The perks of being a mother in Korea

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The perks of being a mother in Korea

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Many time-honored traditional customs are often ignored in this fast-paced society but sanhujori, or postpartum care, is one of a few customs still practiced by many Koreans. According to tradition, women who give birth are not allowed to take a shower or brush their teeth for days, or even weeks. New mothers should not do any cooking, wash the dishes or do the laundry. These women are advised to bundle up even if it is the middle of summer because bones and joints are believed to be weakened after childbirth.

Eating seaweed soup, or miyeokguk, is one way to recover from childbirth.

New mothers simply focus on feeding their babies and taking as much time to rest as possible. Their mothers or mothers-in-law do house chores for their grown-up children.

These beliefs are passed down from generation to generation because if one fails to fully restore after childbirth, they could suffer from major health problems when they get old.

Women used to stay at their parent’s house and recover from childbirth but young women these days head to sanhujoriwon, or postpartum clinics.

The postpartum clinic provides traditional care for mothers and their babies away from the family. Women usually stay at the postpartum clinic for two weeks. Prices vary depending on region but it costs between 2.5 million won ($2,173) and 3 million won for two weeks in Seoul. The price goes down if the postpartum clinic is located outside of Seoul.

Experts, who used to work as nurses or are licensed to take care of newborns, care for babies in shifts so that mothers can have their own time. Each mother has her own room with a bathroom, double bed, television, computer, nursing goods such as a breast milk pump, a massager and a phone.

Staff trains the mothers to breast-feed and offer classes on how to wash, swaddle and calm their babies. They also have strict rules. Mothers are not allowed to touch or hold other babies for possible infection and guests should visit the postpartum clinic only during visiting hours. Even grandparents can’t hold their grandchild to prevent infection.

For those who prefer to stay at home, there are many agencies that send assistants who help and train new mothers. They assist new mothers by doing laundry, cooking and aiding the mother when she washes her baby.


By Sung So-young
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