Very cool article of Chinese maternity practices.
China vs the West in Maternity Practices
Updated: 12 Nov 2008
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Kim Lee received many presents to celebrate the birth of her daughter three years ago, but a battered old silk-covered journal remains the most sacred gift. The journal contained advice, scribbled in Chinese, from other mothers. "Give out red eggs to friends and family, even if she’s a girl (red eggs are traditionally given out to mark the birth of baby)，everyone in the neighborhood will remember this and tell her about it, and she will know how special she is,” one woman wrote. The journal was a gift from kim’s close Chinese friend Bai Li, who had asked every mother she knew, beginning with her own, to write some words of wisdom—about how to be a good mother—in the journal.
Would the advice from American mothers be significantly different? Does culture have a major impact on the way children are raised? How are traditions regarding pregnancy and childbirth different in the East compared with the West? How different are the attitudes about caring for a baby, potty training and discipline? We interviewed six mothers from China and four from abroad in our search for answers to the above questions.
Laying-in after Childbirth
Chinese women believe the month after childbirth is a critical time for both the mother and the baby. A Chinese woman is encouraged to zuo yue zi (lay-in) for one month after childbirth, during which time she is cared for by an older woman (usually her mother or mother-in-law), who takes on all domestic tasks.
"I stayed in bed for a month after childbirth," said Mrs Zhang, 32, from Henan Province. "During that time, my mother-in-law advised me about what I should do. She would not let me take a shower, brush my teeth or wash my hair, and there were lots of things I could not eat or drink. Cold drinks and uncooked foods were forbidden, especially cold water and fruit. My mother-in-law encouraged me to eat a lot of fish soup and pig-trotter soup. She said it would help me to produce milk for breast-feeding. She said my eyes were very weak, and, as a result, I must not watch TV or read books. Also, I usually wear slippers around the house. During that month, I could only wear slipper boots, which did not hit the soles of my feet when I walked, as she said that would hurt my feet.”
Normally during this month, only immediate family visit the mother and her baby, and most extended family and friends wait until after the month to visit the newborn.“I know, in some places, new parents have a large celebration at the end of this month and invite all their family and friends out to a restaurant. We wanted to do this, but Beijing is so expensive—we couldn't afford it,”said one mother.
Mrs Zhang's experience during yue zi is fairly common among Chinese mothers. They all felt their bodies were very weak after childbirth, and they felt if they didn't look after their health during the crucial month，they would suffer the consequences later in life, or get yue zi bing, which literally means “an illness caused by not resting sufficiently during the month after childbirth"."My mother is in poor health now, and she is sure it is because she did not take proper care of herself after her second pregnancy,” says Holly Chen, who was raised in China, but now lives in Hong Kong with her American husband. She said she was surprised to see her American sister-in law walking around only a few days after giving birth. “Walking barefoot on concrete floors so soon is unthinkable in China,” she said.
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