Sitting the Month

Chinese practice calls for moms to do nothing for a month after they deliver their baby

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Traditional Chinese mothers practice “zuo yuezi” — or “sitting the month” — after delivering their babies. Whether it’s assistance from relatives at home or at a facility designed to aid new moms — and staffed with nurses and nutrition experts — these mothers take it very easy for 30 days. They eat special foods to help them recover and avoid chills to help restore their body’s balance. Beyond nursing, they literally do nothing and go nowhere for a month.

While taking it this easy for a month may not be possible or advisable for many mothers, new moms should call upon whatever support they need to take care of their babies and themselves. Unfortunately, isolation from extended family and employment demands often mean that women don’t get the help and rest they may need.

“One problem with modern life is we were meant to be in small villages with family units to help new mothers and help in the process and be supportive,” said Rob Kiltz, founder and director of CNY Fertility in Buffalo. “We’re herd animals and meant to be interactive.”

Kiltz is a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and board-certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Kiltz said that post-partum support should do more than just ease mom’s burden, but should include help from the family.

“It’s not just about ‘Let me help you do nothing’, but as a village, tribe, family and group, ‘Let’s work together for the greater good.’ Raising a child is meant to be done as a family. That’s where we get our best creativity and joy out of life.”

Women’s bodies change a lot from pre-pregnancy to pregnant to post-partum.

“They should defer to the instructions their care providers give them,” said Beth Carey, DONA-certified postpartum doula and birth doula, member of WNY Doulas and owner of Niagara Doula in Buffalo and Western New York. “If they have had a C-section, or tears and stitches, that makes a difference. They need support so they don’t overdo it.”

Some of her clients have had their mother stay with them for the first postpartum month and their mother-in-law for the second. Engaging a postpartum doula can also help.

“You need to know about these resources before you have the baby, not scrambling once you come home with the baby,” Carey said. “There’s a lot more out there than ever.”

Lori Gehl childbirth educator, doula and child birth midwife assistant with WNY Childbirth, said that for many postpartum women, it’s OK to get up and move around, but “don’t get on the treadmill shortly after you give birth. For a good week or two, it’s best to spend lots of time cuddling your baby. Once you’re ready to get up, walking is the best way to start, along with gentle stretches.”

Christine Kowaleski, New York state coordinator for Postpartum Support International, acknowledges that support for new moms helps them cope with the changes involved with having a baby. But once their doctors give them clearance to exercise, walking and yoga can help moms get active again.

“Exercise is always good for everyone, and may be helpful in preventing baby blues,” she said.

In addition to helping mothers reduce their risks for postpartum depression and develop coping mechanisms, Postpartum Support International also helps moms network.

“Using complementary medicine team with our support group has really helped our moms and they decide on their own when they’re ready to go out on their own,” Kowaleski said.