An Old Chinese saying – “Eat well, sleep well, nothing is better than sitting the month well.” 吃好的，睡好的，不如月子坐好。
As you can clearly see the importance of Sitting the Month from the above saying, the Asian culture believes that the way you ‘Sit the Month’ will set the tone for your post natal health foreverrrr! Well, forever meaning until you have another child >_<
Now that we’ve got your attention, what is ‘Sit the Month’ you may ask? Growing up in an Eastern family, there’s always been many rules and most of them never seem to make sense, however unlike a lot of the other rules (i.e. eat your spring onions otherwise you are not going to be smart ?) sitting the month actually seem to make a lot of sense (at least some of the rules does, we can’t say all).
‘Sit the month’ is a custom practised by many women of East Asia, it dates back to ancient China with regional variations at different lengths; the typical agreed upon time, is 1 month.
Similar practices are also found in both the Japanese culture (call 産後の肥立ち) and Korean Culture, called 삼칠일 “Samchilil“.
The idea behind these practices is that new mothers are in ‘confinement’, advised to stay indoors for recovery from the trauma of child birth and during this time, to nurse herself and the newborn baby to great health. Along with the help of traditional Chinese medicine and a special focus on ‘postpartum food’ that aid in nourishing the body as well as the production of breastmilk.
Pork knuckles with ginger and vinegar is the classic ‘Sitting the Month’ food, it is usually prepared by the family for both the new mother to consume as well as given away as celebratory gifts to family, friends and neighbours. (link to a recipe we found, thank you Huang kitchen)
The reasoning behind this particular dish
- Pork knuckles contains high amount of collagen and it a great source needed to rejuvenate the body after child birth
- Ginger is great for taking the ‘wind’ out of the body – as the baby exits the body, wind will enter and wind is not good for ones health (Ginger is a great ingredient in Chinese medicine) please feel free to read more about it via this post by Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Black Vinegar – black vinegar can purify the blood as well as cleanse the arteries and help boost energy, contains high level of antioxidant
- Brown Sugar – takes away the “dampness” in the body
Chinese herbal medicine divides foods into “warm” and “cold” categories. Female are usually encouraged to eat and drink less ‘cold’ food so it is no surprise when a lot of the ‘cold’ foods are banned during the ‘Sitting the Month’
a few examples
- Liver is highly encouraged as it replenishes lost blood
- Kidney helps with aches and pains.
- Green papaya stimulates milk production unlike most fruits are banned because of the nature of it being a ‘cold’ food which can stimulate more blood lost. e.g. Watermelon is a highly ‘cold’ food and to be avoid even during menstruation period
It is also suggested that during childbirth,follicles expands, leaving the body vulnerable to cold. Hence why it is important to not only stick to ‘warm’ food but also to stay indoors, away from water and to be wrapped up in warm clothes.
Here are the list of traditional No Nos
- No direct contact with the wind
- No going out
- No fruits
- No vegetables
- No salt
- No wearing sandals
- No exposing of the heels
- No leaving empty space between the waist and back of a chair (cushion required)
- No hair washing
- No baths
- No brushing teeth
- No brushing hair
- No TV watching
- No crying
- No boiled water
- Always wear a hat
- Keep your hands and feet covered at all times
- Only breastfeed lying down
- Eat an abundance of pig trotters
- Drink a lot of hot chocolate and fermented rice milk
- No sex
to name a few
As you can see the list seems to go on.
Nowadays most East Asian women are still inclined to follow the ideals of ‘Sitting the Month’ however the list they follow is a lot shorter. Due to the nature of such a long list of rules, most new mother will hire professional ‘Sitting the Month’ lady to aid the process.
According to Dianping.com, China’s version of Yelp, there are over 100 confinement service centers in Shanghai alone, with the highest rate of RMB 300,000 (USD 50,000) for the one-month premium “mommy care” array of services.
Such services are scattered all over the world. Most commonly found in neighbourhoods where East Asians resides. e.g. NYC’s Flushing/China Town area, Los Angeles Alhambra/Temple City etc.
Here’s a few links that are useful when searching for your professional help.
We found a service in Temple City area that provides special ‘Sitting the Month’ meals prepared for modern day women. Unfortunately the entire site is written only in Chinese, but here’s the link for those that are interested – meal4mom
There are also some closed groups on Facebook for overseas Chinese mothers where they can find professional help. So if you know a friend who can invite you in, hassle them until they do as that will be very helpful.
There are countless websites out there that provides meal plans or meal service option during ‘Sitting the Month’. We high recommend doing your own research to find what is most suited for you and your local area.
Ultimately some have said the way the ‘month is sat’ can highly impact the new mother’s health, some would even go as far as saying that it can ‘reboot’ the health of the new mum completely. Although there’s not scientific proof as to how this can be done or how beneficial the ideals of ‘sitting the month’ is; it is definitely something to consider. Like all things, it is important to find a balance.
We hope you enjoyed our read and we would love to hear whether your culture has something similar!
with love and quirks,
Iris & Chris xxx
Photo by Matthew Land.