Out and about

Kate has Chinese debating a post-natal tradition

Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge appear with their baby daughter outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London

On display: Charlotte, the new royal princess meets her public

After Chinese women give birth, it is traditional to observe a month-long period of confinement, during which washing, opening the windows and going outside is forbidden.

The idea is to keep the body warm so as to help its recovery (and ensure a prime condition for future conception).

Some women hate it. Others accept it as part of having a baby. Almost all women do it, however.

So, when an immaculate-looking Kate Middleton stepped through the hospital doors of London’s Lindo wing only 10 hours after giving birth last weekend, many Chinese were shocked that she and her baby daughter were outside in the open air so soon.

“This proves we are not the same people as British people. If a Chinese woman did this she would get sick,” wrote one of the 2.6 million weibo users who commented on the royal baby’s birth.

“Only 10 hours and she’s already wearing a dress and wearing high heels! Having a baby is like eating a meal for her,” wrote another.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s early appearance has fed into an ongoing debate about post-natal confinement — which is known as “sitting the month” in Chinese. Many women argue is it is an anachronism, left over from a time when people did not have easy access to hot water and well-heated homes. Now, they say they often feel trapped, or that they find it hard to lose weight due to the long list of nourishing foods they are supposed to eat during their recovery period.

It has been suggested that the practice can exacerbate post-natal depression in some women too. “She is so lucky to be out,” wrote one woman about the Duchess. “I almost went mad from my month inside.”

Another strand of discussion was how good Kate looked, leading some to wonder if she had really given birth at all.

“She looks as if she just stepped out of a spa. Maybe she used a surrogate,” mused one conspiracy theorist.

The birth of the princess – Charlotte Elizabeth Diana – also got the Chinese talking about the role of the monarchy and what it means to be royal but not the heir to the throne. “Her role is to be a mascot for her whole life,” wrote a netizen.

Seeing the new baby’s name, others expressed sympathy for another of the royal ‘spares’, the Duke of Cambridge’s younger brother.

“What’s Prince Harry going to do if he has a daughter?” a contributor queried. “William has used up all the girls’ names.”

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