Beijing mum diaries: my experience with postpartum confinement

'I had never had so much pig’s liver in my life!'

We sit down with one Beijing mum, See Kay Leong, Head of Admissions at Dulwich College Beijing, to learn about her experience of sitting the month. We ask what benefits she experienced, and if she’d do it again

Many mothers still follow zuo yue zi, while others are adapting it to suit a modern lifestyle. Which did you do?

I am Singaporean-Chinese, and we believe in following the practice of zuo yue zi, or confinement, as we call it in Singapore. We lived in Singapore during my first pregnancy and I followed zuo yue zi due to the insistence of my mother and mother-in-law. My second pregnancy was in Beijing recently and my mother-in-law was there to make sure I followed it again!

Which rules of zuo yue zi did you choose to follow?

I didn’t wash my hair for more than two weeks and when I finally did, it was with special water boiled with Chinese herbs. I showered every couple of days with the herbal water. I ate warming foods and special Singaporean confinement dishes, like chicken cooked in rice wine with lots of ginger and pig trotters with dark sweet vinegar. I had never had so much pig’s liver in my life!

It is believed that warming food is good for an empty womb and helps with recovery after birth. I did not step out of the house for an entire month, except for my baby’s vaccinations and check-ups. When I went out, I had to cover up from head to toe. With my first pregnancy, I also had a masseur give me a postnatal massage. She focused mostly on the abdominal area with long, hard movements to ‘push’ the womb back into position. I also bound my stomach in a special wrap with herbal oil.

Luxury postpartum suites at Amcare, Beijing. A 28-day programme starts at 89,6000RMB

Which parts did you find beneficial?

I hired a yuesao [a live-in assistant to help through the month] to help me with the baby as well as cook special food. Having the yuesao around helped, especially the second time around with a complicated pregnancy. I find the confinement food with Chinese herbs quite beneficial to my body. I would follow this again.

What would you have changed?

I wished I could have a showered more frequently, and I felt silly having to wash my hands with hot water all the time. Despite the belief that washing of the hands, body and hair is not good postpartum, I think hygiene is still very important when handling a newborn.

CIRCLE Pig feet and ginger
Pig trotters with vinegar

Would you do it again?

Yes, but I would do everything in moderation. After two pregnancies, I’ve developed a liking for confinement food, such as the pig trotters with vinegar [pictured]. It’s an acquired taste!

Would you recommend zuo yue zi to other mothers?

Yes, but do not follow the practices blindly. Do what makes sense and what you are comfortable with.

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