Traditional Chinese Postnatal Care: What to Expect

Traditional Chinese Postnatal Care: What to Expect

asian mum with baby

Your mum or aunties may have told you to fully rest for a month after childbirth and eat herbal soups every day. It’s a Chinese custom for new mothers to be “confined” to her room — hence the term confinement period. In Mandarin, it is called zuo yue zi or “sitting the month” because it’s a form of postnatal care that lasts four to six weeks. On the surface, some might find it strange or even unsafe.


Let’s find out the facts about this traditional postnatal care practice and the four stages of confinement nourishment.



Four Stages of Confinement

An Asian woman eating soup and meals in the hospital


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practices four stages of confinement nourishment to assist postnatal recovery. We spoke with TCM physician Jolene Chong from All Things Health Malaysia to learn more about the stages and their importance in new mums’ recovery, along with healthy menu recommendations.


Stage 1 to improve blood and qi circulation

According to physician Chong, the first stage ensures the smooth expulsion of vaginal bleeding (lochia) after delivery. Having a good qi flow is also necessary to expel wind and remove excess water in the body.


Start with a light diet to improve appetite and promote good qi flow. Sheng Hua soup is good to promote blood circulation. Mums can try Si Shen soup (appetising support nourishing soup) and Shang Deng Dun Tang (revitalising soup) to strengthen the digestive system, increase breast milk quality, reduce water retention, and promote nutrient absorption.



Stage 2 to induce lactation

A week after delivery, the focus shifts to increasing breast milk production. To do that, treatments should aid blood and qi replenishment, as TCM believes these are the essence of breast milk.


Physician Chong also explains that Chinese medicinal herbs intake during this stage can help prevent breastfeeding issues such as engorgement and mastitis, invigorate the mind, and improve sleep quality. It is advisable to consume foods like blood nourishing soup, Ba Zhen soup (longevity tonic soup) and papaya fish soup.



Stage 3 to strengthen physique

The following week focuses on nourishing muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments so the new mum can get back her pre-baby body and possibly conceive baby #2. Physician Chong suggests consuming Du Zhong soup (kidney tonic soup) that contains calcium to relieve lower back pain or muscle strain around the lumbar area.



Stage 4 to boost overall body performance

The last stage focuses on the mum’s brain function, memory, skin and hair health. Collagen-rich dishes like braised pig trotter with black vinegar are good to nourish these organs. Meanwhile, Shi Quan Bu Tang (energising tonic soup) and black bean soup with He Shou Wu should help keep the body warm and boost the body’s overall performance.




The Benefits of Practising Confinement in Postnatal Care

An Asian young mother kissing her sleeping newborn baby


Confinement practices have many advantages for new mums. After all, this century-old postnatal care is popular in Asian countries. Several benefits include:


  • Alleviate conditions like hair loss, swollen breasts, muscle pain, hot flashes, haemorrhoids, and vaginal bleeding.
  • Help speed up vaginal or caesarean delivery healing process.
  • Encourage smooth lactation.
  • Reduce psychological fatigue, thus preventing postnatal depression.
  • Promote mother-baby bonding.




What Should Mothers Avoid During Confinement?

woman drinking tea


The number one rule of postnatal care is new mums must rest. What should be avoided is accepting baseless myths as facts. Let’s find out whether the myths about confinement have any truth in them.


1. No to water, yes to alcohol: Myth

Hormone fluctuations make new mums sweat more than usual. Drinking water is more than okay. Just make sure not to drink cold beverages as the body is in a “cold” state. However, drinking alcohol directly is not recommended to warm up the body, especially for breastfeeding mums.


2. No showering: Myth

Yes, hygiene is an important aspect of postnatal care. It’s better to use warm water and bathing herbs that help to expel “wind” from the body. Immediately dry hair and body thoroughly after washing up.


3. No reading, crying, cell phone and air conditioner: Myth

Mums can relax in the cool breeze of an air-conditioned room, but TCM advises moderation. Set the air conditioners to moderate temperatures such as 25°C to avoid catching the “cold and wind.” Likewise, there should be no problems if you read, cry or use a cell phone occasionally. TCM notes that blood loss during childbirth weakens the Liver which affects the eyes. Eating herbs like Goji berries can help protect the liver and keep the eyes healthy.



The confinement period is not as scary as many suggest. Nowadays, there are confinement packages that can make postnatal care more comfortable. Check out All Things Health Malaysia to read more about health & wellness, fertility, and TCM wisdom for a well-balanced life.


PubMed. 2014. Effect of postpartum practices of doing the month on Chinese women’s physical and psychological health. [online] Available at <> [Accessed 8 November 2021]

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