Women Be Havin' Babies

I have at least eight friends who are having children this month and through the summer and even more if you add the ones due over the rest of 2011. Some of these friends live here in the States, some back home in Singapore and after chatting with them all I learned that post-partum practices in Asia are, as expected, different from life over here.

One girlfriend pointed me in the direction of Babycenter.com.sg, the Singapore site for Babycenter and learned a few interesting things that, if I have a baby, should/should not do.

For a month after the baby is born, the mother is to practice confinement. In all sense of the word, the mother is to not leave the home for an entire month during which a confinement nanny is hired to come in to prepare herbal teas and soups for the mother's healing, and to feed the baby when the mother needs to rest. According to the website, the "pui yuet" (confinement nanny) also feeds the baby at night which sounds to me like the mother gets to have a regular sleep cycle. Fabulous isn't it? Well, before you get too excited, here are the other things you have to do.

1) You aren't supposed to leave the house. At all. Stay in. No trips to target, no "going out for fresh air." Nope, you're home. Time to embrace those daytime tv shows.

2) You aren't supposed to wash your hair for the entire month for fear of developing rheumatism. New mothers aren't to be exposed to cold elements and must allow their bodies to retain as much heat as possible. Chinese believe that your body's natural heat is lost during labor so to regain balance, there's no exposure to "cool" things like water or even a/c or cold beverages. For those of us living in hot climates, this part would suck for us and the people around us.

Personally, just the "no washing hair" thing makes me rethink having a child. My mother argues that it's only for a month, that she did it so everyone else should too. But after checking in with my various girlfriends, I've learned that no one really practices that anymore. Phew.

3) In Chinese culture, "cooling" and "heaty" foods are always taken into consideration with diet. Again, we always look for balance so if you consume something "heaty" like fried foods, certain fruit or spicy food, you need equal parts "cooling" food (e.g. cucumbers, watermelon, pineapple, just to name a few). Obvious with having to avoid external cold, mothers are also to avoid cooling food and diets are chock full of herbal soups or food brewed with particular herbs. And I'm not talking herbs like oregano or thyme. Herbal soups can sometimes taste as bad as they smell and trust me, they rarely smell good. But it's good for you, having babies or no so we just mentally deaden our sense of taste, suck it up (literally) and consume it.

Indian and Malay people also have their own traditions for confinement but it seems like the general rule of thumb with post-natal recovery is just that - rest, recover and become 100% healthy again so you will be in tip top shape to raise your child for the rest of his or her life.

For more interesting Asian practices visit Babycenter.com.sg. And to all my friends who are about to have their little babies, good luck and happy mothering!