Limiting personal hygiene and crying: What mums around the world do after birth.

Thanks to our brand partner, Life-Space

New mums experience many physical and emotional changes during the first six weeks after childbirth (known as the post-partum period) and well into the first year of motherhood.

Let’s take a look at how different societies support new mums. 


Many new mums in China participate in zuo yue, a tradition dating back to the Song dynasty (960-1279). Commonly known as ‘doing the month’, this four-week rest period is meant to honour the woman and acknowledge her new role as a mother, while also restoring the balance between yin and yang.

Traditionally, a woman’s physical activity and personal hygiene are curbed during this month. Her mother or mother-in-law takes care of the household and the baby, while the new mum remains in bed, keeping warm by wrapping up and sometimes avoiding bathing, washing her hair and cleaning her teeth. These traditions are still closely observed in rural China, though suburban women are more likely to walk around the house and attend to personal hygiene. Among Chinese women living in Australia, 19 per cent bathe in warm water and 94 per cent wash their hair.

Special diets are also still followed closely by most Chinese women. Chinese medicine considers yang foods to be hot in nature (not temperature) and therefore able to restore balance and strength. Favoured foods include eggs, poultry, noodles, rice and brown sugar. Meanwhile, most fresh fruits and vegetables are avoided as they’re considered ‘cold’ foods. Boiled pigs’ feet are believed to increase milk supply, though overall breastfeeding rates are low, with less than 80 per cent of new mums in China initiating breastfeeding.


Typically, women in Western nations tend to be up and about fairly soon after giving birth. This helps to regulate weight and facilitates mother-child bonding.

There’s a lot of autonomy around food choices and activity levels, but considerable variation in the support new mums receive, since it largely depends on personal circumstances. Your partner may be on paternity leave, your mum might come to stay, and your friends may drop off a casserole when they bring your baby a gift.

Aussie mums are encouraged to breastfeed, and a Save the Children report on breastfeeding in developed countries found that 96 per cent of Australian mums initiate breastfeeding, though only 39 per cent are exclusively breastfeeding three months later. This is very similar to Japan (97 per cent and 38 per cent). Fewer mums initiate breastfeeding in New Zealand (88 per cent), but more keep going, with 56 per cent exclusively breastfeeding at three months.

Other traditions around the world.

There’s a special celebration for new mums in Guyana nine days after birth, where guests bring gold bangles for the baby. Some mums burn their placenta during the celebration to symbolise the parting of mother and baby.

In some cultures, a new mother isn’t allowed to prepare food, have sex or enter other people’s homes for the first few weeks. Same goes for Laotian husbands, who aren’t allowed to visit their mates for five days after birth.

Hygiene customs mean Jordanian women wash their genitals thoroughly with soap and water after birth, while many Muslim women take a special purification bath (a ghusl) once they’ve stopped bleeding. In some Hindu families around the world, female relatives help wash a new mum’s breasts before the baby’s first feed.

New mums often follow special diets to restore harmony and balance after birth. Some Indian mums have a high-protein diet of ghee, milk, nuts and jaggery. Elsewhere, tonics to increase milk production include a brown seaweed beef broth (Korea) and semolina with ginger, cumin and turmeric (Nepal).


Just as in China, some cultures dedicate several weeks to ‘mothering the mother’ in order to aid her recovery and protect her future health and caring capacity. In Japan, a new mother is treated to ansei, a month (or longer) of rest and pampering at her parents’ house. Some Hispanic women have a similar tradition known as La Cuarentena, a 40-day period of rest and recovery. Some Thai women also have a 30-day rest period known as yu duan, though mums of baby girls get a longer rest period – it’s believed that women work harder than men throughout life so deserve longer with their mums at the beginning. 

If all that rest sounds heavenly, remember it comes with certain restrictions. Some Guatemalan mums, for instance, have a confinement period of nine whole months! Vietnamese mums aren’t allowed to cry, read or watch TV as it may hurt their eyes. Cambodian women are supposed to stay calm, avoiding strong emotions or too much thinking. And the list of things to be avoided by new mums in Fiji includes sitting up, combing hair or basking in the sunshine.

It’s worth remembering that not all mothers choose to adopt these traditions and many simply lead their own lives in their own special way.

Taking a probiotic certainly isn’t a tradition for new mothers in Australia, but they’re slowly being recognised for their potential to support a healthy microbiome. Life-Space Breastfeeding Probiotic, for instance, helps support general health and wellbeing. Among its 10 probiotic strains are two that are naturally found in breastmilk, Bifidobacteria breve and Lactobacillus fermentum, as well as iodine to support a baby’s healthy brain development while breastfeeding. It also contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, which may help to reduce the risk of eczema in children with a family history, when taken during pregnancy, breastfeeding and in the first two years of life.

Image supplied.

Whether or not you embrace any cultural traditions is completely your decision. Whichever culture you’re from, we hope you have the support you need in these topsy-turvy weeks of new motherhood as you get to know your precious new baby. Enjoy this incredible moment in your life! 

This content was brought to you with thanks by our brand partner, Life-Space.

Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Vitamin and mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.


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