Sitting the Month in Style: Taiwan’s Postpartum Care Industry

Many postpartum center rooms resemble luxury hotel accommodation.

Taiwan’s postpartum care industry is a luxurious answer to commonplace concerns among parents.

A young couple walks up to a tall building. The sign on the door reads “Dianthus Taoyuan,” and on the other side sits a high-end full-service provider of prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care in Taiwan. Although there’s no trace of a baby bump on the picture-perfect woman, the couple has come to explore the splendor of the center in a quest to find the perfect place to stay after their baby is born.  

It’s the opening scene of an advertising video for a service virtually unheard of in the West but highly popular among Taiwanese parents: so-called confinement centers or postpartum care homes.  

These confinement centers are a mixture of luxury hotels and nursing wards, where new parents and their infants can spend anywhere between a few days and several months after the child’s birth. The centers promise a relaxing, carefree experience where mothers can recover from the tribulations of childbirth while a team of qualified childcare professionals tends to the newborns’ every need.  

This particular care center boasts decorative Hermès silk paintings on the walls and “the calming brightness of Northern European interior design.” Moms can enjoy hair treatments and private cooking classes while their partners use the in-room coffee machine and heated blankets. The price tag? Upward of NT$10,900 per night, depending on the package.  

Its price puts Dianthus in the upper bracket for postpartum care in Taiwan. According to industry insider Gary Lee, nightly fees for confinement care homes start at around NT$5,000 and go up to NT15,000 or more for the fanciest options. At an average stay of 22 days, confinement care is a significant expense for new parents. But to be gifted a stay in a postpartum care facility after birth has become a social expectation for many.  

“It’s similar to other countries’ custom of buying her a diamond ring before getting married,” says Lee. “It’s seen as an expression of love.”  

A father of three, Lee co-founded, Taiwan’s biggest platform for all things pregnancy, postpartum, and childcare. Of Taiwan’s 300 confinement centers, 70% are listed on MamiGuide’s booking site. 

The postpartum care industry includes confinement homes, meals, and specialized confinement caretakers, and Lee estimates it to be worth NT$12 billion (US$400 million) in annual revenue. This makes Taiwan the largest per-capita market for postpartum care by far, despite its dwindling yearly birth rate of just over 150,000.  

The flourishing industry traces its roots to a millennia-old Chinese custom of “sitting the month” (坐月子, zuo yue zi). In practice, “the month” varies in length. 

“In Chinese culture, we believe that a mother’s body is very weak and fragile after birth,” says Lee. “So she needs to eat nutritious food and keep bed rest. In the past, mothers would help their daughters sit the month after they’d given birth. They would cook nutritious meals, like chicken soup with sesame oil or pig feet. In those days, people didn’t have the same economic means, so they could only eat these foods during that particular time.” 

MamiGuide CEO Gary Lee says Taiwan’s postpartum industry makes US$400 million in annual revenue.

Food options still play an important role in choosing a confinement care provider, as attested to by an avalanche of Taiwanese blog posts and Google reviews discussing the culinary merits of various postpartum centers online. But the emphasis now is on a well-balanced, tasty diet rather than on making up for lost calories, says Lee.  

Reviews also point to technological standards, hygiene protocols, access to medical personnel, and classes and spa treatments on offer as important criteria for centers. Modern-day moms get to enjoy anything from hair treatment to a full body massage – unthinkable under traditional confinement rules, where women were prohibited from showering for a month to prevent cold qi (氣, “vital energy”) from entering their weakened body and causing harmful long-term effects.  

Not all confinement care centers look the same in modern-day Taiwan. Some centers are attached to hospitals’ labor and delivery units and tend to be barer, resembling a hospital ward. Others are run by private providers.  

Care facilities can also be distinguished by their certification. “Centers for sitting the month” (月子中心) provide postpartum rooms, meals, and laundry services to new families, whereas “postpartum nursing care homes” (產後護理之家) additionally employ licensed doctors and nurses to look after the medical needs of the mother and newborn. 

Inside an upscale facility 

Kiki Hung is head nurse at Taipei-based Gemcare Maternity Center. The center’s Zhongshan branch accommodates up to 19 couples and their infants at a time, with over 200 families a year staying 25 days on average. Mothers can recover under medical supervision at Gemcare, and both parents can slowly adapt to the arduous task of caring for their newborn child, says Hung.  

The experienced nurse walks down a long corridor connecting the guest rooms to every service on offer, including a nurse station, spa, hang-out area, and baby bathing pool. In the middle of the postpartum hotel complex lies a vast nursery with portable cribs lining each side of the room. Each crib has a tiny baby in it, swaddled and sleeping in the temperature-controlled nursery.  

Gemcare head nurse Kiki Hung says that mandatory counseling services can help spot postpartum depression early on.

Through wide plexiglass windows, parents can look on as nurses in pink hospital gowns tend to fussy newborns, change diapers, or roll a crib off to another room for feeding time. There is also a camera installed above each baby bed, relaying the little ones’ every move to the family’s mobile devices.  

These postpartum centers employ a nurse-to-infant ratio of 1:5, meaning moms can relax between feeds while their babies sleep under the nurses’ watchful eyes. Other services include individually designed dietary plans and massage treatments, weekly Chinese and Western doctor consultations, daily check-ins with the postpartum nurse, infant care classes, and sessions with a pelvic floor specialist and an in-house psychologist. Gemcare Maternity is the first postpartum center to make weekly group counseling mandatory for clients to detect signs of postpartum depression.  

“When you’ve just given birth, your role has changed, and your whole body has changed,” says Hung. “Most mothers will experience fear and worry regarding these changes. So the counseling sessions help a lot, and we can discover problems early on.”  

Hung believes the medical benefits of spending the postpartum period under professional supervision are obvious. “Some problems might go unnoticed for longer in women who spend confinement at home, like a uterine prolapse or urinary incontinence.” 

Critics of the practice argue that postpartum care services create an artificial dependence among new mothers, making someone else the authority on how best to care for themselves and their baby. The impact of feeding schedules at postpartum centers on the long-term breastfeeding relationship between mother and child is also a developing area of research. 

Hung insists that Gemcare Maternity places great importance on mother-infant bonding and breastfeeding. The center cannot legally supplement with formula unless parents provide a breastmilk substitute.  

“We encourage breastfeeding, and we encourage mothers to spend a lot of time with their babies,” Hung says. “But some will have painful wounds or will have lost a lot of blood after birth, or they won’t have gotten enough sleep in the hospital. So we let them decide based on their individual condition how much time they want to spend with the baby in their room.” 

This may mean that mothers feed throughout the day – on demand or on a fixed schedule – and pump breastmilk in the evening before sleeping through the night. “Others want to feed 24 hours, and so the nurse will check in every two to three hours to see whether the mother is available for breastfeeding”, says Hung.  

Staying at Gemcare Maternity is a big expense for most households, yet postpartum care homes remain highly popular in Taiwan. MamiGuide’s Lee estimates that over 60% of Taiwanese couples opt to spend the first weeks of their child’s life in a postpartum home. Many of the remaining 40% enlist the help of family, confinement nannies, or postpartum meal delivery services.  

Nursing staff at some confinement centers watch over newborn infants at a one-to-five ratio.

Sitting the month at home 

When Esther Lee had her first son three years ago, she too wanted to honor her culture’s confinement tradition. Because her Canadian husband didn’t want to come home to an empty house for a month, the couple decided against staying at a postpartum center. Lee instead sat the month with the help of a confinement nanny.  

Starting at NT$2,200 for a nine-hour shift, professionally trained postpartum caretakers present a much more affordable option to centers. These caretakers have experience in everything from newborn care to confinement meal preparation and can even be hired for 24-hour shifts if parents want to sleep through the night.  

Taiwan’s formally trained confinement nannies usually advertise on social media platforms or through designated agencies. Lee interviewed three different nannies before choosing the candidate she wouldn’t mind having around all day, five days a week.  

“She would do some simple cleaning that involves the mom and the baby, like mom and baby’s laundry,” Lee says. “She would cook three times a day plus snack, and then right before she left, she would make dinner.” Confinement nannies also take over baby bathing and diaper changes and supervise the child while the mom rests.  

Although Lee cherished the help of her confinement nanny, she has decided to go a different route for her second child, due in spring this year.  

“Because I didn’t get to enjoy the postpartum care center the first time around, and I know how hard it is to take care of babies, this time I want to experience it,” she says. She’s excited about the once-in-a-lifetime luxury that is Taiwanese postpartum care. “Who wouldn’t want to be treated like a queen after squeezing a human out of your body?” 

But despite the enthusiasm for postpartum care homes among young middle-class women like Lee, the industry is under pressure from Taiwan’s low birth rate and an oversaturated market. In Taipei alone seven care facilities shut their doors in 2022. Gemcare Maternity is adding more lines of service to stay competitive, including confinement meal delivery and prenatal and post-postpartum assistance. 

For Gary Lee, international markets present the next frontier in Taiwan’s postpartum industry expansion. With over 40 years of regulated experience, Taiwan is a market leader, making its industry consultants ideal partners in setting up postpartum infrastructure abroad. Postpartum care homes in China have grown from 3,000 to over 10,000 in the past five years, while Malaysia now counts 500 centers, many of them established with input from Taiwanese experts.  

But rather than staying close to home, Lee says his next goal is to cultivate an appetite for Taiwanese-style postpartum care in the West: 

“If your husband were to give you a gift, and you got to take a two-week retreat in a confinement center where you could rest, eat healthy, nutritious foods, enjoy spa treatments, and learn how to take care of a baby, wouldn’t you like that?”