Yesterday we looked at postpartum recovery beliefs and practices from cultures around the world. I mentioned that Julia’s mom was very encouraging (okay, more like adamant!) that she look into a special Chinese food delivery service designed just for her postpartum recovery. Julia’s mom really wanted her to follow the Chinese postpartum recovery traditions.
The Chinese postpartum recovery tradition is called zuo yue zhi literally called the “sitting month” in Chinese. Mommy Expert Josephine did this after the birth of Alexis, and this is what she said:
“I was basically confined to bed as the postpartum nurse took care of the baby and cooked meals for me. As part of the ritual you are supposed to rest and let your body recover. Standing, walking, holding the baby (unless for breastfeeding), being exposed to the cold, and to cold foods were forbidden. Some strict rules include no showering as that will expose you to cold. Luckily modern day rules allow you to shower now.”
Because rest is so important in the Chinese belief during the postpartum month for new mothers, it’s common for female relatives of the new mother to stay and care for her and prepare her meals according to the Chinese traditions. Alternatively, hired, live-in help can also be brought in to care for the new mother and handle household activities – just as Mother Expert Joesphine did.
Since Julia’s mom was planning to fly in from Taiwan right before the birth, it wasn’t necessary to hire anyone. Julia’s mom just suggested she just look into Chinese services that delivered the traditional postpartum meals. Because of this, we were pleasantly surprised when we found Liu Mama, and today we’ll feature a Daddy Spotlight with Allan Liu of Liu Mama in our postpartum recovery series.
From the get-go, I was deeply entrenched with research on postpartum recovery beliefs and practices in non-Western cultures, and I was more intrigued and appreciative that such a service like Liu Mama existed after looking into it more.
I believe that modern moms today not only want what’s best for their babies but want to take care of themselves. So for women who want to focus on nourishing themselves back to health after giving birth, it’s beneficial to share the various options like Liu Mama that are available. I know if it were me, I wouldn’t know how to find such resources or know to look for them, so that’s why I’m excited to talk more about it here on Tyckled Tales.
Can you share the story behind Liu Mama?
Liu Mama cooks traditional Chinese postpartum meals for new moms. We deliver these daily meals to the home or the hospital room, wherever our clients want it. Liu Mama offers a broad postpartum menu with over 70 delicious dishes, professionally designed and herbalist validated, to revitalize the body and provide it the nutrients needed for a speedy recovery. We use fresh and quality ingredients and slow cooking methods to provide the most delicious, nutritious, and fragrant dishes. We often say our food is meant for the modern woman, with a blend of traditional recipes and diet restrictions and modern day nutrient guides and healthy cooking. We use herbs, but the food does not taste like medicine. Our food is low on salt, low fat, and full of flavor.
Why is there such a need for these types of food?
Chinese traditions believe that giving birth drains the body of energy and vitality. We believe that the body needs to be replenished with nutrients. And in the old days, the only way to get the nutrients that one needs was through food; therefore, the postpartum meals are critical.
Our service is needed because in today’s “drive-by” hospital delivery culture, busy lifestyle (think about the scheduled c-sections we have babies by appointment now), and the lack of extended family support, the postpartum woman is really left to fend for herself.
A new mother will do the best she can to balance her baby’s need with the proper care of her body, but it’s hard. Because of that, usually the mother’s body gets the shorter end of the stick.
Liu Mama’s service and others like ours provide the opportunity for the postpartum woman to focus on her baby AND on her body. It’s almost like having the mom or mother-in-law help out, but without the headaches associated with it 😉 And truthfully, most moms have their own lives and cannot always take the time away to help their daughters as much as they would like.
Our brochure on our website has a bit more detail of how Liu Mama got started. We see ourselves as the extended family and we really do run our business to minimize worries for the new mom, from our full guarantee to our kitchen’s accommodation of specific requests.
What are the traditional Chinese beliefs behind these types of meals and their benefits?
First, I should explain how the meal set up is. The Chinese believe in splitting the recovery process essentially across the entire month, so our meals are designed for a four week period to support this.
We provide breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Breakfast includes 1 Congee, 1 Drink
- Lunch includes 1 Soup, 1 Vegetable, 1 Meat, 1 Rice, 1 Dessert
- Dinner includes 1 Soup, 1 Vegetable, 1 Meat, 1 Rice, 1 Dessert
Taken with a more scientific view rather than traditional beliefs, I would say that these meals are high in iron, calcium, protein, vitamins, and also anti-oxidants. These are all meant to promote blood circulation (speedy recovery) and replenish nutrients that are being diverted to breast milk, particularly the calcium. The foods are also supposed to be low in sodium (to reduce fluid retention). But they weren’t supposed to be low in fat or low in cholesterol like today’s new parents prefer. This is where Liu Mama has modified the cooking methods to produce food that is more in line with our modern lifestyle and healthier by our standards.
It is also believed that the food in the first week should be lighter and has more vegetable so that the woman’s stomach can adjust after giving birth (just like today’s medical standard of not eating things after surgery). And the first week, for example, the meals have ingredients that are low in iron to avoid causing additional bleeding while the body heals.
The Chinese believe that these foods in general help with breastfeeding – all to provide more nutrients and more liquids to help the body produce more milk. For women who are having trouble producing enough milk, we do have some special dishes that are supposed to help with that. For example, these dishes include the below – all of which have key ingredients such as peanuts, ginger, herbal tea, red bean, and pork.
1) Papaya Spare Rib Soup: “Papaya is the “fruit of angels,” a storehouse of vitamins. It outshines citrus fruits in terms of vitamin C content. The enzyme it contains, papain, converts the proteins you eat into amino acids, thus aiding digestion and helping to avoid bloating of the stomach. We take care when peeling the papaya skin because papain is found very close to the skin and could be lost if peeled too deep. As the meat of the spare ribs absorbs the heavenly flavor of the papaya, every bite will be juicy and tender, delicious and nutritious.” (Liu Mama Website)
2) Motherwort with Ginger Sweet Tea: “Because Motherwort reduces fever, this tea is particularly good for women who experience postpartum fever or inflammation. Motherwort tea stimulates the uterus to contract after delivery, helping to prevent infection and ease uterine cramping. It also reduces postpartum depression. Drink it one to two times a day in the weeks following birth. Let it ease your tension and support you through new motherhood. Although the traditional Motherwort tea has a very bitter taste, ours won’t!” (Liu Mama Website)
3) Ginger and Red Bean Dessert: “Surprisingly, red beans are one of the best antioxidant sources around. In addition to soluble fiber and non-meat protein, they are rich in magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc; and are a popular ingredient for mouth-watering desserts in Asian cuisine. Sweet and satisfying, this dessert is better for you than a grand marnier soufflé.” (Liu Mama Website)
A lot of moms who breastfeed say that they become extremely dehydrated and crave sugars. Does any of this help with that?
Yes. We actually have a lot of liquids in our meals, providing the body with over 64 ounces of liquids per day. In terms of sugar, we personally tend to be low in sugar in our foods and desserts because a lot of woman have diabetes during pregnancy and we want to be conscious of that.
What are some of your most popular meal items?
Our soups by far steal the show for us. All our soups get rave comments from our customers. And this is by far the dish that takes the most time to prepare. Our popular dishes include our stew herbal chicken with sticky rice (a breakfast), sesame oil chicken (popular among Taiwanese), ginger and vinegar pig feet (popular among Cantonese), and any number of our fresh steam fishes.
Who makes the food?
Liu Mama still cooks some of the food, but most dishes are now cooked by a chef that was trained by Liu Mama. Liu Mama continues to supervise, but it’s gotten way too busy for her to handle all the cooking by herself. We also have a few helpers in the kitchen.
If people don’t use a service such as Liu Mama, what other options are there? And why go with Liu Mama?
We get this question often. You can go to another service like Liu Mama. You can hire a personal chef (Liu Mama started out as a personal chef some 20 years ago for postpartum women). Or you can have a family member cook for you.
We believe our customers choose us because:
1) We have the freshest food, cooked hours before it arrives at your doorstep and never refrigerated.
2) We offer the most flavorful and healthiest food.
3) We offer the best convenience.
And we often get asked how is this more ideal than hiring a personal chef, and I always say that this is a question about trust, comfort, and privacy.
The biggest complaint we’ve heard over the years is about privacy. Our clients are very happy with their lifestyle and independence. Inviting a stranger to be in the house for extended periods of time (~5-6hr/day to prepare all 3 meals) creates an uncomfortable and uneasy environment. Our clients can’t be themselves at home anymore. They feel like they are being watched and judged, which can be a nightmare for a new mother. As as result, new mothers have to be conscious of what they say, what they do, and even how they dress and look. Even though this personal chef is the employee, our clients nevertheless feel that she is a guest (generally older than them) and must be treated with respect. It is simply not a comfortable and relaxing environment as it should be when you come home with your newborn, especially during a time when you need the most privacy and are the least inclined to be “proper” around guests.
Quality of Food
The second biggest complaint is the quality of the food. Depending on how you found and hired this personal chef, the quality and “goodness” of the food can be questionable. Most of the personal chefs out there are the grandma types. They are loving, but have no special training or special knowledge. They are doing what their mothers and friends passed onto them.
Variety of Food Also the variety of food you will get from a personal chef is another factor for menu. It is very likely that you will eat the same thing for a few days at a time. You are the only person eating this special postpartum food, so it is not economical or efficient to cook personal portions of each dish for each meal. Having a food delivery service offers the convenience of a personal chef but none of the hassle of a personal chef. Liu Mama, for example, also offers over 70 professionally designed, and herbalist validated, dishes to keep your taste buds satisfied while you go through postpartum recovery.
We always say, postpartum should not be about bland, boring, tasteless, and oily Chinese food. You should enjoy the food you eat and also get the nutrients you need for a healthy and speedy recovery.
Tell us about your daughter and what it was like for you during the early days of being a parent.
My daughter is five years old now. The best times I had then was taking photos of her at 3 a.m. during the first month. And I would go crazy with it too, setting up studio lights and such because I am a photography nut. I took a month off when she was born, and it was just awesome not to have the pressure of going to work or getting mad at the baby for waking me up in the middle of the night. Sleep is good!
My best advice is for new parents, particularly dads, is to take as much time as you can off. Just enjoy the baby and give your attention to the new mother. Her speedy recovery and ability to regain strength not only benefits the baby and herself, but also you as a new dad… therefore, the family as a whole.
I was completely devoted to enjoying every moment with the baby, regardless if it was 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. Just recalling those early days puts a smile on my face. Essentially, all parents should enjoy their time. I used to complain about diapers and bottles. But trust me, it’s easier than worrying about what to eat when the kid is between solid foods and the bottle. And it’s WAY easier than hearing a voice from the back of the car of “I need to potty” and you are in the middle of nowhere on CA Highway 5! True story!
[all photos courtesy of Liu Mama]