The first 40 days after child birth are known as the golden month in Chinese Medicine. It is said that, if done right, this is a time when a woman can actually heal herself of past issues or health concerns that have been plaguing her at any point in her life. On the same token, it is also a time where a woman can potentially do a lot of harm to herself and set the stage for a long period of ill health if she does not take care of herself appropriately. These 40 days are potentially responsible for the next 40 years. Unlike in the west, where we are applauded when we are recovered and ‘back at it’ as quickly as possible, in Chinese culture this is the time where the mother gets as much rest, support and nourishing foods as possible. The following is a general guide to help you get the most out of your golden month.
Childbirth can be depleting of the yang energy on the mother. This, in turn, causes the mother to come into a state of cold, and can be easily susceptible to cold invading and lodging into the body. In Ayurvedic medicine, (the traditional medicine of India) they believe this time causes the mother to come into a state of Vata (the air element) imbalance. To avoid furthering these imbalances, we should take care not to do things that deplete the mothers’ yang energy, or that aggravate vata. This means avoiding exposure to cold water or cold temperatures, avoiding wind, swimming, eating cold foods such as salads or uncooked foods, drinking cold fluids, sexual intercourse, and excessive exercise.
The foods we eat post partum should be easy to digest, so the body can assimilate the nutrients as readily as possible. Heavy, rich foods (like lasagna) will be taxing on the body and can take away from your vital energy. This can be referred onto the baby causing digestive issues, colic, thrush, and general health imbalance.
The best meals post partum are one pot meals, fresh vegetable juices with added herbs or spices such as ginger, or cinnamon, soups and rice dishes.
A few recipes to enjoy postpartum:
Cow ghee, clarified butter, is one of the most ancient and pure foods known. Deeply nourishing to all the tissues in the body, it is both liquid and lipid soluble and it takes on qualities of, and can remove toxins from the body. It lubricates, stimulates the fire of digestion, and has the ability to permeates every cell, and every pore of the body. The benefits of ghee range from lubricating connective tissue and increasing flexibility, promoting memory and intelligence, increasing the quantity and quality of semen, and boosting the immune system.
One really cannot consume too much ghee postpartum! Nepalese ayurvedic ob/gyn Dr. Sarita Shresta recommends 1/2 lb. a day during the postpartum window!
Stewed apples with cloves and ghee
Slice an apple. Cover with water. Add 2 cloves and 1 tsp ghee. Simmer until soft. Enjoy
A great option post partum and should be eaten generously
Herbal Chicken Soup:
1 4 lb chicken
12 cups cold water
60 grams yi mu cao (motherwort)
40 grams Dong gui (angelica)
Place chicken in a large pot and add cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Drink the broth and eat the cooked chicken throughout the day.
Simple Vegetable Soup
2 ounces mixed vegetables (celery, zucchini, carrots, turnips, asparagus, potatoes)
½ tbsp oil or butter
1 cup water
Vegetable boullion or sea salt/ braggs to taste
Chopped parsley or cilantro to garnish (optional)
Clean the veggies and dice and slice attractively. If liked, heat the oil/butter in a pan and sauté the mixed veggies until they are slightly softer. Place the water in a large pan or stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the veggies, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Season with tamari or sea salt and serve garnished with chopped parsley or cilantro.
Classic Korean Seaweed Soup
This Korean seaweed soup, known as myeok guk, is a classic kitchen therapy dish served to postpartum mothers to help them recover after childbirth and to promote lactation. It can be served with rice on the side or added into the soup while eating.
1 ounce seaweed, such as precut wakame
1 TBSP sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 ½ cups bone or vegetable stock
1 ½ tbsp braggs or soy sauce to taste
2 tbsp sesame seeds
A pinch of pepper
Soak the seaweed in water for 10 – 20 minutes or until rehydrated. The seaweed will expand to more than three times its size. Drain and squeeze to remove excess water.
In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the seaweed and sauté for another 2 minutes
Add the stock and soy sauce and raise the heat to high to bring the liquid to a boil.
Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the soup starts to appear milky. Cooking longer is okay too if you prefer more blended flavours.
If you are using sesame seeds and starting with the raw variety, place them in a dry skillet over medium high heat and toast for about 5 minutes, until they become fragrant, golden, and begin to pop. Remove them immediately from the pan so they don’t burn and let them coold for at least 1 minute. Using a food processor or mortar and pestle, grind the seeds to release the flavours.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and pepper if desired.
This is a basic recipe for congee that you can add to as desired. There are no rules about what to add: meat, fish, vegetables, and healthy herbs, shredded lotus root and gingko nuts are all popular. You can also make a sweet version of congee with Chinese dates (jujubes) and a bit of palm sugar. Add the secondary ingredients after bringing the rice to a boil, before turning down the heat. During the postpartum period, avoid cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts.
3/4 cup long grain rice
5 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
In a large pot, bring the water and rice to a boil. When the rice is boiling, turn the heat down to medium low. Place the lid on the pot, tilting it to allow steam to escape (the same as you would do when making cooked rice.) Cook on medium low to low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice has the thick, creamy texture of porridge (1 – 1 1/4 hours). Add the salt, taste and add seasonings if desired. Serve with garnishes such as crushed peanuts if desired.
1 pinch of saffron
1 tbsp milk
¾ cup basmati rice
2 bay leaves
½ tsp cinnamon
4 whole cloves
¼ tsp salt
3 cardamom pods
2 cups hot water
Soak the saffron in 1 TBSP of milk for 10-15 minutes. Wash and rinse the rice twice. Drain. Heat a pot over medium heat and add the ghee. Then add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, salt and cardamom and mix well for a minute. Turn the heat to low, add the rice and sauté in the spices for 2 minutes. Pour in the hot water and the soaked saffron and bring to a gentle boil. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium and cover partially. Continue to boil gently for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, fully cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
3 medium size pieces (1/2 ounce or 15 grams) astragalus root
2 cups water
½ cup rolled oats
A small handful of coarsely chopped walnut pieces
2 tablespoons (30 grams) goji berries
A pinch of salt
Honey or other natural sweetener
Place the astragalus root and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer, covered with the lid slightly ajar for about 20 minutes
Remove the astragalus root from the liquid with a slotted spoon
Add the rolled oast, walnuts, goji berries, and salt to the liquid and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until cooked to the desired consistency.
Serve warm, drizzled with a small amount of honey if desired.
Strong Womb Tea
Red raspberry leaf
Buy in bulk and steep a handful in a teapot every night after dinner. Drink every night to tone your uterus before and after labour and to keep your blood ama clear.
New Baby Tea for Mom
2/3 c. Fennel seed
1/3 cup fenugreek seeds
Mix herbs in a glass jar. Add ½ tsp of mixture to a 1 litre thermos of boiled water each morning and sip throughout the day for the first 6 weeks postpartum.
Calm the spirit Tea
10-12 pieces (9 grams) licorice root (the herb, not the candy)
1 tbsp (12 grams) triticum
10 chinese red dates
2 ½ cups water
Combine the herbs and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes. Strain out the herbs and serve.
This tea is especially useful for anyone suffering from emotional distress, including mild depression.
Oiliation: self oil massage/abhyangha
This technique, used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, has a deeply nourishing, moisturizing, calming and balancing effect. By applying the oil before going into the bath or shower, you allow the oil to penetrate deeply into the skin through the pores as they are opened from the steam and warmth of the water.
The type of oil used can depend on your particular body type or if you are unsure of what element predominates, you could use a neutral oil such as sesame oil.
Undress completely. Begin with a small amount of oil in the hands and begin to massage the oil into the feet. Continue to apply oil to the ankles, calves, knees, etc. working your way up the entire body. Don’t forget any body part! Use long strokes for the limbs and circular strokes for the joints. Take your time and spend extra time on any body part that may be in particular need or that doesn’t get a lot of touch. One you get to the head, you can massage the oil into the scalp. If you don’t want to have greasy hair, you can omit using the oil for this part.
Once you get into the shower, rinse off the excess oil. No need to use soap as soap is very drying and will take away all the lovely moisturizing you just created.
Using the oil in your hands, now massage the face and ears in small circular strokes. Sesame oil can be used on and in any body part including the anus and vagina. Apply while in the shower to these areas.
Using about 5 yards of cotton cut into about 5 strips lengthwise, wrap the belly fairly snug making sure to wrap across mid to low belly, upper and lower hip area and diagonally to take in opposite upper and lower hip area. You can simply tuck the fabric into itself or use a pin or a fastener to close. There are also companies who sell belly wraps which can be quite convenient and even stylish.
The reason we wrap the belly is because after childbirth, there is a lot of excess space left in momma’s belly. This can be quite unsettling for the nervous system. Wrapping the belly is known to improve digestion, and elimination, supports the organs to find their place and re-establish proper connective tissues, decreases bloating, feels comforting and nourishing and helps tummy regain shape.
Breast Feeding and potential Issues
Blocked breast ducts and/or mastitis
Herbs to include that promote the production and flow of milk include: fennel, fenugreek, raspberry leaf, anise and blessed thistle.
Evening primrose oil or fish oil are natural potent anti inflammatory oil which provide important essential fatty acids for the health of you and your baby.
2-3 teaspoons rosemary steeped in hot water. Soak a cloth or muslin in the liquid and wrap breast.
Cabbage Poultice: chop cabbage and put in blender with a little boiling water until it makes a thick paste. Add slippery elm powder and applied to the breasts. Leave on for about 20 minutes.
Or simply take a leaf of cabbage and tuck inside your bra. The coolness of the cabbage feels very soothing, and the warmth of your skin will help meld the leaf to your breast.
Massage to encourage the flow of milk in the ducts with some warm oil. Massage breasts 10 minutes prior to breastfeeding. Also massaging the breasts to hand express some milk while in the shower or bath can provide some relief.
Pigs Trotters Soup for Insufficient lactation
Pig’s feet are simmered long and low to draw out their naturally occurring gelatin and calcium, creating a thick, rich soup that is low in fat and high in flavor and body. Add diced chicken for protein, or serve over egg noodles, potatoes, or with a thick slice of really good bread.
Minutes to Prepare: 20
Minutes to Cook: 180
Number of Servings: 10
4 cups of chicken, turkey or vegetable stock (homemade is best)
At least a quart and a half of fresh cold water
Garlic – 6 cloves
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
3 pig’s feet cut into 2-inch by 2-inch pieces (readily available at most butcher counters, especially in more ethnic supermarkets)
Prepare the pig’s feet by washing well and patting dry. Place in a saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a rapid boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Drain water and rinse the trotters. This blanches the meat and bones, removing any hidden dirt or impurities, and provides a cleaner flavor. After rinsing, fill saucepan again with water enough to cover the pig’s feet, and bring to a boil again. Cover and simmer at a low roll for several hours. Check the water level periodically and add more if the water level drops too low. You want to be left with about a quart of stock.It should take approximately 2 hours for 3 cut up pig’s feet to cook down to the point where the cartilage has liquified and will have turned the water a milky white color. This stock will be what makes this soup so rich and filling.Meanwhile, about an hour or so into the pig’s feet simmering, make the soup base. In a heavy soup/stock pot, add in 1 TSPB olive oil, and heat on medium. Add onion, celery, and carrots. With the flat side of your knife, smash and rough chop the garlic. Add to the pot and stir all the chopped vegetables around to coat with the oil, and heat on medium until the mixture is fragrant and slightly soft. At this point, add soup stock. Turn heat down to medium-low, and cover to allow vegetables to infuse into the stock.After about another hour, check your pig’s feet. If the water is almost opaque white, and the bones can be easily pulled off the meat, the trotters are done. Scoop out the bones and cut the meat and gelatin off the bones.
Cover the soup again and allow it to simmer on low to medium-low, careful not to let it come to a rolling boil. You just want it to simmer.Discard the bones and skin (or you can feed the skin to a happy dog.) Drop the picked-off meat and gelatin into the soup. Don’t worry about getting all of it, its all edible, and this is just an option if you want to really make it very rich without adding a lot of fat.At this point your soup is basically done. Serve hot over potatoes, noodles, rice, or with thick bread. Add in cooked pieces of pork chop, chicken breast, or anything you want to make it more meaty. The broth, however, will be so rich and fulfilling, you may find you enjoy it just on its own! Its even better reheated the next day. Just be aware that while in the fridge, the gelatin from the trotters will solidify, making the cold soup have a somewhat “jello” texture. It will melt in your pot when you reheat it. Rich and fulfilling and delicious. Enjoy.
Eat twice a day for nursing moms
Alternate icing and using a heat compress on the breasts to stimulate and encourage circulation.
Avoid spicy food, overly rich and greasy dishes, foods that are not easily digested, and too many raw foods and legumes.
Silver nipple cups can be worn to prevent or treat cracked or painful nipples. Expressing a little breast milk and rubbing into the nipple is helpful, as are many of the nipple ointments sold in various stores. I like the lansinoh brand but there are also some great products from smaller companies as well.
The golden month is a beautiful time of getting to know each other. It can be challenging but oh so rewarding. Set yourself up for success and you are sure to reap the benefits.