Menu

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

According to the ancient practice of “sitting the month,” there are 4 keys to healing after birth.

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.

FEATURED VIDEO

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in Chinese medical theory, but some of the strict rules make it difficult for Western women to follow and are a little outdated.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

Psst: Motherly is a free + inspiring newsletter full of tips + encouragement for mamas. ? Join here!

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.

A version of this article appears in The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey.

Join Motherly

In This Article

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $100

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

    $100

    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

    $45

    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

    $179

    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

    $100

    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $33

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $88

    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

    $75

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

    You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

    Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

    As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

    Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life

    Mama, all I see is you

    A love letter from your baby.

    Mama,

    I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

    All I see is you.

    When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

    You are my everything.

    When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

    I trust you.

    Keep reading Show less
    Life