According to Chinese medicine traditions, the four to six week period following birth is known as the Golden Month. This is a common practice that is seen in similar forms in many traditions and cultures the world over. For example, the ‘cuarenta’ in Latin America, the ’40 days’ in India, Russia, Greece and many African countries… and in China itself, the zuo yue zi, or ‘sitting the month’.
During this time, a new mother is not expected to do anything more than rest, feed and bond with her baby. It is seen as a time for her to replenish and recover. It’s also a period of celebration for the whole family… and Mama – not just baby – forms the centre of this. New mothers are given special care, food and support until they feel recovered. For some women, this will be four weeks, for others, it will be six, and others twelve… it depends on the needs of each woman.
Of course, having a baby changes everything (whether it’s your first, third… or sixth!) and feeling recovered does not mean ‘bouncing back’ (whatever that is, anyway). What it does mean, is allowing time to recover some energy, get settled into the new routine of life with a baby and reestablish some semblance of self.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, growing and birthing a baby has a huge impact on the body’s function and structure. It significantly affects physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
For example, pregnancy and birth draw heavily on Jing – or essence – our deepest source of energy, and as a result, after birth new mothers should have a period of time during which their Jing can be restored and rebuilt. In cases where a woman has too many births too close together, or not enough time to recover in those early days and weeks after birth, her Jing can be seriously depleted and will be difficult to replenish, even further down the track.
The key elements of care for new mothers after birth include ample rest and nourishing food, massage and physical treatments to promote healing, staying warm, minimising stress and strong social or family support.
Chinese medicine, like all holistic health models, emphasises the importance of maintaining good health and preventing disease – rather than treating a symptom when it arises. As such, the care and nourishment of women immediately after giving birth helps to strengthen health and prevent future problems with physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Did you observe any rest period, or specific traditions, after giving birth?