An incomplete list of truths Kelly Mi Li has picked up from her first month of motherhood with daughter Mili: Breastfeeding is "freakin' hard," the love you feel for your child is so vast and unconditional it's impossible to fully grasp before you experience it and you're truly never too old to need your mama.
The Bling Empire star's mom Emily was among the family who decamped to the Southern California home she shares with partner William Ma (the pair split their time between L.A. and San Francisco) to support her through a 30-day period of confinement—a traditional Chinese practice that's meant to help parents recover from childbirth.
"They do all the cooking, cleaning, take care of the baby whenever you need," Mi Li explained of the practice in an exclusive interview with E! News. "So it gives you time to heal and also really bond with the baby. I didn't realize how much your body takes a toll after labor. It needs recovery."
So while the entrepreneur, 37, missed her morning coffee runs and walks with pup Sophia, she acknowledged that hunkering down at home "has been really nice."
The rituals she adhered to included a diet filled with warm foods and herbs meant to repair her body ("I don't even know what I'm eating. I don't even ask," she admitted, "but I'm feeling a lot better"), avoiding fans, air conditioning or anything that blows cold air, and taking showers comprised solely of ginger water.
"I get my feet soaked every night with hot ginger water," she described, "and the first week was massages every night. So it's like a home spa in a sense."
With some very attentive nurses.
Though Mi Li's support team includes a nanny, her boyfriend's parents and her grandmother, she's found herself leaning heavily on her mom.
"There's another side of her I haven't seen," Mi Li says of watching her mother finally realize her grandma dreams. "She's like, 'Let me help, let me feed the baby, let me hold the baby.' Watching her want to spend time with her and baby talk to her, and she plays music and she wants to do an exercise with her."
Plus it's undeniably helpful to have someone around who's already conquered this particular rodeo.
"Since I'm a first-time mom everything's hypersensitive to me," the reality alum acknowledged. "I'm like, 'There's something on her face—is that okay?' Her tear duct was blocked other day. And I'm like, 'Is this okay? Oh, my God, do we need to take her to the hospital? Do I need to call a doctor?' So she's been very helpful."
Nearly five weeks into parenting Mili, who arrived early on Easter morning after 24-plus hours of labor, the Netflix star has an even deeper respect for her mother, who abandoned her career as a doctor in the family's native China to bring her only child to America.
"I honestly don't know how single moms do it," Mi Li said, "because I have so much support in my house, but it's still so much. But my mom was a single mom. So I have so much more respect for her now and the hardships that she went through, plus she immigrated to this country with me. She worked three different jobs and still was there for me."
And now watching her dust off her baby talk for the next generation, Mi Li continued, "it's just really cute and nice to see."
And little Mili isn't the only one enjoying some heart-to-hearts.
After a lifetime of feeling like she couldn't fully connect with her mom, Mi Li recently found the perfect recipe to open up the lines of communication.
"I don't know if you're familiar with the tiger mom term," Mi Li explained, referencing parents who are heavily invested in ensuring their kids' success. "She doesn't really express herself or speak out a lot. But then when she's in a kitchen, she's so natural and she opens up."
Together behind the stove whipping up favorites like little pot rice noodle, a speciality from Kunming in China's Yunnan province, it suddenly felt natural to segue from asking why no restaurant could ever get the dish quite right to asking "other questions like, 'Hey, tell me about this from your childhood,' or, 'How did you learn to cook?'" noted Mi Li. "She starts telling me stories about her past that I've never known before."
They've since whipped up a true kinship ("It's still a learning process, obviously, but now I get to talk to her on a friend level") and a little something extra, turning Emily's secret family hot sauce recipe into their Hot Jiang line of chili oils.
"It's the first time I feel like I'm building something with her," Mi Li explained. "I've known her since before I was born, but since only a couple years ago, I really feel like we're connecting on a friend level, which is really weird to say, because I've known her my whole life. She knows everything that has happened to me. But that kind of relationship takes work as well."
So as she marvels at each of Mili's milestones ("Now when we're moving around, she's kind of tracking us") and her partner's top-notch parenting skills ("He researches everything—he has a degree in child development psychology, so it's great for that"), Mi Li is also looking ahead to when she can lace up an apron alongside her mother and her daughter.
"I'm excited for her to cook with my mom and I'm excited to get her involved in our family traditions," she said. "We make dumplings every Lunar New Year together—my mom, my grandma, pretty much the whole family. So teaching her that whenever she's old enough and just, you know, experiencing our culture, I'm so excited for that."
But mostly she's thrilled for her little girl to really get to know her grandmother and all that she's accomplished.
"I would love her to learn my mom's strength," Mi Li said, "and how many obstacles she went through just to get to us where we are today. So I hope my daughter has that."
And whether that fortitude leads Mili to the medical field of her grandma's dreams or sees her following in Mom's Chanel-clad footsteps, Mi Li will be cheering her on.
"I want her to be able to express herself and do things that she wants to do and chase the dreams that she wants to chase, but I know that I probably want to control her to a degree," Mi Li explained of why she'd be okay with her daughter getting into the reality TV business. "I want to protect you, you know, 'Don't do this, don't do that.' But I want to support her and obviously just guide her. Because I feel like kids, they're going to do what they want to do. So it's either with your support or behind your back."
Add that to the list of parenting lessons she's already mastered.