Lockdown – An American Girl’s Guide to Chinese Postpartum Recovery by Guang Ming Whitley


Read this book if: you wanted to read about other traditions in 40 days after birth, specifically Zuo Yuezi, a Chinese tradition.


If you like the summary, support the author by purchasing it here.

Chapter 1 – Overview & Introduction

For over 2000 years, Chinese women have followed a tradition of postpartum recovery known as zuo yuezi or “sitting of the month.” The primary rule is confinement to the home for 30 days after giving birth, involving a special diet, simple exercises and a few lifestyle changes with the goal of encouraging the health of a new mother and baby.


Chapter 2 – Lockdown Lifestyle Commandments

  • Thou shall not leave the house.
  • Encourages rest and keeps newborn from being exposed to germs during the vulnerable first month.
  • Thou shall not have any visitors.
  • Visitors are those you are busy entertaining; good helpers allowed.
  • Thou shall not strain thy eyes with television, Internet, or books.
  • Thou shall not communicate via telephone.
  • Thou shall not be cold at any time (in the old days, this meant no bathing).
  • Being cold associated with catching a cold.
  • Thou shall leave thy bed or couch only to care for thy infant or take care of th bodily needs.
  • Thou shall not have sex (most doctors have a 6 week rule anyway).
  • Thou shall perform the exercises listed in Chapter 4
  • Thou shall wear a cotton wrap around thy belly.
  • According to Chinese tradition, a cotton wrap keeps your organs from dropping permanently to new locations (causing a stomach pooch that will remain regardless of how much weight you lose or how many crunches you do).
  • Supposed to wear for 6 weeks; can wear for shorter or longer depending on how your body responds.
  • Many post partum wraps on market, but all have stretch, which will allow organ pooling. Instead, use a strip of cotton 12 inches wide and 10 yards long. Can also buy 10 yards of fabric and cut into strips (can make 4 wraps that way); will fray without hemming. Put on after you shower in morning and take off to go to bed. Each pregnancy resets the replacement of your organs; previous pregnancies can be remedied.


Chapter 3 – Lockdown Diet Commandments

  • Thou shall not consume salt.
  • Sodium causes water retention.
  • No processed foods, fast food or take out.
  • Thou shall not consume chocolate.
  • Causes gas in immature digestion system of a breastfeeding newborn.
  • Thou shall not consume any cold food or beverage.
  • Goes hand in hand with commandment against being cold.
  • According to Chinese tradition, consuming anything cold will slow down process of flushing excess fluids and toxins from body.
  • No yogurt, soda, iced beverages or frozen treats.
  • Room temp allowed; hot are ideal.
  • Thou shall not consume caffeine.
  • Will go to breastfeeding infant.
  • Causes nervousness, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, insomnia and irritability.
  • Thou shall consume lots of liquids but not imbibe plain water.
  • Historical rationale was lack of clean water supply.
  • Might as well drink liquids with nutrients.
  • Thou shall abide by the strictures of the food list in Chapter 5.
  • According to Chinese tradition, certain foods are “hot” while others are “cold.” It has nothing to do with temperature, but the properties of a particular food. Cold foods slow down the healing process while hot foods speed it up. No “cold” foods allowed.


Chapter 4 – Exercises (book has illustrations)

Many can be done while laying in bed and are easy to do; do on an empty stomach. Do slowly and breath deeply in nostril and out mouth.

Lying on back:

Day 1: Tummy Massage Down – Palms on stomach, fingers pointing towards toes. Rub downward. Repeat 10x, 2x per day. Encourages flow of fluids and bowel movements. Tummy Massage Sideways – Rub belly in clockwise motion around bellybutton. Repeat 10x, 2x per day.

Day 2: Add Deep Breathing for Tummy –Breath in 10 sec; hold for 2; exhale for 10, sucking bellybutton towards spine. 10x, 2x per day.

Day 3: Add Improve No Saggy Breast – Arms perpendicular, raise to meet at center. Clasp palms together; hold 1 sec. 5x, 2x per day first week; addtl 5 reps until 20x.

Day 4: Add Slim Neck and Shoulders –Raise head, Chin to chest on count of three, then lower on count of three5x, 2x per day first week; addtl 5 reps until 20x.

Day 5: Add Flatten Tummy: Lift one leg at a time to 90 degree angle on slow count of five, lower on count of 5. 5x, 2x per day first week; addtl 5 reps until 20x.

Day 8: Add Get Rid of Big Fat Butt –Bend on knee in at a time, upward to chest (try to touch heel to butt). Return leg. 5x, 2x per day first week; addtl 5 reps until 20x.

Day 9: Add Tiny Waist: Arms perpendicular palms up. Knees up and to left while turn head to right. Switch sides. 5x, 2x per day first week; addtl 5 reps until 20x.

After stopped bleeding, Add Tighten Vagina Muscle: Add after you have stopped bleeding: Lie on back with arm at sides. Bring knees up and place feet flat on bed. Raise butt all the way off bed on a 5 second count, then lower on 5 second count. First week repeat 5x, 2x per day. Each week add an additional 5 repetitions until you reach 20x, 2x a day.



Exercises (Mostly) Sitting or Standing: A bit more strenuous and shouldn’t be started until Day 15. Add them to your routine; entire process will take ~25 minutes and should be done 2x a day if possible.

Slim Neck Trio:

1) Gently pat right side of neck 50x with left hand and left side 50x with right hand.

2) Standing, hold arms straight above head, palms together. Tighten your bottom. Breathe slowly and deeply 3-5x, then hold your breath while you lean backward. Hold this position and breathe slowly and deeply 3-5x. Repeat 5x.

3) Put arms straight out, parallel to the ground so your body forms a T. Lift both palms as though you are pushing outward. Tilt your head to the right, back and left, breathing slowly and deeply 3-5x in each position. Repeat 5x.

No Floppy Arm Skin Trio:

  • Sit with legs crossed. Pointing your elbow to the ceiling, put your left palm flat on your back (if you can). Use your right hand to hold your left elbow, applying gentle pressure while pulling to the right. Breathe 3-5x while holding this position. Switch arms. Repeat 5x.
  • Sit with legs crossed. Raise your arms above your head and interlace your fingers, turning palms upwards to face the ceiling. Breathe 3-5x holding the position. Bring your arms back down and rest your hands on your knees. Breathe 3-5x holding the position. Repeat 10x.
  • Kneel and rest your butt on your ankles. Put your left elbow in the crook of your right elbow and do your best to hold your palms together (may not be physically possible for some). Hold your breath and gently lean back. Breathe 3-5x holding this position. Switch arms. Repeat 5x.

Skinny Waist Trio

  • Standing up, clasp your hands above your head and turn your palms upwards to face the ceiling. Swing your hips to the left and right, breathing in and out with each move. Repeat 20x. (Can sing “Shake shake shake…your booty)
  • Standing up, clasp your hands above your head and turn your palms upwards to face the ceiling. Look up at your hands. Lean your upper body to the right. Breathe 3-5x holding this position. Then repeat on the left side. Repeat 10x.
  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width with both arms out to your sides, palms down. Bend over and touch your right foot with your left hand. Hold this position for 5 sec while trying to look at the ceiling. Repeat on the other side. Repeat 10x.

Flat Tummy Duo

  • Kneel down with your hands on your waist. Use a yoga mat or perform the exercise on carpet to protect your knees. Breathe in deeply. Holding your breath, lean your head back. Breath out leaning as far back as you can. Repeat 5x.
  • Lie on your stomach. Reach back and grab both ankles. Breathe in and tighten your butt as you raise your chest off the ground. Breath 3-5x while holding this position.   Repeat 3x.

Improve No Saggy Breast Trio

  • Kneel and rest your butt on your ankles. Put your palms together like you are praying. Pressing your palms together, keep your back straight and breathe 3-5x. Repeat 10x
  • Kneel and rest your butt on your ankles. Reach back and rest your hands on your feet. Push your shoulders back and tilt your head back. Breathe 3-5x holding this position. Repeat 10x.
  • Sit with your legs crossed. Reach both hands behind your back and try to put your palms together like you are praying, fingers pointed toward the ceiling. (May be physically impossible but get as close as you can). Breathe in and out 3-5x. Repeat 5x.

Shapely Calves Trio

  • Standing up, put both hands on the back of a chair for support. Step back with your right leg and bend your left leg (knee should not pass your toes). Breathe 3-5x while holding this position. Switch legs. Repeat 5x for each leg.
  • Sit in butterfly position (bottoms of feet together). Holding feet, lock fingers together and lift feet off ground while straightening your knees as much as you can. Breathe 3-5x while sucking in tummy (requires balance). Repeat 5x
  • Sit with legs straight out in front of you. Raise arms above head while breathing in. While breathing out, lean forward and reach past your toes with your hands. Breathe 3-5x while holding this position. Repeat 10x.

Get Rid of Big Fat Butt Trio

  • Lie flat on your back and bring your knees up with your feet flat on the ground. Grab both ankles. Lift your pelvis off the ground. Breathe 3-5x holding this position. Repeat 10x
  • Lie on tummy with both hands stretched out above your head. Breathe in. Raise both arms and feet off the ground as you breathe out. Breathe 3-5x holding this position. Repeat 5x.
  • Sit with legs crossed, right over left. Place your hands on the ground on either side of your body. Bend over and try to touch the floor with your head. Breathe 3-5x holding this position. Switch which leg is on top and repeat. Repeat 5x.


No Thunder Thighs Duo

  • Stand up straight, both arms reaching straight above your head, palms together. Breathe in and slowly bend at the waist as far down as you can go while breathing out. Breathe 305x while holding this position. Repeat 10x.
  • Stand up straight, both arms reaching straight above your head, palms together. Step back with your right foot. Breathe in. As you breathe out, bend at the waist to 90 degrees. Lift your right leg off the floor and look straight ahead. Breathe 3-5x holding this position. Switch legs. Repeat 5x (requires balance, don’t feel you have to do a beautiful arabesque; a little lift off the floor is fine)


Chapter 5 – Food List and Recipes

Certain items essential: Rice cooker, crock pot, electric kettle, single meal storage containers. Large freezer a bonus because you can start cooking before birth. Kettle great for tea. Rice and slow cookers make 4-5 portions. Eat 6x a day during lockdown so multiple portions is a must.


Chinese mothers do not use recipes. Adjust as you see fit. Use oatmeal (promotes breast milk production) instead of adzuki (red) bean soup (breakfast porridge said to reduce swelling). Use bone in pork chop instead of pig foot soup (melted gelatin supposed to regenerate joints).


Local Asian market will have the various beans, grains, powders, rice and dried fruit. If no Asian markets in your area, search online or use substitutions. It is possible to follow the diet without one of the following recipes.


During first 2 weeks: eat offal: liver, kidney and heart. Incredibly high in vitamins and essential minerals. Baby took nutrients form your bones; this gives you concentrated nutrient replacement. Pork is best, followed by chicken and beef. If offal sounds awful, use tofu, fish and eggs for protein.


Chinese herbs is final component. Some are boiled for 8 hours in a crock pot reduced to a terribly bitter concoction that is chugged from a shot glass 3x a day for 3 days. Others added to soups and teas. These do not have English names. While these are helpful, lockdown can be done without them. If you want to incorporate, use help of Chinese-speaking friend and visit local Chinese herbalist (Chinese supermarkets with large Chinese population) – just ask for “zuo yuezi” herbs.


Food List

Hot (good)

  • Grains/Starches: adzuki (red) beans, barley, black beans, kidney beans, rice, soybeans, sweet potatoes, yams, wheat
  • Proteins: Week 1: liver and heart, pork foot, fish, tofu, eggs; Week 2: add kidney, oxtail; Week 3-4: add chicken, pork, beef, melted cheese, eel, shrimp
  • Vegetables: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, red bell peppers, red onion, taro root
  • Fruit/Nuts: almonds, cashews, lotus seeds, raw peanuts (boiled until soft), cherries, figs, goji berries, lychee, longan, loquats, papaya, peaches, pumpkin, red apples, red grapes, raisins
  • Beverages: coffee (decaf), black tea (decaf), chrysanthemum tea, herbal teas, red date tea, goji berry tea

Cold (Bad)

  • Grains/Starches: mung beans
  • Proteins: raw fish, shellfish, yogurt, cold cheese
  • Vegetables: bean sprouts, bamboo, cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, green bell peppers, tomato, lettuce
  • Fruits/Nuts: banana, green apples, green grapes, kiwi, lemon, orange, pear, pineapple, persimmon, pomegranate, any kind of melon, citrus fruits generally
  • Beverages: caffeinated coffee or teas, green tea


Sample Menu

Chinese Menu

Breakfast: 1 bowl longan egg soup

Snack 1: 1 bowl adzuki (red) bean purple/black sweet rice soup

Lunch 1: bowl black bean and pork foot soup

Snack 2: Red apple slices with almond butter

Dinner: Pearl barley stir fry with liver

Snack 3: 1 bowl yam ginger soup

Beverage: Red Date Tea


American Girl Menu

Breakfast: 1 bowl oatmeal with dark brown sugar, cinnamon and milk; 1 scarmbled egg

Snack 1: 2 oatmeal cookies with raisins

Lunch: 1 bowl chicken noodle soup with carrots and celery (made with water, not stock, to eliminate salt)

Snack 2: 1 peach

Dinner: 1 grilled chicken breast seasoned with red onion, peas, and mashed potatoes

Snack 3: 1 slice warm pumpkin pie

Beverage: Decaf English breakfast tea



Black Bean and Pork Foot Soup: good source of protein and gelatin, helps produce milk, strengthen bones and repair blood

8 oz dried black beans, rinsed and sorted

1 pork foot (or 1 bone in pork chop)

rice wine or sake (can eliminate)

6 cups water

Black Beans: should be prepared 4-6 weeks in advance. Or soak beans in water overnight, drain and add ½ cup rice wine to the soup.

  • Toast dried beans in pan on medium heat. Stir until hot and dry but not burned
  • Place beans in glass jar and cover with rice wine when college. Put on lid.
  • Store in dark place for 4-6 weeks.

Pork Foot

  • Drop in pot of boiling water
  • Stir to clean foot for approx. 2 minutes, then discard water
  • Add drained prepared beans (or unprepared beans and ½ cup rice wine) to pot
  • Add 6 c water
  • Heat on medium until boiling and then simmer for at least 1 hour. Can be done in a crock pot
  • Do not eat the foot, just the beans, soup, and any meat that comes off the foot


Pork Foot Peanut Soup: increases breast milk production and assists joint recovery

½ cup raw peanuts

1 pork foot or bone in pork chop

15 red dates or dried figs

5 cups water

1 handful sliced dried shiitake mushrooms

  • Soak peanuts in water overnight, then drain
  • Soften mushrooms in water at least 1 hour
  • Put pork foot in boiling water
  • Stir to clean foot for approx. 2 minutes then discard water
  • Put all ingredients in rice cooker and turn it on


Oxtail Soup: replenishes nutrients, helps flush toxins

1 oxtail (or beef short ribs, bone in)

1 green papaya (or cubed potatoes)

6 dried black dates (or sliced carrots)

10 dried goji berries (or peas)

2 cups rice wine (or eliminate)

2 cups water

½ cup white lotus seeds

  • Peel, seed and cube papaya
  • Boil and rinse oxtail bone in water for 2 minutes and drain
  • Place all ingredients except goji berries in crock pot on high until boiling then reduce to low for 8 hours
  • Add goji berries in final hour of cooking


Fish Soy Bean Soup: promotes nutritious breast milk

½ cup soybeans (or black or kidney beans)

¼ green papaya ( or cubed potatoes)

5 slices ginger

1 fish head (or fish filet)

3 slices dried orange peel

½ cup rice wine (or eliminate)

6 cups water

  • Soak soybeans in water overnight
  • Peel, seed and cube papaya
  • Shred ginger
  • Put all ingredients except fish and ginger into pot
  • Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes
  • Add fish and ginger and simmer additional 10 minutes


Ginger Bass: repairs blood and helps heal stitches from episiotomy or C-section

1 bass filet

5 slices fresh ginger

1 tablespoon sesame oil

rice wine

  • Brown 5 slices ginger in sesame oil, then remove ginger
  • Add bass and splash of rice wine and cook over medium heat until fish is white and flaky
  • Add ginger back to pot after bass is finished cooking. Serve with rice


Ginger Liver: helps flush uterine blood (should be eaten every day the first week after birth)

8 oz frozen liver

sweet potato powder or cornstarch

5 slices fresh ginger

1 tbsp sesame oil

rice wine or sake

  • Rinse liver in water and thinly slice while almost frozen
  • Coat liver in sweet potato powder or cornstarch
  • Brown 5 slices fresh ginger in sesame oil
  • Add liver and cook on high heat until done.
  • Add splash of rice wine and stir until evaporated


Pearl Barley Stir Fry: lose water weight, flushes and strengthens your digestive system

1 cup pearl barley

1 handful sliced dried shiitake mushrooms

½ cup peas

½ cup red bell pepper slices

1 tbsp sesame oil

  • Wash and soak pearl barley in water overnight
  • Soften mushrooms in water for at least 1 hour
  • Dice softened mushrooms
  • Cook barley in rice cooker with water filled to the 1 line market
  • Heat sesame oil in wok or pan
  • Stir fry bell pepper, mushrooms and peas for 3 minutes
  • Add cooked barley and stir until mixed and heated through

Variation: Cook slices of liver or other meat in sesame oil first, then remove. Cook remaining ingredients as instructed and add meat back in.

Time Saver: Cook entire package of barley, filling rice cooker to the approximate number (w 3 cups barley, fill to 3 line marker)


Adzuki (Red) Bean and Purple/Black Sweet Rice Soup: reduces swelling; softens and regulates bowel movements

1 cup adzuki (red) beans (or white rice, brown rice or oatmeal)

1 cup purple/black sweet rice (or white rice, brown rice or oatmeal)

5 slices fresh ginger (or cinnamon stick)

dark brown sugar

  • Wash beans and rice, then soak in crock pot with 3 cups of water overnight
  • Cook in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours and high for 4-6 hours until beans are soft
  • After beans are soft, add 5 slices fresh ginger and dark brown sugar to taste


Adzuki (Red) Bean Rice Dumpling Soup: reduces swelling

½ cup cooked adzuki (red) beans

1 cup water

20 rice dumplings

3 slices fresh ginger

dark brown sugar

Rice Dumplings:

  • Put 1 lb sweet rice flour into a bowl
  • Add 1 cup water and stir until incorporated
  • Adding water 1 tbsp at a time, continue stirring until your reach a play dough consistency
  • Pull off a chunk of dough and roll into a “worm” in your hand, approx. ¾ inch in diameter. Pinching off ¾ inch of dough at a time, roll into a ball and put on a cookie sheet
  • After making all the dumplings, put the cookie sheet into the freezer for 30 min. Put frozen dumplings into a freezer bag and use as needed.

Adzuki (Red) Beans:

  • Soak 1 lb adzuki (red) beans in water overnight
  • Put soaked beans in crock pot and cover with water
  • Cook on low 6-8 hrs or on high 4-6 hours until beans are soft
  • Cool beans and store in plastic containers until needed
  • The liquid from the beans should be saved and served hot in a mug with dark brown sugar and slices of ginger


  • Boil 1 cup water
  • Drop desired number of frozen dumplings into the water and continue to boil until dumplings float to top
  • Add adzuki beans and ginger and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add dark brown sugar to taste


Yam Ginger Soup: helps immune system, provides fiber to prevent constipation

2 cups yam, sliced into chunks

3 slices raw ginger, smashed

2 tbsp rice wine

3.5 cups water

  • Put all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil
  • Boil until yams are soft
  • Add dark brown sugar to taste
  • Yams may also be steamed, boiled or baked first, which makes them easier to peel and cube


Longan Egg Soup: repairs blood, gives strength

1.5 cups water

12 dried longan (or 5 dried figs, quartered)

1-2 eggs

  • Bring water to boil over medium heat
  • Add dried longan and boil for 2 min
  • Add 1 or 2 eggs and gently stir
  • Boil an additional 2-3 minutes until eggs are done


White Sweet Rice Soup: provides strength, regulates bowel movements

1 cup white sweet rice

1 cup adzuki beans

1 cup raw peanuts (not roasted)

  • Soak rice, beans and peanuts in 4.5 cups water overnight
  • Cook in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours until soft
  • Add dark brown sugar to taste


Mashed Taro Root: supports immune system

½ taro root, cubed

dark brown sugar

  • Steam taro root until soft
  • Mash and add dark brown sugar to taste


Taro Root Soup: supports immune system

1 cup purple or black sweet rice (or 1 cup white or brown rice)

½ taro root, cut into large chunks

splash rice wine

dark brown sugar

  • Soak black sweet rice in 1.5 cups water for at least 4 hours overnight
  • Put rice with water and wine into rice cooker
  • Place taro root in steamer basket in rice cooker
  • Cook rice and taro in rice cooker. When finished, peel and cube taro root, mix with rice and add dark brown sugar to taste
  • Taro root may also be boiled for 15-20 minutes until fork tender


Barley Almond Powder Snack: lowers cholesterol, helps you lose water weight, helps regulate blood sugar

½ tsp almond powder

2 tbsp barley malt powder

1 cup water


  • Stir barley and almond powder together in a small pot
  • Add a small amount of cold water and mix until lumps are gone
  • Add 1 cup water and stir
  • Heat mixture over low heat until boiling
  • Boil for 1 minute, let cool slightly and add honey to taste


Red Date Tea: flushes your system of toxins, rich in vitamins

7 red dates with seeds

rice wine

hot water

  • Make 7 vertical cuts in the skin of each date, basically scoring it to allow the wine to soak in
  • Soak red dates at least overnight in enough rice wine to cover the dates. To make things easier, you could use a large mason jar and soak an entire package of red dates and use as needed
  • In small pot, combine dates and 1.5 cups water
  • Simmer for 1 hour with lid on


Goji Berry Tea: flushes your system of toxins, helps immune system

1 handful dried goji berries

3 sliced dried or fresh orange peel

½ cup rice wine

3 cups water

  • Place all ingredients in pot
  • Boil until alcohol has evaporated
  • Depending on strength of tea, dilute to taste


Chrysanthemum Tea: flushes your system of toxins, aids digestion, replenishes nutrients

1 handful dried chrysanthemums

5 cups water

  • Boil water
  • Add chrysanthemums and steep for 30 min
  • Depending on strength, dilute to taste
  • May sweeten with honey


Impossible Pumpkin Pie: provides a sweet treat filled with Vitamin A and fiber

2 eggs

2 tblsp butter, melted

1 can evaporated milk (13 oz)

1 can pumpkin (15 ox – if you buyer larger 29 oz, use half or double recipe)

2.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 tsp vanilla

½ cup Bisquick

¾ cup sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Beat all ingredients in a blender until smooth, approx. 1-2 min
  • Pour into 1 or 2 pie tins depending on size of tins
  • Bake 50-55 min, until knife inserted comes out clean


Oatmeal Cookies: provides a sweet treat packed with fiber and antioxidants

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

¾ cup flour

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

1.5 cup oats (instant or rolled)

½ cup raisins (optional)

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cream butter and sugar
  • Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth
  • Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl
  • Add dry ingredients to mixer and beat until incorporated
  • Fold in raisins and nuts with a spatula
  • Scoop cookies out with a tablespoon or cookie scoop onto a cookie sheet
  • Bake for 10-12 min until brown at edges
  • Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool after 5 min

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