Zuo Yue Zi: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Take on Postpartum

by Amy Malone |

Zuo Yue Zi: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Take on Postpartum

There is a tradition in Chinese culture called zuo yue zi.  Zuo yue zi, or “sitting the moon cycle” or “sitting the month”, refers to period of 30-40 days postpartum for nurturing the new mother, supporting her recovery and supporting family bonding. Traditionally, this 30-40 day period after birth is one of confinement: mom would stay home, indoors and receive support from family for nourishment, healing, resting, and ultimately adapting to motherhood.

This is also a period in which herbs and nutrition can play a huge role in postpartum recovery. A 2,000 year old tradition born out of a need to care for new mothers, respect them, and promote health for mom and baby.

There are some wonderful aspects of zuo yue zi that can be beneficial in today’s modern postpartum time, and some elements of the tradition are not as relevant or important as they would have been 2,000 years ago.

As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I have learned that it is essential to maintain the integrity of the theory and practice of this modality and it’s cultural compliments, but apply them in a way that is in balance with how our lives are now – which is much different than how lives were lived 2,000 years ago in China.

 The Zuo Yue Zi Protocol: Begin by Avoiding Screens

Conventional practices of zuo yue zi includes following a strict regimen of staying at home, avoiding electric appliances, no showering or workouts, and not allowing visitors except for cooking food or care for the family.

There is a valid explanation and obvious reasons for this. For example, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, staring at screens too often dries the eyes and depletes “liver blood”.   Well into a postpartum state when blood has been lost, it is important to avoid activities that would further stress this system.

All the rules of zuo yue zi are there in an effort to optimize replenishment and reduce the likelihood of getting sick or perpetuating deficient conditions that could prolong healing or contribute to postpartum depression. You have just gone through such a massive life event and to expect new mothers to return to "normal" life and function with the same obligations as before delivering a child is absurd. 

You deserve rest.

You deserve to bond with your baby out of your womb. You deserve the time and space needed to rebuild, recover, and restore what you used for growing and bringing a new human earthside. Most of us are not at risk of significant illness or infection due to taking a shower or brushing our teeth, but in a vulnerable state, those tasks could have created huge problems 2,000 years ago.

Zuo Yue Zi

Zuo yue zi is traditionally outlined by a set of rules, but most American women would feel overwhelmed by this set of rules, unable to practice them all due to their unique set of circumstances and our cultural expectations of new mom’s so they may resist zuo yue zi altogether. This is why a modern adaptation of traditional practice is so important.

Respecting and honoring the traditional concept but adapting it to modern society truly optimizes the benefit to new moms. Even practicing some elements of sitting the month will benefit you and your family.

Zuo Yue Zi Today: As Relevant as Ever

In contemporary world, there are principles of zuo yue zi that may seem difficult or sturdy, but there are ways to make the most out of this period while also being realistic about your lifestyles and health needs. Honestly, you deserve to be pampered in postpartum… see how long have you come!

During childbirth you lose a significant volume of blood not only in growing a baby but also bringing them to earth, you lose your stores of Qi (energy) and Jing (essence). This loss of blood and utilization of Qi leaves new moms in a physically vulnerable state and in a place of needing nourishment and recovery.

Zuo yue zi can help revitalize Qi and blood to prevent system disharmony from affecting you. Let’s breakdown few principles of resting the month so you can easily incorporate them into your postpartum journey.

Nutrition – The use of your energy in labor can put strain on your digestive system so nutrition is paramount to recovery. The main objective is to replenish flow of Qi and blood, increase milk supply, foster healing from c-section or tears.

Start with simple, hot, and digestible foods, and consume warm soups and stews. You should avoid cold and raw foods, which can further strain digestion or slow down blood flow to the uterus. Soups and stews made with bone broth are typically easy to digest and can help balance your body's post-birth recovery efforts.

You can start working on your health soon, by drinking bone broth throughout the birth process to revitalize your energy lost during the labor. Below are some important postpartum nutrition points:

  • New mom doesn’t cook – your partner, mom, family, friends or neighbors can all chip in to help. You can even do some of the meal prep ahead of time so that things are ready when it’s time for you to rest. I deliver packets of herb broth to expecting mothers at around 36 weeks so that they can timely prepare broths at home.
  • High protein, easy to digest healthy fats, simple nutritions carbs such as rice
  • Don’t diet – now is not the time to worry about your post-partum body, honor the incredible work you have done. You need calories to recover, sleep, and if breastfeeding, to help promote milk production.
  • Examples of herbs and foods that help you recover post-partum include ginger (lots of ginger), red date, longan fruit, bone broth, eggs, coconut milk soups/curries, rice congees (porridges), goji berries, avocado, cooked greens, shredded chicken

Exercise – Don’t, for at few weeks and then start gradually. In Chinese Medicine theory, the body is considered “open” after delivery and too much movement too quickly can inhibit proper “closing” and can lead to pelvic floor injury. When you think about the physiologic process of giving birth, this totally makes sense, your pelvis literally opens up to allow for passage through the birth canal. Let your body rebuild and ‘recover” after a massive change as this will help to reduce the effect on the pelvic muscle in the long run.

Give yourself a few weeks of ease

I promise you can wait for those high intensity activities and you will do so much better not being short sighted on this. Start slow, first with short walks, post-natal yoga, and kegals. Give yourself a few weeks of ease. This sensitive period does not call for weight reduction or exercise; it is about nurturing, healing, restoring, and getting some rest.

Rest – Obviously, this means proper rest- fall asleep when possible, take short naps, make bond and snuggle with the baby that is your arms.  But, rest here is also about care. Care for you and your amazing body that just went through a huge transition.

Rest is just as essential as your intuition is telling you it is. As your body and organs have experienced a massive change, a proper rest is essential to let them restore to their baseline energy levels. Literally, your uterus is now required to shrink back down and the organs repositioned from its previous growth must find their home again. Besides physical rest and nutrition, there are some practices that can help you rest as well. Sitz baths and vaginal steams made with nourishing herbs can help alleviate any uterine congestion, promote uterine toning, and nourish the tissues of the perineum.

Resting, Chinese Medicine and Postpartum

According to traditional zuo yue zi principles, there should be no showering, bathing, or brushing your teeth; however, I suggest to take warm showers and baths only, avoid wet hairs, use warm water to brush teeth, and after bath make sure to quickly cover yourself with warm and comfortable clothes.

Outsiders and Visitors: you deserve all kinds of help, and there should be no shame in accepting help from family and friends you trust, while keeping healthy boundaries at the same time. If you have too many guest or cooks at home you may get annoyed or exhausted because the rest time that you need with your little one might be get disturbed. This is why boundaries are important, and only you can define them. Here are some boundaries that you need to define before embarking on your postpartum journey. You can enjoy company with guest and stay social by maintaining boundaries and feeling confident at the same time- you need time for yourself and your family.

  • Do you only want a certain number of visitor per day

  • Do you only want visitor during a certain time window each day

  • Do you want entire days with no visitors

  • Do you want just a few go to visitors that are helping with your zuo yue zi – preparing meals or caring for baby while you rest.

  • Do you want to set a date for when visitor will be allowed to enter your home -keeping it to just your family and those helping in the home until that date.

  • Do you want a gate-keeper or advocate that helps you maintain these boundaries, a spouse, parent or doula can be excellent for this

  • Consider setting these guidelines as a family so that everyone is on the same page

As I’m sure you have realized through pre-conception, pregnancy, and for some of you delivery, things don’t always go as planned and this may be the case for your postpartum scenario too, but you can make a plan for your postpartum journey which is filled with recovery, nourishment, and association with your baby, and embracing that there may be some moments that you need to spare, move with a flow and accept the change.

Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations  from a healthcare provider.  This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease.  That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options.  If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on hello@mydaolabs.com 

Amy Malone is a licensed acupuncturist and registered nurse with national certificaiton in Oriental Medicine. She brings balance into her life professionally by integrating her nursing background with her practice as an acupuncturist, and privately by making times for the things she loves outside the clinic. Amy is an avid skiier, hiker, backpacker, reader, and traveler together with her partner, Ryan. You can learn more about Amy at balancedstonewellness.com.

Related Articles

Older Post Newer Post

To a healthier lifestyle and receive holistic recipes | TCM TIPS | SPECIAL OFFERS
My Dao Labs