.

Although the significant physiological changes of pregnancy and childbirth are all natural processes for which a woman is built to endure, both the mental and physical strains require a period of rest and recovery. With this in mind, the Chinese have traditionally followed the custom of the ???, or "zuo yue zi, the sitting month." In pre-industrial times, this mean lying down for virtually an entire month while immediate and extended relatives helped with taking care of the house and family. At the same time, the new mother would be expected to follow strict rules for taking care of herself as she recuperated from 10 months of pregnancy.

Many modern Chinese women rebel against the tradition-- believing it to be simply ancient superstition with no scientific basis—and causing friction with their mothers and potentially risking their long-term health in the meantime. The customs of "The Sitting Month" find their roots in Chinese medicine, which believes that childbirth causes the loss of Qi, Blood and Yang energy. It also leaves the body open to external pathogens. Even the modern medical view recognizes the need for rest: ligaments have been stretched, joints have been softened, the kidneys and heart functions have been elevated, metabolism has changed. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for a mother's physiology to return to normal.

While many of the "Sitting Month" customs can be modified to suit modern technological advances and conditions, some suggestions remain as valid today as they did thousands of years ago:

  • AVOID COLD AND WIND. Dress warmly; even in the summer, wear long sleeves and pants made of a light material. Do not touch cold water – until your Qi recovers, you are open to cold pathogens, which can lead to arthritis and other "wind-cold" disorders. Dry yourself completely after bathing. Bend your knees when lying to promote discharge of lochia.
  • REST. Do not tax yourself, get your family members to help you with house work. Avoid going to work. Avoid lifting heavy weights as this can cause uterine prolapse; or, in the case of a C-section, cause the sutures to tear.
  • EAT WELL. Avoid cold or greasy foods. Eat foods that help replenish blood, such as leafy greens, seaweeds, and lean beef with the bone still attached. Stews with large bones as the base are good for strengthening the constitution, as are beans, seeds, nuts and dark-colored berries. See the Sesame Oil Chicken Chicken recipe attached. Whole white fish and pig feet can help improve lactation.
  • DO NOT STRAIN YOUR EYES. Since your eyes have changed during pregnancy, limit television and computer use. Although a little sun is good, protect your eyes from bright light.

The Chinese believe that if the "Sitting Month" is done properly, you can obtain optimal health—even if you were not healthy to begin with; but if the customs are not observed, it can lead to constitutional weakness that can last a lifetime. The practice is taken so seriously that you can find "Sitting Month" Clinics in China and Taiwan.