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The magic of a month of rest: How a Chinese tradition can help postpartum mothers today

Imagine giving birth to your baby and immediately becoming the center of pampered attention for a full month. Someone is with you 24/7 to take care of you and your newborn so you can rest, eat nourishing foods, feed your baby, and recover from childbirth.


Sounds pretty nice, right?

The tradition of “Sitting the Month” or Zuo Yuezi in Chinese medicine goes back thousands of years to the Han Dynasty in China, where it was recognized that the month directly after childbirth is crucial to the future health of the mother and newborn. This program has become an ingrained tradition in Chinese culture and involves strict rules for the month following childbirth, some of which are still followed as closely as they were 2,000 years ago. It is now a full industry involving luxury hotels with doctors on call in house and a nurse in the room at all times. Families who can’t afford a luxury hotel still do a version of Zuo Yuezi where the new mother stays with a family member so she can have help recovering and focus on her baby.

The concepts to follow during this time are rooted in Chinese medical theory, but some of the strict rules make it difficult for Western women to follow and are a little outdated.

As a modern Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine who works with busy new moms in Manhattan, I’ve come to realize we need an updated version of this program, especially in the West.

A more modern approach could benefit many new mothers during this important recovery time, making this program approachable and attainable, while letting go of some of the superstitious rules that make it tough to follow in our busy lives.

That’s why I’m sharing the ancient rules of “sitting the month” with the Chinese medicine explanation and ideas for incorporating a more modern approach.

Avoid contact with cold and wind

Cold and wind are pathogenic factors in Chinese medicine, meaning they can trigger a disease process. While this was just a way for them to understand and explain what we now know of as germ theory, science is catching on to how weather and temperature can affect our immune systems. (See Harvard research on this topic here.)

Mothers were told to bundle up even indoors and not go outside at all. They were also not allowed to shower as the cool down afterwards could be associated with a chill. I do think it is fine to shower and get some fresh air, but do protect yourself and your baby during this vulnerable time by wearing appropriate clothing and erring on the side of staying warmer than usual.

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Eat only warm, cooked, bland foods

Childbirth is very depleting and often there is a fair and sometimes large amount of blood loss. In Chinese medicine theory, there are certain foods that help replenish the qi and blood, which are depleted after birth. Cold raw foods are more likely to carry bacteria, so this is not bad advice. Also, warm and cooked foods are easier to digest than raw, so lightly cooked veggies are preferable. Eat a healthy diet consisting of mostly cooked and warm unprocessed food and drinks, emphasizing the following:

bone broths

fresh ginger (cooked)

free range chicken and eggs

dates and berries

cooked greens and other colorful veggies

liver (from free range animals)

grass fed meat

brown rice, oats, and quinoa

Adding cooked herbs such as Dang Gui, Huang Qi (Astragalus), and Goji Berries

Only rest, eat, sleep, and feed your baby. No TV, books, or other distractions

This may sound difficult and boring, but focusing on resting and low mental stimulation can be helpful for healing.

This is where it is necessary to have help from someone (or a few people) you trust to help you take care of the things you don’t absolutely have to do. I do think it is wise to be mindful of how the things we think of as “entertaining” elicit emotional responses and can make our bodies respond like we are experiencing whatever is happening in the show or book. Most women have deep empathy during this time from hormones, which helps us sense the needs of our baby, but it also means we’re vulnerable to the emotions of others, even if they are on TV or in a book. While we know those things aren’t happening to us, our systems can still release stress hormones in response.

No visitors

People bring germs.

And people can also stress out the new mom in various ways (bringing drama, gossip, giving unwanted advice, criticizing, judging, etc.), further depleting the mother’s precious qi and blood.

People can also be super helpful however, so use your intuition on this one and accept help when needed, but don’t be afraid to ask others to wait until you feel stronger.


The most common underlying theme throughout the program is protecting the mother and newborn from exposure to pathogens and extra stress. A new mother is in a depleted state and her system is more vulnerable. Using this first month to prioritize recovery by creating a calm household and making sure the demands on the mother are minimal, may quicken recovery time, potentially preventing postpartum depression and other health problems, while promoting healthy milk production and a healthy immune system for both mama and baby.

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The bottle warmer has long been a point of contention for new mamas. Hotly debated as a must-have or superfluous baby registry choice, standard models generally leave new moms underwhelmed at best.

It was time for something better.

Meet the Algoflame Milk Warmer, a digital warming wand that heats beverages to the perfect temperature―at home and on the go. And like any modern mama's best friend, the Algoflame solves a number of problems you might not have even known you needed solved.

As with so many genius gadgets, this one is designed by two parents who saw a serious need. It's currently a Kickstarter raising money for production next year, but here are 10 unexpected ways this brilliant device lends a hand―and reasons why you should consider supporting its launch.

1. It's portable.

Every seasoned mama knows that mealtime can happen anywhere. And since you're unlikely to carry a clunky traditional milk warmer in your diaper bag, the Algoflame is your answer. The super-light design goes anywhere without weighing down your diaper bag.

2. It's battery operated.

No outlets necessary. Simply charge the built-in battery before heading out, and you're ready for whatever (and wherever) your schedule takes you. (Plus, when you contribute to the Kickstarter you can request an additional backup battery for those days when your errands take all.day.long.)

3. It's compact.

Even at home, traditional bottle warmers can be an eyesore on the countertop. Skip the bulky model for Algoflame's streamlined design. The warmer is about nine inches long and one inch wide, which means you can tuck it in a drawer out of sight when not in use.

4. It's waterproof.

No one likes taking apart bottle warmers to clean all the pieces. Algoflame's waterproof casing can be easily and quickly cleaned with dish soap and water―and then dried just as quickly so you're ready to use it again.

5. It has precise temperature control.

Your wrist is not a thermometer―why are you still using it to test your baby's milk temperature? Algoflame lets you control heating to the optimal temperature for breastmilk or formula to ensure your baby's food is safe.

6. It's fool-proof.

The LED display helps you know when the milk is ready, even in those bleary-eyed early morning hours. When the right temperature is reached, the wand's display glows green. Too hot, and it turns red (with a range of colors in between to help you determine how hot the liquid is). Now that's something even sleep-deprived parents can handle.

7. It's adaptable.

Sized to fit most bottles and cups on the market, you never have to worry about whether or not your bottles will fit into your warmer again.

8. It's multipurpose.

If you're a mom, chances are your cup of coffee is cold somewhere right now. The Algoflame has you covered, mama! Simply pop the wand into your mug to reheat your own beverage no matter where you are.

9. You can operate it with one hand.

From getting the milk warmer out to heating your baby's beverage, the entire wand is easy to activate with one hand―because you know you're holding a fussing baby in the other!

10. It's safe.

Besides being made from materials that comply with the FDA food contact safety standard, Algoflame boasts a double safety system thanks to its specially designed storage case. When put away in the case, the built-in magnetic safe lock turns the milk warmer to power-off protection mode so it won't activate accidentally. Additionally, the warmer's "idle-free design" prevents the heater from being accidentally activated out of the case.

To get involved and help bring the Algoflame Milk Warmer to new mamas everywhere, support the brand's Kickstarter campaign here.

This article is sponsored by Algoflame Milk Warmer. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47

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2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95

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3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99

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4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00

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5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99

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6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99

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7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97

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8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99

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9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99

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10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

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11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39

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12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00

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13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99

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14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00

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15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work.We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Christmas is so fun and magical, but if we don't keep ourselves in check it can get really overwhelming.

Sandra Bullock is the latest high-profile mom to talk about toning down presents to make more room for what matters in her family's Christmas celebration.

Mom to Louis, 8, and Laila, 6, Bullock was on the Today show this week when she explained how over the years her Christmas celebrations snowballed until she felt like her family was missing the point.

"I overdo it, and then I panic that I didn't do enough. Then I get more—and then everyone else has overdone it," she explained, adding that this year, she just stopped overdoing it, and she's feeling a lot less stressed this Christmas season.

"We just stopped. Because there's so much happening in the world where people don't have anything. And we said, 'Why don't we just make this about other people?'" Bullock explained, adding that her kids were totally into the idea of giving instead of getting this year.

"They were amazing about it. So, Christmas is three small gifts," she told Today's Hoda Kotb.

Why three is the magic number of presents 

Bullock is hardly alone in toning down Christmas. Tons of parents are simplifying the holiday in order to focus on the more meaningful parts, in part because (as Motherly previously reported) giving your kids fewer toys at Christmas actually makes them happier!

Combine increased happiness with the modern desire for less cluttered, minimalist living and you have a trend. In fact, even the number of gifts Bullock is doing this season is trendy. Three gift Christmases are a thing.

Three is kind of a magic number when it comes to Christmas celebrations. There are enough presents to make the morning feel magical, but not so many that the kids are lost in a mountain of wrapping paper and materialism.

With three gifts, kids have an opportunity to feel gratitude instead of overwhelmed. They can truly appreciate their presents and parents can feel less overwhelmed as well, because it's way easier (and cheaper) to buy three presents than try to bring the whole toy aisle home.

Making Christmas about giving 

Research demonstrates that children whose parents talk to them about giving to others are 20% more likely to make charitable donations than kids whose parents did not have that talk. Simply by talking to Louis and Laila about giving to others, Bullock is building capacity for giving in her kids, and in this case, talking does more than modeling, researchers note.

Bullock has the resources to give both a huge charitable contribution and a massive Christmas to her own kids, but both society and her kids are probably better off with her new Christmas plan.

A 2013 study, a 2013 study conducted by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that just having a parent who gives their money and time to charity isn't as impactful as having a parent who talks to you about why it's important to do so.

By having the conversation about making Christmas about others, Bullock is instilling her values in her kids in a lasting way.

Helping kids give 

Bullock didn't go into detail about exactly how she's helping her kids make Christmas about others, but there are a lot of ways that parents can do that.

You can help your children choose or make gifts for other important people in their lives, like grandparents, teachers and friends.

You can ask your children to help you choose toys to give to charities that help families who can't afford to buy their kids gifts this year.

You can take your kids with you to volunteer at an organization that's doing good in the world.

You can involve your kids in making a monetary donation to a worthy cause.

The important part is doing it together, and having conversations about why giving is so much more important and impactful than getting.

We're all trying to raise empathetic kids and keep our houses free of clutter, and it sounds like Bullock's plan could help with both those goals.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and like you've been overdoing the holidays, consider taking a tip from Bullock and giving yourself permission to just stop.

Christmas doesn't have to be overwhelming to be magical.

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We all want our homes to be safe for our kids, but for years corded window blinds have been a hidden hazard in many American homes, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That era is now over because as of this month, corded window blinds are no longer being sold by American stores or websites.

👏👏👏

Child safety advocates are cheering the decision by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association to require stock window coverings to be cordless or designed with inaccessible or short cords.

A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics found that 255 children died after getting tangled up in blind cords between 1990 and 2015, more than 16,800 kids were injured and seen in emergency rooms.

"We've known about this risk for over 70 years, yet we're still seeing children strangled by these products," study senior researcher Dr. Gary Smith told HealthDay last December. "It's just unacceptable."

A year ago, Smith said it was totally doable for manufacturers to reduce the risks associated with corded blinds, and now, finally, they have.

Now, people who need corded blinds (like those with disabilities who find corded blinds easier to use) will still be able to get them as custom orders, but you won't find them on the shelves at your local home improvement store.

Up until now, one child per month (on average) is dying because of window blind cords. It may have taken 70 years, but we're so glad to see this change!

Removing window blinds with cords

Some parents aren't aware that window blind cords can be hazardous. If you have corded blinds in your home and are now wanting to replace them, look for replacement blinds that have the "Best for Kids" certification label on the packaging.

If replacing all the blinds in your house is too costly right now, experts recommend starting with the rooms where your child hangs out the most, like their bedroom and the living room.

If you're renting, replacing blinds can be a bit trickier, as some leases prevent tenants from changing the blinds.

Talk to your landlord about the safety hazard (put it in writing and note the study in Pediatrics and the new regulations from the Window Covering Manufacturers Association). Alternatively, if your blinds are the snap-in kind, you can remove the landlord's blinds and store them somewhere safe while using your own, safer, window coverings for the rest of your tenancy.

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If you've ever stood over your baby's crib or clung to the monitor watching them as they slept, you're not alone, mama. Making sure your baby is safe while they sleep is one of the top concerns for parents, and often leads to our own sleepless nights as we struggle to relax while our baby snoozes. But you need your sleep too.

Here are 10 safe sleep guidelines to keep in mind so you can rest a little easier:

1. Place baby on a firm surface in a crib or bassinet.

Although your baby has the capability of falling asleep pretty much anywhere as a newborn, it is strongly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that all sleep happens in a crib with a firm mattress or in a bassinet. Other than a fitted sheet, nothing else should be in the crib, especially for newborns. By placing your baby on a firm surface, you will greatly reduce the risk of SIDS.

2. Put your baby on their back.

This is the safest position for your baby to sleep until they learn to roll over on their own. Once your baby has the ability to completely roll over, it is okay to allow them to remain in that position for sleep, but you should still put them on their back to begin with.

3. Set the appropriate temperature in the room.

You may have the urge to over-bundle your little one, especially in the winter months, but as long as the temperature in the room is between 68-72-degrees Fahrenheit, there is no need to layer them in excessive clothing. Long sleeve sleepwear with light socks is all they need to stay warm.

4. Make sure baby has their own separate sleeping space.

Although there are strong opinions on both sides of this subject, research has found that sharing a bed with a baby can put them at risk for SIDS. It is recommended by the AAP to room-share for the first 6-12 months of life, but not bed-share. The same goes for sleeping on a couch or other soft surfaces during the day. If you want your baby close to you, you can keep the crib or bassinet next to your bed.

5. Do not expose your baby to smoke.

Smoking is one of the risks of SIDS and even small particles on your clothing can be passed to your baby. Children should especially not be sleeping in an environment where there are particles of smoke in the air. This is something that should be considered when traveling and staying in hotels or homes of friends and family members as well.

6. Use a monitor if they're sleeping in another room.

The use of a baby monitor not only gives you peace of mind but can help ensure your baby remains safe while sleeping. While you don't need to worry over every little sound they make, there will be situations when you need to go in the room and do a safety check based on what you see or hear in the monitor.

7. Feed your baby in a position that isn't too relaxing for you.

This is one that might seem odd as you want to be comfortable as you feed the baby, especially if you are exhausted. However, it is best to avoid any situation where you might potentially fall asleep. For example, sitting in an upright position in a chair versus laying in your bed can help you stay more alert.

8. Use a pacifier and/or breastfeed if possible.

There are numerous reasons why a mama might not be able—or want to— to breastfeed, but if you do have the capability of doing so, it has been found as a way to decrease the risk of SIDS.

Similarly, if your child will take a pacifier, this is a great way to not only soothe them but also to prevent SIDS. I also highly encourage feeding your child as much as needed during the first few months of life. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to feed them every time they wake, but if they seem genuinely hungry, it is safest not to stretch them too long in between feeds.

9. Have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors nearby.

You'd be surprised how many homes don't have these installed or installed correctly. Regularly check the batteries in both devices and make sure they are working properly throughout the home so you'd be notified if something happened.

10. Don't let your baby sleep in an area with animals.

I know this one can be tough, especially if your pets were your first babies, but as much as we love them and as gentle as we think they are, limit the risk. A cat or dog could accidentally suffocate your baby if they have access to their crib/bassinet, or their fur could cause them to have trouble breathing.

These safety guidelines are not meant to induce fear or cause excessive worrying, but rather serve as tools and knowledge that will ensure baby's sleep is as safe as possible.

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