Chinese Postpartum Traditions
dre: In Chinese culture, postpartum confinement lasts a month or more. The purpose is to let the mother rest and recovery from labour and delivery, as well as let the mother bond with their new baby. You may have heard of instructions like, "You can't go outside or wash your hair for a month," and other weird sayings.
Being born in Canada, I had no interest in these traditions. I definitely washed my hair and definitely went out, much to the chagrin of my parents. My first child was born in October so there was much concern of me and baby catching a cold. We live in Canada, not a village in China without central heating!!
However, it was the first grandchild for both my parents and my in-laws so I really had no choice but to comply to the dietary restrictions. I was already short tempered from lack of sleep, so it added to my grumpiness when I was told what and what not to eat. No one warned me in advance of all this craziness!
Ginger was a very important ingredient. Apparently, it helps with helping with bloating and constipation. For 2 weeks, I had to eat ginger fried rice. One time I asked if I could have ginger fried pasta. My mom made it for me once, thought it was weird, and never made it anymore.
Also, I drank soup made with chicken, black fungus (mok yee), ginger (of course), and brandy. Yes, brandy. The brandy (like 1.5 tablespoons) is added last and not completely boiled off. One time my dad put a lot of alcohol in the soup and I got tipsy... Haha
My mom insisted that I drink an ounce of this Dubonnet wine everyday. This sweet wine was finished within a week... I had more than the prescribed ounce a day ;)
Finally, pork feet is supposed to be very nutritious. I tried a piece last time, but this time I refused to eat it. So instead, my mom used it to make ginger vinegar soup, but scooped out the pork feet before serving it to me. These look really gross.
Ginger vinegar soup is actually tasty, in my opinion. It is nice to mix it with rice. Special sweet vinegar is used, which can be found at a Chinese supermarket. This soup is made a month before I am to drink it, which is 2 weeks after birth. Hard boiled eggs are also put into it, and the eggs make a nice afternoon snack.
Also, it is traditional to pack some of this soup and eggs and give it to your family and friends. It is supposed to be extremely good for you. Plus, there is a lot of time and effort into making this, so that's why people don't just make it everyday. I told my mom to pack more and make many new friends to give this to.
I asked my parents the significance of all these foods, and they said it was to help me recover faster, replenish all the blood loss during delivery, and boost milk supply. I told them beer boosts milk supply and they gave me a dirty look.
Other things to mention:
- My mother-in-law didn't let me eat beef. I snuck in a couple meals of steak and burgers.
- Papaya helps boost milk supply. My mom made me one batch of papaya soup and then I told her no more because I had too much milk.
I believe other eastern cultures have special postpartum foods and traditions to follow too. I'm just glad this is almost over! I almost feel bad making so many snide comments to my parents, but I am grateful for their concern and care, so I just complied and ate whatever was served to me.
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