Sitting the Month: Caretaking for Next Generation Taiwanese American Parents

Many of our Taiwanese mothers know about the strict rules of postpartum care, also known as “sitting the month” or  坐月子. No washing your hair, no showering, no air conditioning, no exercise, no leaving the house… the list goes on. As childbirth is accompanied by significant changes to the mother’s body, special precautions are taken to ensure that she can fully rest and recover. Many of these rules are rooted in traditional Chinese medicine practices. Many modern-day mothers don’t usually follow these rules as strictly anymore (imagine no showering for a full month!), instead opting for looser interpretations like drying your hair immediately after washing as to not let it sit wet on your head. Nowadays in Taiwan, to make it easier for families, mothers (with their babies) can choose to stay at a postpartum care center which provides a full array of services including nutritious meals, professional caretakers and lactation consultants, and even classes for first-time mothers on how to care for a newborn. 

In contrast, Western approaches to childbirth are much more lax. After a short hospital stay lasting 1-2 days, families are sent home to figure things out for themselves. There aren’t any rules about how and when to return to normal activities, and 1 in 4 mothers return back to work after just two weeks (though this is really more about comparatively weaker maternal leave policies and less about personal preference). 

To learn more about how Taiwanese American families are navigating postpartum care, we talked to Priscilla Hsu, founder of Itty Bitty Care Committee and second-generation birthworker.

Tell us about yourself! 

My name is Priscilla and I’m based in Tovaangar (or so-called “Los Angeles”). My family has been in Taiwan for 14 generations, and I’m part of the first to be in the U.S. I offer birth and labor support, postpartum care services, and full spectrum reproductive care. I’m passionate about accessibility and equity within the world of care. 

What inspired you to become a birthworker? 

My mother used to be a midwife and NICU nurse. She cared a lot about helping people, and often encouraged me to become a nurse when I was little. That first planted the seed in my head. When I was 27, I had an abortion and there was a volunteer doula that held my hand through the procedure. Having her there to support me was incredibly moving. Then, I think it was just luck that my roommate showed me a training opportunity and I felt drawn to it. 

What’s your favorite part about being a doula?

I really love being a part of the community of care, and getting to see the development and growth of the babies. It feels great to be able to support people and spread the love around. 

How would you define a contemporary postpartum care practice, as opposed to a traditional one?

Traditionally, there was a lot of emphasis on how traditional Chinese medicine described how the big loss of blood meant loss of heat in the body, so rules like no leaving the house and no washing the hair were attempts to help rebuild the heat. Nowadays, we try to think more creatively to preserve the basic principles, but make life a little bit more bearable. For example, instead of not showering, we can take warming herb-infused baths. Instead of not having a fan at all, we can point it up at the walls so you’re not in the line of wind but you can still feel some circulation in the room. It’s really about adapting the ancestral knowledge to ways that you can access.

What are some challenges you see second or third-generation Asian Americans navigate as they seek prenatal and postnatal care? 

I’ve luckily been able to work with a variety of people from different backgrounds, but one component that I’ve seen evolve from previous generations is the role parents play. Traditionally in Taiwan, a mother would take care of her daughter (or daughter-in-law) through the postpartum period. Nowadays, we’re still trying to figure out how our parents might fit into the picture. Some might have eager parents nearby that are really excited to play a role, but many also have moved away from their parents and aren’t able to have that same degree of support from family. For the latter group, they’re looking for alternative ways to make up for that support, but it often means having to sacrifice some of the traditional values of rest to take care of their newborns themselves. To be honest, many Asian Americans are also getting ready to take care of their aging parents, and with the pressure of potentially having to take care of both the older and younger generation, some are just opting to not have children at all. 

Looking for alternative ways to make up for [parental] support… often means having to sacrifice some of the traditional values of rest to take care of their newborns themselves.

What are some ways your identity has deepened or inspired your work?

I’m the first generation of my family that wasn’t born in Taiwan, and I can’t speak Taiwanese. My Mandarin is not fluent. I felt really lost for a long time, and felt guilty that I wasn’t as connected to my roots. But now, it’s inspired me to be more understanding of how every person has a unique relationship with their identity and heritage. In the world of care, there’s a lot of emphasis put on parents and by extension cultural traditions, but we can also recognize now that parents aren’t the only thing in the world that are shaping you. The local community and culture you live in, social frameworks, and even the global and collective experience can all influence individual development. And as both a queer person and a young person who lives in an expensive city, I have questions about what families of the future will look like anyway. This new perspective has really helped me to support other parents to be a little easier on themselves. We have a lot of potential to build our individual identities, and I’m hoping that we can start taking the opportunities to craft our own narratives. 

How can our community connect with you?

You can reach me through my website, I’m also available by email at You can also follow me on Instagram @ittybittycarecommittee! 

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“Raising the Next Generation” aims to feature and connect stories of Taiwanese American parenthood, caretaking, and community-building across generations. We want to hear from our community on the unique challenges they navigate, the resources and tools they can share with each other, and the triumphs they want to celebrate with us all.

We want to showcase and serve how Taiwanese American families are increasingly complex and diverse. They may include transcontinental relationships, intercultural and interracial or blended families, and more. We also know that second and third-generation Taiwanese American parents are navigating questions of identity, heritage, and belonging in a way their parents didn’t; or, with space and distance, they are looking for a way to meaningfully reconnect with their Taiwanese heritage and render it accessible and apparent to their own children.
We also want to highlight the many resources created by and for our community, including multilingual children’s books, online language classes, and parenting groups. We hope this space can be one of solidarity, support, and seeing you for who you are and what you need to flourish.
If you would like to be featured in the “Raising the Next Generation” series, please email with subject “Next Gen Parenting.”

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