Korean and Chinese Postpartum Traditions

An email from my mom this morning inspired this post.  Here’s her email:

“Pls let me know anything I should prepare for the baby’s delivery, do you have any plan for the first month after delivery? Including the healthy meals nutrition supplements, like special soups and meals. No touch to anything related coldness and windy air, (no shampooing and shower for the 1st month) do not open refrigerator/freezer without gloves to grab things inside) due to all joints are wide open and easy to get hurt).  There are a lot of Chinese after delivery care centers for lodging and meals for both Mommy and baby, are u going to consider that?  Please let me know.”

I’ve heard through the grapevine about traditional Chinese postpartum practices, but I didn’t really think I’d have me succumb to them.  By the way, I’m not following the no showering rule.  Do people realize what women’s bodies go through after birth?  I’ll be leaking breastmilk everyday and bleeding down there for 4-6 weeks!  I’ve been told to load up on pads.  TMI?  You do realize you’re reading a pregnancy blog, don’t you?  😉

Since we’re having a chorean (korean-chinese) baby, I looked into the differences between both Korean and Chinese postpartum practices.  From what I’ve found there isn’t much of a difference.  Almost all asian cultures stress the importance of keeping the body warm and making sure the mother rests a lot during the postpartum period.  They even have special postpartum centers that solely focuses on caring for the mother and baby.  That’s a far cry from the fast paced culture of America where celebrities are applauded for their ability to quickly squeeze back into their size 0 jeans or VS models who miraculously regain their washboard abs back just a month after giving birth.  The U.S. almost seems to frown upon any sort of downtime, making it seem like a sign of weakness and lack of will.

Chinese Postpartum Rituals

  • It’s important to maintain the hot-cold balance within the body.  After giving birth, the woman loses a lot of blood which supposedly puts her into a cold state, so a lot of postpartum care is devoted to keeping the new mom warm and restore the balance of her “chi”.
  • There is a customary 30-day confinement where the new mom isn’t allowed to leave the house at all.
  • They also shouldn’t walk around, bathe, shower, touch cold water, or engage in sexual intercourse.
  • To protect new mothers from getting “wind” into their delicate joints, they must keep the house warm – that means air conditioning must be off and windows closed, even in summer!
  • No drinking cold liquids.

Korean Postpartum Rituals

  • Koreans believe a woman should be in confinement for at least 21 days after birth.  It’s called “Samchilil”, which literally means “21 days”.
  • During this period, they’re not allowed to move around too much and are confined to bedrest.  Supposedly this is meant to help the uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy state.
  • Only supposed to drink miyukguk (“seaweed soup”) 3x a day for at least a month.  This is supposed to cleanse the blood and help with milk production.
  • Must wear thick clothes to prevent wind from entering the body.  Wearing socks are especially important as the feet are a main gateway to a lot of wind.

My MIL offered to stay with us for the first 1-2 months after I give birth.  She’s one of the sweetest, gentlest women I’ve ever met.  I look at her and I can see why my husband turned out the way he did.  His parents value family more than anything else in the world.  It’s rare to see nowadays and drastically different from the type of family I grew up in.

Anyway, my MIL is very non-imposing so we’re very fortunate to have her.  However, I’m worried that in the first weeks when I’m learning to be a new mom, it will just be an extra stressor to have an additional person around watching my every move.  The language barrier gets awkward at times too because there’s only so much smiling and nodding I can do before we run out of things to “say” to each other.

How would you feel about your in-laws staying with you after you give birth?


3 thoughts on “Korean and Chinese Postpartum Traditions

  1. Hi Mama Chin! I just started reading your blog, and love all your posts. I am half Korean, so this post particularly interested me. Anyways, just wanted to say “hi” so you know I’m reading! Congrats on your baby girl, you have a beautiful family!

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