Chinese soups can play an important role in postnatal recovery. We spoke to a practising certified Naturopath and Herbalist about traditional Chinese medicinal recipes and soups used for postpartum replenishment. Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery after pregnancy and delivery!
Congratulations, mama! You did it and now you have a newborn in your arms. As you enter this new phase, know that you have a fantastic journey ahead.
A woman who has recently had a baby is like a car that has been driven from Mongolia to Hong Kong. That car really needs some maintenance. You wouldn’t expect that car to run well for long if you kept putting gas in the gas tank and neglected the systems that combust that fuel, would you? Common postpartum distresses (4 to 6 weeks after delivery) are depleted energy, breastfeeding problems and emotional fluctuation which can develop into postnatal depletion (lethargy, memory disturbances and bone and hair challenges). You owe it to yourself (and your baby) to care for yourself at least as well as you would care for that car. It’s also considered the golden period to nourish and rejuvenate yourself and grow to be a great mum. We spoke to Peggie Zih, a practising certified Naturopath and Herbalist at Zenses in Health to find out more about Chinese soups and their role in postpartum recovery. Peggie specialises in diet and herbalism by combining traditional Chinese, Western and Ayurvedic herbalism.
Why Take Herbal Soups After Delivery?
The first thing after delivery is about establishing a nutritious milk supply. This is important for developing a bond between you and your baby and supporting your baby in developing a healthy immune system. Breastfeeding and postpartum recovery are closely related. Why? When you breastfeed, oxytocin will be released which increases milk supply. Oxytocin is also an important hormone for uterine retraction which will also prevent haemorrhaging. Besides, breastfeeding burns 300 to 500 calories per day and you’ll need to consume 2 to 3 cups more fluids than non-breastfeeding moms. Your baby demands nutrients from the breastmilk regardless of the mother’s body. So now you can see how repletion and rebuilding of nutrients in an easily assimilated way is critical during postpartum if you want your baby healthy and cherished.
Nutrient-rich fluids, soups, in particular, fit this bill perfectly – ingredients slow-cooked in water making the nutrients more digestible and quickly absorbed. Nourishing the blood, energy, and body systems will enable you to keep on a healthy high note in your parenthood. Chinese culture (and many Asian cultures too) have a long history of eating nutrient-rich soups during postpartum. Those who went through a rebuilt postpartum feel stronger and younger than pre-pregnancy often!
Choosing Ingredients In Your Soup For Optimal Postnatal Recovery
Gentle and natural energy boosters will be vital during the first two weeks. These are food ingredients and mild herbs that are perfect with a focus on breastmilk let-down. Some herbs for lactation:
- Fennel seed, which also helps with baby’s colic
- Shatavari (Asparagus Racemosus), increases prolactin which in turn boost breast milk supply
- Tong Cao, has a slight diuretic effect which can lead to potassium excretion
Other food ingredients that are also helpful in let-down include peanuts, cashews, lyceum berry, snow fungus, figs and Papaya.
Soup Ingredients: Herbs For Lactation & Better Sleep
As bleeding stops (usually happen 10 to 14 days after delivery), you can increase tonic herbs in your soup to support your blood and energy building. Examples include Dang Gui, Dang Shen (Codonopsis), Red Sage – all these herbs nourish blood and enhances circulation. You can use American Ginseng, Ashwagandha or Siberian ginseng in replenishing energy. Adding a small amount of Chen Pi or Orange peel to your soups also has carminative/qi regulating effect to prevent any stagnation/ congestion. Your sleep during the initial weeks tends to be intermittent so getting restful sleep will help with your mental health as well as your breastfeeding – you can use lotus seed, lily bulb, longan berry, Orange Daylily, and Reishi mushrooms (Ling Zhi).
Soup Ingredients: Nourishing Herbs
As the postpartum journey progresses, you may want to get rid of the extra kilos gained during pregnancy and a large part of it is reducing fluid retention to regain your pre-pregnancy shape. You can use a combination of herbs/ food for reducing fluid retention, improving digestion and boosting circulation for getting back to your previous fitness levels. Lycium berry (Gou Qi Zi), sprouted red/black beans, Black Fungus, Siberian Ginseng, Hawthorn Berry. Legumes are excellent nourishing ingredients for soup, as sprouting will enable the breaking down of nutritive protein in an easily assimilated fashion. The fibre in the soup promotes digestion and healthy bowel movement. You know what it means when you have a better bowel movement – a flatter belly!
Where To Get Good Ingredients For Your Chinese And Herbal Soups
To make the soups needed for postnatal recovery and replenishment, the key is choosing the right and quality ingredients. We want mothers to get maximal nutrition without having to worry about any pesticides, hormones, sulfur or heavy metals. It would be a shame to let toxins through this critical time!
Look at places that offer fresh and organic ingredients. There are also a lot of alternative therapy practitioners in Hong Kong who offer postnatal recovery programmes and suitable diets, ingredients and supplements. Find one that’s suitable for your needs and have a happy and healthy postpartum period.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and updated in July 2021.
This is part of a special series, “Everything You Need To Know About Breastfeeding In Hong Kong“. For more posts on breastfeeding in Hong Kong, click here.