I was flicking through a parenting magazine this morning when I saw a couple of pages on post-partum traditions from different parts of the world. Some were pretty interesting while others were downright bizarre! What do you think?
China, Hong Kong and Taiwan
In China, Taiwan and here in Hong Kong exists a tradition called “Zuo Yuezi”, or “sitting the month”. It is a 30-day regimen of food and rest to help new mothers recover from the rigours – and often trauma – of childbirth. According to Yuezi theory, follicles expand during childbirth and so post-partum we are vulnerable to the cold. Women should therefore stick to warming foods like chicken, ginger and pumpkin. They also shouldn’t leave their homes for 30 days, also known as the confinement period, and don’t usually shower or wash their hair during this time.
Indian mothers also abide by a confinement tradition after birth (usually 40 days). Various communities do things differently in India, but the tradition started as a way to protect mothers and their babies from infection and to help the mother recover from the exhaustion of labour. The mother is also usually given foods with ghee (a fresh, full-fat Indian butter), black cumin seeds, turmeric and fenugreek, which help with the production of milk, build strength, and act as an antiseptic. The mother’s tummy is usually tightly wrapped to help her uterus contract and to help her regain her pre-pregnancy shape, while baby gets the best deal, with regular massages to help their muscles become strong and long!
What stroller?! We all know that baby wearing has become something of a new trend in Western countries, with all sorts of slings and wraps available to help you to carry your baby. Some people do it while practicing attachment parenting, while others do it for convenience when out and about. In Africa, baby wearing has been around longer than sliced bread! But they don’t have any fancy slings or wraps – a simple piece of fabric is used. Mothers then bend forward, place their baby on their back and wrap the fabric around them twice, securing it in the front. I was born in Africa, and as a baby suffering from colic, I was often carried by my nanny in this way while she went about her work. Apparently being upright and in motion can help colicky babies, so break out that wrap, mama!
In Latin America there is a 40-day quarantine – “la cuarentena”, similar to that in Asia and India. It’s a 40-day post-partum period for mothers to recuperate and bond with their babies. The three important factors here are sex (“What’s that?” I hear you cry!), food and rest. Sex is an absolute no-no, food is divided into two categories; the approved (including carrots and chicken soup) and the forbidden (spicy, or heavy food), and rest is a must. Errands are taken on by other family members and as they believe a mother’s body is vulnerable and “open” at this time, and to protect herself she must wrap her head and neck with garments and wrap her abdomen in a cloth called a “faja”.
The new post-partum fad sweeping the States is a “Lotus Birth”. It involves leaving the umbilical cord attached to your baby after birth, and letting it fall off naturally by itself. Leaving the umbilical cord attached is said to be the healthier choice; as there is no wound created at the umbilical site, there is lesser chance of infection.