This month we explore Vietnam's postpartum traditions. Through the adoption of one's own postpartum traditions or acknowledging the wisdom and practices of different cultures, we can provide ourselves with support, grace and tenderness as we transition into motherhood.
Some examples of practices and rituals found as part of Vietnamese culture:
- Postpartum Period
- Lie by the fire 'nam than'
- Herbal Steam Bath
The postpartum period can last from 30 -100 days; where the mother is expected to follow traditional Vietnamese practices that will support their healing post birth. Traditional Vietnamese postpartum rituals are similar to Chinese practices as there is a need for a balance between hot and cold forces, am and duong; the Vietnamese equivalent to the Chinese yin and yang. It is believed that women are in a duong (cold) state after giving birth because the mother has lost a substantial amount of blood and warmth during the delivery of the baby. Therefore, the mother is expected to restore herself through the practice of cultural postpartum rituals.
Similar to Traditional Chinese postpartum meals, Vietnamese women are encouraged to consume warm foods; such as meats and foods rich in protein to restore the mothers body. Warm foods are considered to improve blood circulation. Although Vietnamese women are discouraged from eating cold foods like fruits and vegetables, mothers are able to eat a few boiled vegetables such as rau ngot (katuk) . The water used to boil rau ngot, is consumed as it helps cleanse the body after childbirth.
Some Vietnamese women avoid eating chicken and seafood, as they believe that they will develop a food allergy later on. A common dish between Chinese and Vietnamese cultures is pig trotter bone porridge. This is commonly eaten with papaya, red bean and potato with a bowl of rice. The pig trotter bone porridge is believed to stimulate lactation.
LIE BY THE FIRE 'NAM THAN'
This traditional concept is also known as 'roasting the mother'. Previously, Vietnamese women would keep a small clay stove underneath their bed. As it slowly burned away, it was believed that the mother's body would heal and restore after childbirth. The small flame will provide nhiet (heat). Mothers or mother in laws would warm up their hands in the fire and massage the new mother's abdomen to promote healing and blood circulation.
Similar to Traditional Chinese postpartum practices, Vietnamese women refrain from taking cold showers and baths. Vietnamese women will use a damp cloth or towel to clean their body for the first week of their postpartum period. One month after birth, Vietnamese women are permitted to take a bath with cooled boiled water. If the mother washed their hair, they'd then dry it thoroughly with a hair drier.
HERBAL STEAM BATH
To disperse of the body's unwanted oils, mothers would boil a pot of water with herbal leaves. The woman would cover their body and the boiled pot with a blanket or sheet. When they feel sweaty, they're advised to dry their skin with a towel.
If the mother doesn't follow these postpartum practices, the woman is susceptible to 'cold' disease (phong thap) or wind illness (phong han) such as swelling, arthritis and rheumatism.
See our Instagram post here.