Journal information

  • Title: Postpartum care: nourishing the new Mother after birth
  • Date: 04 Febuary 2021

Postpartum care: nourishing the new Mother after birth

In traditional Chinese culture a woman following birth would observe zuo yuezi, a period of “confinement” lasting about 4-6 weeks where she would rest, recover her strength and bond with her newborn baby. You may hear this referred to as “The Golden Month”. The new mother’s extended family would provide for all her needs – feeding her nourishing soups and tea infusions, taking care of the housework, and keeping visitors to a minimum. She would stay indoors, rugged up and warm, bond with and care for her baby and adjust to a new life as a mother.

Pregnancy, labour and birthing, no matter the form it takes, demand a lot of a woman’s Qi, Blood, Yin and constitutional reserves. Following this marathon there can then be a significant personal adjustment required to nurture a newborn. Amidst the joy, in these first weeks a new mother may find herself immensely challenged both physically and emotionally. Therefore prioritising nurture and nourishment for the new mother is essential.

In our fast-paced modern life, action is highly valued. The ability to “bounce back” quickly after birth can be perceived as desirable, and often overrides the real time required to regenerate from the inside-out, and the value of seeking stillness, quiet and being. The Yin side of life (nourishment, creativity, spreading, nurture) is overlooked for the Yang (doing, dynamism and achievement). In so doing, we may find ourselves drawn thin, fatigued, and emotionally volatile. Observing a practice of post-partum nourishment can go a long way to help a mother to restore her physical strength and emotional resilience and develop a stable internal centre as a foundation for years to come.

Interestingly, the COVID-19 lockdown last year showed me that many women love this period of zuo yuezi “confinement” given the chance, without external pressures. I had several new mother’s comment to me how beautiful it was to bond with their babies at home, with just their partner around, and no pressures to go to multiple engagements or receive visitors.

Chinese medicine and acupuncture can assist in the weeks following birth. A beautiful ritual of “mother warming” is traditionally applied in the week following birth, where heated herbs are applied to channels of the body to help recover strength. Acupuncture can also assist with reducing stress, settling emotions, relieving body aches and pains and other things that arise in these first weeks and beyond. Chinese herbal medicine can support the body regenerate and regulate imbalances.

If you’d like to learn more about zuo yuezi and have a book packed with nourishing recipes, I would recommend “The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother” by Heng Ou, Amely Greeven and Marisa Belger.

Feel welcome to make contact if you’d like to learn more about how Chinese medicine can support you through pregnancy, labour, and beyond.

Keryn Hawker
Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner at Mama Base Illawarra