Sitting the Month - What does Postpartum Time Look Like in TCM

new mom postpartum touching her infant's feet

There is a tradition in chinese culture called zuo yue zi. Zuo yue zi, 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 play a huge role in postpartum recovery. A 2000 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 really 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 2000 years ago. As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I have learned that it is essential to maintain the integrity of the theory and practice of this medicine 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 2000 years ago in China.

Traditional zuo yue zi often involves a strict regimen of not leaving the home, avoiding electronics, not bathing or exercising, and not allowing visitors except for those preparing meals or caring for the family.

There are very real and practical reasons for this. For example, in Chinese medicine, staring at screens too often dries the eyes and depletes liver blood, well in 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 is 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 obl