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Oh, Mother

Are these parents quirky or crazy? You decide!
Nov 28, 2011
07:43 AM

See Ya in a Month, Baby: Postpartum Confinement Trend in East Asia

Immediately after giving birth, some wealthy Asian moms hit the spa, relax – and stay separated from – their newborn babies for several weeks

See Ya in a Month, Baby: Postpartum Confinement Trend in East Asia

Distance makes the heart fond, they say. But is a month-long break from your baby – right after she's born – going a bit too far?

Not according to some Chinese moms with means. They've joined the growing trend of postpartum confinement, according to a Time magazine report, spending a full month recuperating in cushy rooms that fetch as much as $330 a night. Meanwhile, baby's doted-on in a nearby nursing station – which mom can watch at all times on a snazzy flatscreen TV.

Think of it as a flip-flop of roles. Then: Baby screams, and mom staggers out of bed, groggy-eyed, in the middle of the night to respond. Now: Mom drops in on baby at her leisure, perhaps to breastfeed; then, she might stroll a few steps to the spa or salon, drop-in on an infant-care class – or simply Rip Van Winkle it, hardcore.

Sounds like a new mommy dream come true. At least that's how it's being sold in East Asia (count in Hong Kong and Taiwan, too). And bought by a certain group of moms, apparently: At Baby Moon, the hot new Taiwanese "confinement center" profiled by Time, the place is booked solid for six months.

For some, though – particularly groups that emphasize post-partum mother-child bonding – the concept doesn't go down quite as smooth. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for one, urges breastfeeding within an hour of delivery, noting that continued breastfeeding facilitates bonding. And skin-to-skin contact is key in Kangaroo Mother Care, a popular approach especially for pre-term babies.

Yet confinement has deep roots, too – dating back to the 1st century C.E., according to the Time article, and called zuo yuezi in Mandarin (which translates to "sitting the month"). Traditionally, during those 30-some days, moms are banned from a variety of activities, from exercising and showering to sitting in the A.C. – even crying. And, by custom, the mother-in-law typically stepped in as prime caretaker.

Hmm. That starts to paint a different picture, eh? Chloe Chen, a new mom at Baby Moon, put it plainly: "I think I would go crazy." The fashion designer added, "Here, there's no guilt on you to do anything. There's no family involved, so there's a certain detachment we can have."

On the flip side, sometimes family just lives too far away to help. And, as Time noted, "By and large, the women in the market for such accommodation don't want to burden, or be burdened by, well-meaning relatives."

And, for those who opt for the home front, there's the burgeoning stay-at-home industry, too. One Hanna Cheung said this of her doula: "She's like a mom who doesn't nag you," she told Time. "She just flowed, like Mary Poppins, from one room to the next." A month of round-the-clock services? You're looking up from the $4,000 mark, Time noted.

It's a status symbol, to be sure. But there's little doubt of the appeal. Like a mom who goes by Bellaluna30 chimed in on the Time article:

"As a mother who has carried, birthed and nursed three children, I would have given my eye teeth to shower, wash my hair and brush my teeth uninterrupted!"

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