Like Ru Yi Oil, a pillow filled with bean sprout husks is a staple of Chinese parents.
Often made by an elderly member of the family, a cloth case – usually elongated – is filled with carefully-dried husks of mung beans and securely sewn. After which, the pillow can be used as it is or placed in another case before use (this additional cover keeps it clean for a longer period of time).
This little comfort pillow is often placed on a baby’s chest or tummy to offer a sense of security – it is believed that its weight can 压惊, which literally means ‘suppress shock’ in Chinese – preventing them from startling when they wake up from sweet slumber or are rudely awoken. This pillow is particularly useful for newborns who have a natural startle reflex. Interestingly, I’ve also read that some parents place this under their babies’ heads to keep their heads round/make their heads rounder. I don’t know if this works, though; my baby is often in the sling which actually prevents the back of her head from becoming flat. ;)
A fancy name for it is dream pillow, although I sometimes refer to mine as the baby beanbag. The tactile sensation and sound are very similar to that of a beanbag, so this alliterative name is quite appropriate. The feel, sound and smell of this pillow apparently soothe babies too but I’m not sure how true this is, at least for that last feature…the pillow does have an interesting raw vegetable scent. :P
Some people recommend scenting the pillow with mild essential oils but I think the best smell for baby is mummy, so you could have it on you before using it on your child. I would imagine that this is particularly true for a nursing mother; I believe the milky scent helps to calm baby. (I won’t call it fragrance because human milk has an indubitably strong smell!)
Filled with varying quantities of husks in accordance to the child’s age, these pillows can be used till he or she is a toddler or older. The one that is featured in this post looks somewhat flat because my grandmother-in-law had specifically sewn it for my little one’s early days. However, I am careful not to leave it on her without supervision, in case she shuffles in her sleep – I don’t want it to become a suffocation hazard.
I use it too, though not for curbing anxiety. I like it as a sleep pillow of sorts, a blackout pillow for my eyes to block out the morning light. Such pillows are usually not filled entirely or bursting at the seams because it is important that they are pliable. Just as my pillow comfortably fits my baby’s head, chest and tum tum, it adjusts nicely to the contours of my eyes, making it the perfect eye mask for beauty sleep!
The mung bean is known as the green bean in our parts and makes a delicious soup dessert (绿豆汤) that is often regarded as ‘cooling’ in traditional Chinese medicine lexicon. The stalks that sprout from these beans are used for cooking. Bean sprouts, as they are generally known, or towgay (their Hokkien dialect name), are a common ingredient in Chinese and other Asian cuisines. As the sprouts grow, the green bean shells turn black; the dark sheaths eventually loosening and falling off.
Imagine the number of bean sprout husks that is needed for one pillow! A lot of work goes into preparing them – they can be obtained from vegetable sellers who usually do not charge for them but you’ll face the arduous task of separating the sprouts from their husks, not to mention meticulously drying them to prevent veggie-rot (eww!).
There are retailers who sell this precious pillow but the ones made with love by family members are the best ones! ♥
I wish I knew the origins of this pillow but I can’t seem to find anything regarding this. I’m assuming the use of such pillows is one of those traditional Chinese practices that have been passed down from one generation to the next.
I have a couple of heavier pillows waiting in the wings. Happily, I can finally use the fabric I’d bought a few years back to make cases for these bigger pillows. I’m particularly fond of the sushi fabric! :)