In the Chinese Medicine Tradition, the first four to six week period, up to 100 days, post birth is known as the Golden Month, zuo yue zi, or ‘sitting the month’. This is a common practice across many traditions and cultures all over the world over..Latin America, India, Russia, Greece and many African countries.
It is considered essential to compensate for not only the loss of energy and blood from the birth but also the total experience of being pregnant for nine months.
‘This is not a time for absolute bed rest but rather a time where physical rest is taken at every opportunity, exercise is appropriate (not an exhausting attempt to get back into shape), and attention is placed on a diet, so that there is an emphasis on building blood and energy.’ – Debbra Betts
There is a long documented history in traditional Chinese medicine of women using diet to encourage lactation and recovery from childbirth or a miscarriage. This was seen as very important for ensuring future fertility and for women to provide future care for their families..
Some traditional Chinese Recipes are a little challenging for Westerners so it’s good to have a range of options based on your level of support, personal capacity and of course, pallet.
Chinese medicine focus for weekly recovery
Week 1: Herbal soups and food to both strengthen Blood and invigorate the Blood, in order to completely shed the old Blood from the Uterus (lochia), and gentle detoxification to cleanse the Uterus of “fetal toxins” developed during pregnancy.
Week 2: bone soups and herbs to tonify the Blood, and strongly tonify Qi to tonify Blood, to heal the perineum and lift the organs back into their proper places, and herbs to strengthen the Kidney and lower back.
Week 3 & 4: focus on tonifying Blood & Yin, building a strong milk supply, and recipes using vinegar and other astringent herbs to help stop the leakage of fluids – night sweats, any continuing spotting, etc.
Specific Foods that Build Energy and Blood
Tonify Qi (energy)
oats, rice, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, mushroom (button and shitake), yam, date, grape, Kidney beans, tofu, beef, chicken, tuna, egg, jasmine tea and spices such as; basil, cinnamon, clove, dill, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme.
chicken, fish, green leafy vegetables, raisins, sweet rice, dried
logan fruit (purchase at a Chinese Grocer), Goji Berries, Black Beans,Bone Broth, Organic eggs and meats, Cherries, Dates, Lentils, Barley
Traditional Congee for Recovery
A congee is traditional Chinese medicinal porridge made from rice. It is seen as a powerful therapeutic food for strengthening digestion, boasting energy and aiding in the recovery from illness.
A basic congee can be made from using ½ cup of rice to 3 cups of liquid.
- This liquid can be water for a very plain congee, milk or nut milks (soya milk /rice milk or almond milk) for a sweet rice pudding type of congee, or you can use vegetable or chicken stock for a savoury congee.
- You may also prefer to use a ½ water ½ milk /stock mixture depending on your taste preferences.
- The amount of liquid you use will determine the thickness of the porridge, which can be thick like oat porridge or watery like a soup, simply adjust the amount of liquid depending on your preference.
- Polished rice is usually the grain used however sweet (glutinous rice) can be used to give a sweeter tasting congee. You can also use Arborio (risotto) rice or another grain such as barely for the savoury congee
To prepare, simply rinse the rice thoroughly and place with the liquid in a slow cooker overnight on low heat. By placing your ingredients in the slow cooker overnight you wake up to a nourishing snack that can be eaten throughout the day with no further effort.
To this basic recipe any combination of the following:
Chinese red dates, black dates, cinnamon, cardamonn, fresh ginger, chicken, pork or mushrooms can be added for flavour and medicinal properties.
Savoury Blood Building:
- Grind 25 grams of black sesame seeds, add to the uncooked rice and cook as a normal congee for a blood building congee
Warming & Savoury:
- Add fresh Shiitake mushrooms cooked with a little garlic to a plain cooked rice congee, topping with freshly chopped spring onion
Variation on chicken soup
- Cook slices of chicken and ginger in a rice congee replacing the water with chicken stock and topping with spring onion
Qi and Blood building recipes
Traditional Herbal Broth (Sheng Hua Tang)
Sheng Hua Tang vitally ensures that the uterus is clean, clear, and warm after childbirth. A healthy uterus will have a positive impact on the breast milk and can prevent a host of postpartum health concerns.
This herbal soup is most effective when consumed during the week immediately following childbirth, up until one month.
Check your favourite Chinese supermarket for pre-packed post-partum soup herbs
Normally this soup consists of:
- Zhi Gan Cao
- Dang Gui,
- Chuan Xiong,
- Tao Ren,
- Pao Jiang
- Pour 3 cups of water into a pot
- Soak the herbs in the pot for about half an hour
- Leave them boil until there is one cup of water left
- Take out the water for later
- Add 3 cups of water into the herbs
- Boil for the second time until there is 1 cup’s worth of water left
- Mix the 2 cups of herbal soup together and serve
Note: add chicken, pork or beef bones to create a bone broth. Additionally, it can also be consumed as a tea (vegan approved!). Just omit the meat and mushrooms, and add sweetener instead of salt in the below recipe. Chinese herbs are great and versatile in that way
- 600 ml bottle rice wine
- 5 medium slices fresh ginger 8 fresh chicken pieces
- 2 tablespoons black sesame oil
- Heat pan and add sesame oil.
- Add ginger and briefly stir-fry.
- Add chicken and cook until golden brown before adding rice wine.
- Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 –40 minutes.
Basic Chicken Soup Recipe
- 1 x approx. 1.8kg whole chicken
- 12 cups of water
- 60 grams of dried logan fruit (Long Yan Rou)
- 40 grams of angelica (Dang Gui)
( purchase herbs in packets from a Chinese Grocer- Long Gan will be in the fridge)
- Place all ingredients into pot & bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for two hours.
- Season with salt.
- best had several times in a day and will also help prevent joint pain that is common after childbirth as bone soups contain marrow and in addition to nourishing Blood, also nourishes Essence and the Kidneys.
Easy Recipes for Post Birth Recovery
Drink daily as an energy tonic after childbirth.
- 10 red dates (Jujube)
- 3 grams of Dongui in 1 cup of water.
Bring to the boil Simmer until the water is reduced to ½ a cup
Eat with meals to relieve weakness after childbirth:
- 30 g red dates ( Jujube)
- 1 whole chicken,
- 4 fresh ginger slices
- 30 grams brown sugar
Boil in water until chicken is cooked
Recipes for increasing Milk supply
Eat once a day to increase milk secretion following childbirth:
- Boil until very soft 1 to 3 fresh figs (or 30 grams dry figs) with 2 red dates (Red Jujube from Chinese Grocer)
- 60 grams lean pork
Traditional Fish Soup Recipe
To increase your milk supply, have one serving of this soup daily for as long as it takes to increase your supply. Engage other methods too and remember, be kind to yourself and to your body.
- 2 leather jacket or 1 flathead (choose a bony fish as a lot of the nutrition is in the bones), cleaned and scaled
- 1 small paw paw
- 1 knob of ginger
- ½ kg shin beef
- Cut off the fish head. Slice into the fish 3–4 times on both sides (not all the way through), wash the fish and add some salt.
- Fry the fish on both sides until brown. Set aside
- Slice the beef into big chunks. Place it into a pot, cover with water and heat on high on the stove. When the water starts to boil, empty all the water. This is a traditional method of cleaning the meat.
- Peel the ginger and place into a large stock pot. Ginger is warming for the digestive system and also helps to take away the fish smell.
- Put beef into the soup stock pot with the ginger, cover with water, bring to the boil then immediately turn down to low. Cook on low for half an hour.
- Add the fried fish and bring to the boil. Add the chopped up paw paw, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
Easy Ideas for Building Qi:
- Oat porridge with dates
- Roast sweet potatoes,
- pumpkin and yams with rosemary
- Chicken stir fry with shiitake mushrooms and rice
- Shepherds pie with beef mince, mushrooms, carrots and mashed potato as a topping
- Peanut Satay sauce with chicken or meat on rice
- Potato and egg salad
- Tuna fish pie made with hard boiled eggs and served with mashed potatoes and peas
- Stir fired Tofu, eggplant and mushrooms with sesame seeds on rice
- Home made muesli slice with honey and dates
Easy ideas for to building Blood
- Rice porridges with Soya milk,
- apricots and almonds
- Dark leafy green salads with avocado and grated beetroot
- Warm chicken salad with artichoke and grapes
- Chicken mushroom casserole served with rice
- Scrambled Eggs with parsley
- Chicken, avocado and watercress sandwiches
- Mussel Chowder with calamari
- Kidney bean and mushroom lasagne with a spinach salad
- Any red meat dish. (Note the maximum recommended intake of meat in traditional Chinese medicine is 2 –4 oz per serving, 3 –7 times a week).
*Try Substituting meat for tofu, tempeh or faux meat as a vegetarians or vegan option
- Postnatal Recovery Compiled by Debra Betts author of “The essential guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth” © 2006 Website http://acupuncture.rhizome.net.nz
- Recipes for recovery post birth From “Chinese Foods for Longevity” by Henry C Lu
- Breastmilk-Making Fish Soup for Postnatal Care- by Rebecca Mar Young
- Why Is It Important to Take Sheng Hua Tang During Postpartum- Tian Wei Signature