About Postnatal Confinement
Postpartum confinement or simply known as confinement, in the early days is a traditional term referring to the period of pregnancy when an upper-class, noble, or royal woman would withdraw from society in medieval and tudor times be confined to their rooms with midwives, ladies-in-waiting and female family members only to attend them.Confinement is a period for your body to recuperate and recover from childbirth. The idea of confinement is familiar to Asians but foreign to Westerners.
In the past when infant and maternal mortality rates were high, it was a practice to keep both baby and mother indoors during the period of confinement. This was meant to protect mother and baby from ill health.
By now, you may have been exposed to some of the practices or ideas from your parents. You may or may not agree with them but many of these have originated from our Asian culture. They range from the prohibition of doing certain daily tasks to the restriction of certain food intake — with the strong belief that these can provide adequate rest and replenishment during this period.
Traditional confinement practices have a new mum’s well being at heart.
A new mother’s confinement period includes traditional postnatal practices that are designed to help her recover from pregnancy, labour and birth.
In Chinese culture, confinement (Zuo Yue Zi) is for the duration of one month, but can be up to 45 days for greater healing. During Zuo Yue Zi, the woman is not supposed to exert herself, so her mother or mother-in-law will often live with her to cook and clean.
Among modern families, the practice now is to hire a confinement nanny or to choose a confinement meal delivery service.
Common Chinese Confinement Practices
The most common recommendation is the no bathing and no hair washing practice for the period following the baby’s birth. If you have heard of this practice and don’t wish to follow it, you could still clean your hair with a gauze-like material dipped in alcohol and wrapped around the comb. Or you could use a ‘dry shampoo’ which is available in most pharmacies. As for not showering, which is a challenge in tropical weather, you could opt to take warm sponge baths with ginger or neem leaves. Alternatively, you might want to use herbal bath package so as to reduce the impact of 'cooling' when showering.
No Air Conditioning
Cold air or water is a big no-no during the traditional confinement period. These prohibitions are said to help ensure that your body retains as much heat as possible. It is believed this will help you avoid health problems such as rheumatism, arthritis, headaches and body pains later in life.
New mums are expected to rest during the confinement period. Ideally, they shouldn’t even have to deal with any cooking or household chores.
Massages are considered to be a good way to get your body back into great shape. This not only applies to the physical appearance of a new mum, but also helps to ensure internal wellbeing. Special ointments are used for massaging, after which your abdomen is tightly bound. A popular ingredient used among the Indian community in Singapore for massages is mustard seed oil.
Staying at home
It’s not called ‘confinement’ for nothing! New mums are not encouraged to leave the confines of their homes as it is believed the outside environment is filled with germs and other impurities.
You may be surprised to note that there are some exercises which new mums are encouraged to do during the confinement period. Some of these include pelvic and lower body tilts, leg slides, head, neck and shoulder raises.
While many of these practices are quite traditional, they are not set in stone and many modern Asian families now choose which practices to follow or modify.
Ultimately, confinement practices – whichever culture they belong to – are designed to enhance the health and wellbeing of new mothers.
Importance Of Special Confinement Meal
During the confinement period, new mums are encouraged to eat specially prepared meals with ‘warming’ ingredients such as ginger, black pepper, sesame oil and rice wine. These ingredients are believed to help with the healing process and help new mums regain their strength faster.
A traditional Chinese confinement food practice includes fish soups, which are believed to boost low milk supply. Mummy are also expected to avoid ‘cooling’ foods such as cold drinks, cucumber, cabbage and pineapple. Foods that cause ‘wind’ such as onions and jackfruit are also avoided during this period as they are believed to cause colic in your baby.
Confinement Dietary Restrictions
1. Avoid excess intake of salt, oil and MSG
One must take less salt and oil during confinement to avoid burden to the kidneys, prevent constipation and help in body shape recovery. In additional, postpartum woman should avoid consuming too much food that contains MSG as it contain monosodium glutamate as its name suggests. It would enter a new-born's body through consumption of breast milk, causing zinc deficiency.
2. Avoid cold food
A postpartum woman should consume only warm foods and drinks with fruits as an exemption. At the same time, cold foods and drinks, such as ice cream, should be avoided at all cost, because they are bad for digestive system recovery and teeth of postpartum woman.
3. Avoid piping hot food
Foods and drinks shall be consumed warm but not hot. This is because piping hot foods and drinks may bring damages to the teeth of postpartum women and burns to their oral mucosa.
4. Avoid foods and drink that are cool in nature
Other than cold foods, foods and drinks that are cool in nature should also be avoided. This is because they do not help in enriching Qi and blood, which will in turn affect the function of the digestive system, discharge of lochia and removal of extravasated blood. During confinement, a postpartum women shall consume more warm and nourishing foods to help in the recovery of Qi and blood.
5. Avoid excitant foods
Consuming stimulating excitant foods, such as concentrated tea, coffee and alcohol, will affect sleep quality. and gastrointestinal function, and is also not good for infant. Taking spicy and pungent foods will cause body fluid impairment, Qi depletion and loos of blood. This will worsen the condition of Qi and blood, lead to constipation.
6. Avoid astringent foods
Postpartum woman have internal blood assist, thus they should not take sour and astringent foods, such as dark plums, loutus seeds, persimmons, etc. This is to prevent blood blockage and affect the discharge of lochia.
Find out about confinement practices and some things that you should take note of during your confinement period.
A video by Baby Bonus & Leave Branch (MSF)