In Traditional Chinese Medicine – there are 3 times in a woman’s life where we can enhance and improve her overall health and vitality, reinforcing how her body naturally functions and improving her overall health for the rest of her life.
- Menopause (beginning of)
In many Asian and African cultures to enable the health and vitality to flow after giving birth, the women seclude themselves away from society and nestle down at home to allow themselves to recover fully after their pregnancy and giving birth. This time is devoted to the mother, enabling her to rest, recover, revitalize and bond with her new baby – as well as providing time for the family to bond with each other and adapt to the new changes.
The Golden Month refers to the first 40 days after a woman gives birth – it’s a great period of joy in a women’s life and during this time we can inherently improve the overall health and vitality of the new mum. During this time in many Asian cultures, the mother-in-law or mother will move in with the couple – to look after and nurture the new mum.
This month involves enabling the new mum to have
- plenty rest
- stay warm
- eat nourishing/replenishing foods
- eat food high in protein
- eat food that is easy to digest
- eat food that enhances milk production
It is a time where the older mother nurtures the younger mum – thus enabling her to bond and care for her newborn, while giving herself enough time to rest and replenish her energy, blood and lifeforce after pregnancy and giving birth. It provides a safe sanctuary – where mum can learn to breastfeed, her meals are provided for her and her only job is to recover from the birth, bond with baby and breastfeed.
While many of us may not be able to do this in western society – it is still important for us to withdraw from the world and to not be so busy. All women need time to recover after pregnancy and birth, and we all need a little help.
In general, there are 3 main important aspects of the golden month that we can incorporate into a mother’s life:
- Communal assistance
- Abdominal support / binding
- Lactation support
During this time, it is extremely important that the new mum make sure that she stays warm, as after birth, the body is weakened and we are more susceptible to pathogens – which can cause us to get sick easily.
In western society, it is expected that women have a baby and just get on with things. The problem with this is that women don’t get the rest, the nurturing and the assistance that they need in order to help them recover, produce milk and bond with their babies.
To overcome this, I chat with my clients and suggest that for the first few weeks they don’t allow visitors to the house – that they stay together as a family to enable them to adjust to their new status as parents and to allow time for the new mum to have plenty of rest, and be able to relax and begin her recovery process.
Rest is one of the most important things in the recovery process. It is highly recommended in Asian cultures that women get 10 hours of rest a night (although not likely possible). This is why the mother-in-law or mother of the new mum move into the house and for the first month the new mum focuses on recovery from and plenty of rest as she learns to feed and bond with her baby.
Resting doesn’t have to mean being fully asleep. Resting is also,
- Sitting down, quietly
- Lying in bed / on sofa
- Deeper Sleeping
The general idea is that by resting, we allow the body to recover from the last 9+ months and it also enables women to recover their energy. This is especially important in the first week when women can still bleeding quite heavily after giving birth. During the first few weeks after birth it is recommended, if possible, to breastfeed lying down, so that you are using as little energy as possible and once baby is asleep, you can drift off as well. (Please make sure that baby is safe and not under the covers – on top of the covers or placed in a baby cot next to the bed).
Another important factor of the golden month is making sure that the new mum is warm. After giving birth – women lose a lot of blood and energy which causes the body to be in a weakened state and it is vulnerable to cold drafts / wind. It is important that you keep warm
- Don’t walk around with wet hair (In Asian cultures its recommended not to wash your hair for 2 weeks post birth!)
- Rug up when entering the cold
- Wear socks on the bottom of your feet (as in Chinese medicine reflexology the lungs are on the bottom of your feet – so you can catch cold easily).
- Drinking warming teas (red date tea, herbal teas, and Chinese Herbal medicine)
- Avoiding cold foods (from fridge) and cold water
- Drink warm water
- Consume foods that are warm (soups, slow cooked meals, congees)
- Use spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon and other warming spices
- Wear socks and slippers on your feet and wear a dressing gown over your PJ’s.
On day 5 post birth, Mother warming is recommended. This involves using a moxa stick, which can be brought from a Chinese Medicine practitioner prior to giving birth. On day 5 post birth, mother warming is applied to the lower abdomen and lower back. By burning the moxa stick, the herb mugwort, which is warming, is placed just about 1cm over the skin and slowly moved up the lower abdomen from the start of the tip of the public area to the belly button. This is done for about 5 mins or until the area feels nice and warm and the skin is pink. Then do the same up along the lower back from the top of the crack to the top of the sacrum.
Mother warming warms the whole lower area helping to place warmth into the lower body, the uterus, ovaries and reproductive organs. It is also very relaxing and soothing.
Postpartum recovery is team effort. Communal assistance to help with a recovery is a must. Whether you have a c-section or a vaginal birth – it is important that you have help from friends and family.
In Asian cultures, the cooking, cleaning and house maintenance taken over by the mother / mother-in-law of the new mum. Neighbours and family will also cook meals for the family. This enables the mum to focus purely on caring for the newborn and enables her time and the comfort of her home to establish a bond with her newborn, as well as to establish breastfeeding. It also means that the new mum is not lifting heavy things, or overdoing things.
In western society, we can hire a postnatal doula and she can come in and help with the cooking, the cleaning and the nurturing of the new mum. Many of us do ask our mums to come and help – but this can also create tension and stress – which is something that we really need to avoid during the first month after birth.
Friends and family can assist by making meals and dropping them off – when you feel ready for visitors – you can ask them to bring a meal with them when they visit as well.
In order to prepare for postnatal recovery, it is beneficial in the last month of your pregnancy, to make lots of meals that are able to be frozen – it is important that these meals are high in protein and vegetables to ensure that you are receiving plenty of energy to assist with milk production and recovery.
This is an ancient tradition which is begun on the 2nd day after giving birth. The binds help to bring back all the muscles in the abdomen, and provides a support in order to prevent prolapse of the pelvic floor and cervix. Manual binding is the traditional way – but it does require someone experienced to do the binding. If you have had a c-section the binding is not done until after the 6th day.
To aid with recovery, there are many types of recovery pants available – the SRC recovery shorts are popular and these are similar to the traditional abdominal binding. Using these recovery shorts helps to keep everything tight and in place and reduce the risk of a prolapse. These recovery pants / shorts can be worn for up to a year after your give birth.
For the SRC shorts – please contact a representative who will measure you for the correct size.
A major factor in postpartum recovery is promoting breast milk. To assist with milk production, it is recommended that at least 3 times a week, women consume a milk promoting recipe. Foods that assist with milk production include
- Red dates.
Food that is eaten during the first month – should be easily digestible to enable milk to be produced. When we think of breast milk – it is an extension of our blood – so it is important that the new mum is eating lots of protein (animal meat is higher in iron than any other source). Beetroot is extremely important as it nourishes the blood as well. Dark green leafy vegetables also provide a good source of plant iron.
Breast feeding is difficult. Which is why in Asian and African cultures the older women move in to assist during this time. This is where the older matriarchs teach the new mum the art of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a learned skill, and it can take a while for the new mum and bub to get into a rhythm. If you are having issues with breastfeeding please make sure that you reach out to a qualified lactation consultant ASAP – don’t leave it. It can take up to 8 weeks to establish your milk, and an acupuncturist can also help with low supply using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
The golden month is a time where we can enhance a woman’s health and vitality and prevent illness in later life. It is a time of withdrawing from society so that mum can rest, recover and bond with her new baby.
While staying away from society for 40 days may sound difficult – it is quite easy and many of my clients in their second or third pregnancies have done this and found the experience invaluable and have also commented on how much easier the recovery process was.
Taking time out – enables them to rest, eat well, reduce their stress and heal themselves within them on time.
While 40 days may not be possible – I do recommend that for at least 2 weeks you take time to bond as a family and just enable your family to allow time to bond with the new baby and adjust to the new dynamics of life.
TAKE HOME TIPS FOR RECOVERY
- Stay warm
- Eat foods that are easily digestible – soups, casseroles, congees,
- Drink warm teas / herbal teas
- Eat foods that promote lactation e.g oats (porridge / oat bars / red dates / brewers’ yeast) incorporate these into your food.
- Drink plenty of water
- Use abdominal binding or pregnancy recovery shorts to aid with supporting the abdomen.
Many Acupuncturists will provide you recipes to aid recovery – during the first month of recovery – we highly recommend consuming congees – my favourite was ginger and chicken.
Withdrawing from society can also decrease the pressure on the new mum – with so many new mums reporting Postnatal depression, extreme fatigue, burn out and a lack of support – it is important that during the third trimester of your pregnancy you begin to think about the time after giving birth and how you can implement some of the above to assist with your recovery.