What the Chinese Nanny Taught Me, or What Ginger Is Good for New Mom

Two months ago my second son was born, and I was amazed at how much easier and more comfortable the birth was, and how much quieter and quieter the two months afterwards (in terms of baby crying) were. I owe much of this increased level of happiness to the special Chinese nanny we hired to help for the first three months of the baby's life.


For the Chinese population, a new mother's helper is an indispensable figure during the first month of motherhood. This period is called confinement, which can be translated as "limitation", and special nannies for this time are called confinement nannies.


What are confinement practices?


Confinement practices are traditional postpartum practices to help a new mother recover from the various effects of pregnancy and childbirth. Traditionally, mother and child are literally imprisoned: a strict home "quarantine" is observed. The Chinese, Malays and Indians use such practices with various nuances. What unites the practices of different communities is a desire to support the new mother and help her replenish her physical and emotional strength.


In modern life, some mothers do not use restrictive practices at all, considering them old-fashioned, but many still follow them in part to rest and recover from childbirth.


Let me give you an example of some of the rules of these practices:


- Prohibition of washing hair during the entire period of restraint;


- protection from "cooling" elements, such as cold water, and from exposure to air conditioning or a fan;


- bathing only in specially prepared warm water, which is infused with herbs;


- Using the services of traditional masseurs, massaging the abdominal area and binding it with a special postpartum corset.


Traditionally, during the period of restriction, the new mother is taken care of by her mother or mother-in-law. In Singapore, where we now live, local Chinese women hire special nannies.

After listening to their reviews, I did the same and not only agreed to the standard help with the baby, but also decided to try the traditional diet rules on myself, which made my nanny (not many non-Chinese women agree) unexpectedly happy. She promised me that a special diet would be able to adjust the production of milk, to overcome my baby's tummy problems, and to make me relaxed, happy and satisfied. Despite my skepticism about her promises, she managed to deliver 100%. Since her manipulations had a positive impact on me and my baby, I decided to share those recommendations that you can use on your own without deep knowledge of Chinese traditions.


Dietary secrets of the nanny


During the period of restriction, mothers are advised to follow a certain diet. This diet is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and the theory that all foods can generate either "hot" energy in the body (which corresponds to the Chinese concept of yang) or "cold" energy (which corresponds to the concept of yin).


The idea of dividing foods into those that increase and those that decrease heat is related to the idea of the need for balance between yin and yang. Traditionally for Asians, especially in China, an imbalance of these elements explains certain emotional (irritability, short temper, fatigue or lethargy) and physical conditions (fever, sore throat and runny nose, mouth sores, indigestion or constipation, blood rushes to the face or cheeks, rashes, acne and pimples, dark yellow urine).


Warming foods are said to like hot sun, are sweet or spicy, "dry" or "hard", and are rich in fats and sodium. And "cooling" foods grow in little sunlight, are lean, "moist" and "soft", and rich in potassium.


Some "cooling" foods are: Bananas, pears, grapefruit, persimmon, watermelon, tangerine, strawberries, pineapple, tomatoes, Chinese bitter gourd, lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower, zucchini, radishes, lotus root, seaweed; turmeric, marjoram, mint, sugar cane, barley, soy curd, chicken egg white, yogurt, clams and crabs.

Neutral" foods: apricots, papaya, apples, figs, dates, plums, raspberries, raisins, beets, carrots, celery, olives, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, leafy radishes, Brussels sprouts, peas in pods, rice, red beans, yellow soybeans, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, honey, sage, rosemary, thyme, milk, chicken egg yolk, beef, pork, carp, cuttlefish, duck.


Some "warming" foods: Cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, mangoes, grapes, chestnuts, grapefruit, peaches, garlic, leeks, shallots, green onions, soybean oil, vinegar, walnuts, apricot kernels, pepper (seasoning), cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar, coffee, nutmeg, basil, cloves, coriander, chicken, ham, lamb, shrimp.


How the food is prepared is also important. For example, beef is considered a "neutral" food, but if it is grilled or deep fried, it becomes a "warming" dish.


In the postpartum period, you should eat foods that "increase heat" in the body. It is believed that this improves blood circulation, strengthens the joints, stimulates the production of breast milk, fights the "wind" - that is, gas - in both mom and baby, prevents hair loss and premature aging. But "cooling" products should be avoided: they can cause the opposite effect, and provoke rheumatism, arthritis and weakening of the mother's joints.


Of course, I didn't follow the diet 100% - first of all, because it involves the daily consumption of meat, especially pork. From all the many recommendations, I made a few basic rules that I will definitely follow next time (if it happens J)

What rules did I follow


The first month I did not drink water (at all), only very warm compotes and infusions. During the first two weeks I drank red bean broth every day - red adzuki beans are boiled until soft, the broth is drunk. The beans themselves can also be eaten. Dried fruit compote: red dates, black dates, prunes, goji berries, dried tangerine peels, dried longanberries (all available in Russia). Dried longan, by the way, promotes relaxation and good sleep, which, in turn, helps the production of milk.

Eating fresh oily fish almost every day. It is believed that fresh fish promotes the healing of internal organs and tissues.

Avoided the "cooling" elements found in cucumbers, young coconut, spinach, watermelon and other foods on the "cooling list" (see above).

Eating LOTS of ginger. Every morning the babysitter would grate two ginger roots on a fine grater. This grated ginger was added to all meals: stir-fry vegetables, baked fish, soups. You would buy 4-5 kilograms of ginger for a standard monthly program! Not only is it good for digestion, but it is also very effective in "warming" the body, which again contributes to the production of milk.

Every day I drank ginger "tea" - juice of grated ginger, poured with hot water, plus a teaspoon of honey if desired. In the first week - no more than one cup of such tea a day, starting from the second week - two cups or more. Ginger prevents the formation of gas in the baby and the occurrence of other problems with the tummy. My first son cried every day for a few months, especially at night because he had a tummy ache. My second son didn't cry about it once, and he sleeps much more soundly. I attribute it to the huge amount of ginger in his "diet" 🙂 .

I ate a lot and variety: always green leafy vegetables (cooked only), root vegetables, wild rice, mushrooms, nuts (different every day), fruit, including pomelo (the only recommended citrus fruit), and of course papaya and fish bone soup (you can also just fish, but for some reason bone is used). This soup is a mandatory part of the program to stimulate milk production. It is believed that papaya combined with fish oil has a strong effect.

In other ways I kept "internal" warm - I walked in warm shoes and warm clothes, did not sit under air conditioners, took only hot showers.

Of course, when my babysitter arrived with a huge bag of roots, herbs, berries, and some other suspicious ingredients and began to prepare some potions from them, I was a little doubtful that I was ready to consume it all. To dispel my fears for my health and the health of the baby I immediately called the doctor. The doctor is not quite politically correct replied that I should not be afraid of all these dried roots and tops are not harmful. But there might not be any benefit, because "what is good for the Chinese, is usually useless for you Europeans". I do not know if it is ginger or self-hypnosis, but this time both me and the baby objectively feel much better, which we wish all mothers and babies!


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