Chinese moms want British princess back to bed

Updated: 2015-05-11 03:44

By ZHENG XIN in New York(China Daily USA)

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Chinese mothers have some advice for Britain's Princess Kate: Take off your makeup and heels and go back to bed for some rest.

Some Chinese netizens were taken back by the Duchess of Cambridge's appearing in public about 10 hours after giving birth on Saturday, and urged that she should follow the traditional one-month postpartum confinement for new mothers in China with strict rules developed over the centuries about what to wear, eat, drink and more.

"Kate shouldn't have left the hospital just hours after giving birth to a baby girl, let alone putting on makeup and heels," said Shi Weiran, a 40-year-old Chinese mother on Weibo, China's biggest social media platform. "She should have covered herself in warm clothes instead of wearing the short sleeves and a skirt immediately after delivery. It's unbelievable."

Duan Ya, a 32-year-old Chinese mother, said, "Standing there for picture taking is too much of a strain for a woman right after delivery. She should stay in bed and so should her baby."

Postpartum confinement in China , or "zuo yuezi", literally means "to sit for a month after giving birth".

According to guidelines strictly practiced by Chinese mothers for centuries, eating fruit or raw vegetables, drinking cold water, showering and even teeth brushing are forbidden during the traditional rest period to regain physical and mental equilibrium.

And it's suggested that new mothers not watch television, use a computer or any other electric product to avoid damaging eyesight.

Chinese women are told if they do not undergo zuo yuezi they will have health problems later in life, including menstrual pain and arthritis.

"What the mother can eat, what she can wear and how much exercise she can do used to be strictly controlled in the past," Zuo Xulei, an obstetrician at Jinshan Hospital at Shanghai's Fudan University, wrote on his Sina Weibo account.

He said it was necessary for women to have some rest after labor, but added that some of the rules of zuo yuezi isn't based on medical knowledge and is ridiculous in this modern age.

"Many new mothers were asked to take in a lot of eggs as a source of protein and fish or hen soups to stimulate milk production," he wrote. "Women were also asked to confine themselves in an enclosed room without any ventilation during the one-month confinement. Taking a shower, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, turning on the air conditioner or fan even during July are all forbidden according to the rules.''

But he said the food routine put too much burden on the liver, caused some women to become obese and suffer psychological pain.

As Western medicine and customs have gained broader acceptance in China, he said the centuries-old zuo yuezi is less popular among young Chinese women.

Liu Ting, who is 28 and pregnant, said she doesn't agree with many of the restrictions of zuo yuezi. She said that after she gives birth she doesn't plan to refrain from taking a shower, eating fresh fruit, drinking cold water or using an air conditioner, especially with her due date in August.

"I went to visit a new mother last year and was shocked how stinky her bedroom was," Liu told China Daily. "For fear of catching a cold, her mother-in-law insisted on not opening a window or turning on the fan, while feeding her soup made from an old hen several times a day, which made her so obese that she spent months on diet later."

The fish soup she ate barely stimulated her milk production, and her son was still fed on powder milk and formula, she added.

Liu said most of the older generation are still intent on following the zuo yuezi custom as much as possible, saying that when they didn't closely follow the tradition they ended up with chronic pain in their joints and other problems, and they don't want the same to happen to the younger generation.

"However, most of them caught a chronic disease possibly due to severe working conditions and lack of nutrition in the old days and had nothing to do with the very first month after delivery," said Liu. "New mothers for sure need to look after their body and take time to recover after spending nine months to make a baby, but we need to do it in a more scientific way."