For many traditional Chinese mothers, the time after giving birth is not just about taking care of the new baby. It has been an old custom for mothers to “sit the month.” In Chinese, “sit month” is known as “坐月子”. This is also called postpartum confinement as new mothers feel as if they are trapped in their own home. This tradition includes the abstinence of leaving the home, showers, cleaning the house, drinking cold water, using a fan, and so much more. There are also many other key parts that mothers do to help restore and protect their bodies, such as wrapping themselves up in blankets and wearing wool socks to prevent getting chills. In addition to that, there is also a strict diet they have to follow if they want to make sure that their bodies are healthy again. In one extreme case, one woman died from overheating in July of this year. This really puzzled me as to why these new mothers would follow the rules of this tradition so rigidly. Isn’t childbirth supposedly one of the happiest times of a mother’s life? Why would they willingly put themselves through all that?
Turns out, “sitting the month” has tons of benefits for new mothers. Not only is this time for them to rest peacefully at home with their newborn child, it is also advantageous to the body. As the mother’s immune system is weakened post-delivery. For instance, the practice of being bundled in warm blankets is to prevent joint problems or illness in the future.
But, it also means taking a break from the outside world and getting to stay at home peacefully, in pajamas! Or, in some cases, in super luxurious confinement centers. The rich can pay to stay at these centers where there are nurses and doctors available to tend to their every need, anytime of the day.
Since this practice originated from over 2,000 years ago during the Qin-period, the rules and restrictions have been modified over the years to better suit the people of the present. Nowadays, some mothers only follow certain rules if they believe in the tradition.