Chinese mums are often recommended a confinement nanny, called a pei yue (“companion for a month”), who stays over to take round-the-clock care of the new mum’s meals, baths, household chores, as well as her baby.
The Chinese believe that women are considered to be extremely “deficient” from the loss of blood and energy. As such, there is a strong emphasis on keeping the body warm, as well as on avoiding exposure to “wind” and cold elements. That’s why postnatal mums are supposed to refrain from bathing and washing their hair. Hardcore followers even avoid washing their hands. Herbal wiping concoctions and dry shampoos may come in here.
Since the new mum’s immunity is low, which makes her susceptible to germs, she is advised to say home. Also, as her pores are open and her joints loose, going out may cause “wind” to enter her body, weakening it further and causing joint problems later. She should not expose herself to cold water and low temperatures, avoid direct “wind” from the fan or air-conditioning. Some women even close their windows and wear wearing socks, long pants and long-sleeved tops. The rationale: You will have backache, arthritis, rheumatism and incontinence when you are old if you ignore such customs.
Eating the “wrong” food is believed to cause health problems like rheumatism, back problems, low metabolism and poor blood circulation. Fish consumption is encouraged as it is believed to increase the flow of breastmilk, while vegetables and cold drinks are generally frowned on since they are considered “cooling”. Postnatal Chinese mums quaff a red-date-and-longan drink instead of water as it “drives out ‘wind’, replaces blood loss and is a good revitaliser.
Ginger, sesame oil and rice wine are the “stars” in the Chinese confinement menu as these ingredients are said to expel “wind” and warm the body. Herbal soups and tonics are also brewed to improve blood circulation, strengthen the female reproductive organs and rejuvenate the body.
Postnatal mums also may take alcohol to warm the body, get rid of “wind” and strengthen the ligaments and joints, though obviously you have to consider that it could pass through your system into your breastmilk — not a treat for baby.
Vinegared pork trotters ― which new mums either love or loathe ― is a key dish in the confinement menu. Black vinegar, believed to be a blood purifier, cleanses the womb of residual blood clots. Cooked with ginger and pig trotters and simmered in a large pot for several hours and then eaten over several days, this power dish boosts milk supply, strengthens joints and fortifies the back.
Other Chinese beliefs
o Only watch TV or read for 15 minutes at a time, so that the eyes are well-rested.
o Should not cry or their eyesight will deteriorate.
o Cannot carry heavy objects (including the baby), over-exert, or walk up and down the stairs. Otherwise, the body’s muscles will slacken.