Why “Sitting” After Childbirth May Be the Best Idea Ever
Monday, February 6th, 2017
I don’t know about you, but I always felt this weird pressure to get “back to normal” after having a baby. Sure, I might take it easy for a good week, but after that, the husband was back to work and I was back to business as usual.
After my fourth was born, I was pretty much back into my full-blown routine right away. I even remember bragging on Instagram about how I was managing a trip with all four to the park and grocery store while sipping my Starbucks peacefully from the bench holding my 10-day-old.
Of course, what Instagram didn’t show was that later that night. I totally got mastitis because I was completely overdoing it. The truth is, many women dive right back into work and responsibility much too soon after having a baby. Some of it is by necessity because the U.S. is the only developed country in the world without any type of guaranteed maternity or parental leave, so often we don’t have a choice. But some of it is a strange cultural and societal pressure that expects moms to pop out a kid (or two!) and carry on as usual like we are some kind of superhuman creatures.
It’s absurd and crazy and, as I found out the hard way with every kid (I never learned), it can literally make us sick.
But there is a better way to recover after having a baby and it may be time for us to embrace it. The Chinese practice of “sitting” after childbirth is an ancient custom that involves women following a certain diet and lifestyle modifications for a month after giving birth. The practice is designed to let the woman’s body heal and restore itself and while similar to American customs of “lying in,” it focuses more on restoring a woman’s body as opposed to sitting idly.
One writer, Leslie Hsu Oh, with the Washington Post detailed her experience trying the practice of “sitting” after she gave birth, all the urging of her aunt. The practice is called “zuo yue zi” in Chinese. Sitting includes rules such as no washing your hair, no showers (um, what?), no brushing your teeth, no carrying your baby, no climbing stairs, no sex (obviously). The rules also include no leaving the house, crying, reading, watching TV, or even going on the Internet.
Phew, that’s a lot. So essentially, in addition to being incredibly greasy and dirty, the “sitting” tradition means literally sleeping a lot? Sounds like it to me.
Hsu Oh explained that she had already had three pretty traditional postpartum experiences in the U.S. She dealt with moving, getting “help” from her husband for a few weeks, and even with things like lice while trying to heal. So while she wasn’t sure if sitting would help her, it had to be better than her previous experiences.
Her aunt, who wanted her to experience the sitting tradition, gave her a gift of food delivery for an entire month, so she didn’t have to cook. All of the meals were approved and required only microwaving, so the mom didn’t have to lift a finger. She also looked into other healing practices, such as acupuncture and “binding” — when you wrap the waist to promote the internal organs going back in place.
In the end, the mother-of-four learned that while not all elements of sitting were for her, the basic premise is common sense: rest, good food, and plenty of help with the baby are necessary for a mother to heal after childbirth. There’s no reason to rush back into “real” life. For some reason, that’s a premise that is so hard for all of us to grasp.
How do you plan to heal after birth?