What is the Confinement Period after giving birth? Although the practices differ between culture and races , it is essentially a list of practices to be done in order to ensure the health and wellbeing of mum and the child. Most of the time, this also includes a list of things mummy has to avoid (especially in terms of diet) for a period of time. In Malaysia, there are three different races that have different confinement practices – all done for the sake of getting mummy back to her best self!
In the Malay culture, it is believed that a healthy womb will ensure that a woman stays radiant and alluring. The confinement period is also believed to help mums regain their pre-child figure, health and energy to pre-pregnancy levels. Mums are usually supported during this time by a traditional midwife, or even by her own mother or mother-in-law. Some of the practices that the community carries out during this time are:
The bengkung or traditional wrap (also known as a traditional), is used to flatten the stomach and shrink the uterus. Each wrap has herbs and medicine that helps this process.
'Jamu' refers to dietary supplements that help new mums recover after childbirth. It is believed to boost energy levels; keep the body warm; expel excess fat and toxins; shrink all the swollen organs, muscles and veins; remove excess fluids; dispel wind and slim down the tummy. This also includes food that needs to be avoided for the period.
This hot compress is an important aspect of confinement as it is used to dissolve any residual blood clots in the womb. It is also used to break down fat and is made out of medicinal plants, leaves and a heated river stone wrapped in a cloth.
Within Chinese customs, the confinement period acts as a time for new mums to expel toxins, rejuvenate the body, and improve blood circulation. A mum's diet during this time is also very important. They are encouraged to eat liver and kidney cooked in old ginger, sesame oil or rice wine. Herbal & fish soups, and tonics rich in nutrients are also a main part of the diet, as they rejuvenate the body. To maximise resting time for these new mums, some families hire a confinement nanny to help with child-related chores in the house.
Though there is no scientific basis, some believe the postpartum discharge to be 'unclean' and thus restrict new mums from eating their meals with family members or entering the kitchen.
Similar to Malay and Chinese confinement practices, the main purpose of the Indian confinement practice is to help the uterus get back to its normal size and heal any 'wounds'. Much of the dietary emphasis is on preventing 'wind' by using ingredients and spices like garlic, while avoiding 'cooling' foods. And it can get quite specific: for example, shark meat and chicken are considered good when cooked with herbs.
Indian culture believes that if these practices aren't done correctly, it could lead to health problems later on in the mother's life.
With so many restrictions in place, confinement can be a challenging time for many new mums. To compound the issue, most women also experience a depressed mood some days after giving birth. Not being allowed to use the fan or air conditioning in a tropical country is unimaginable for most modern mums. It helps to remember that these restrictions and feelings are often temporal and will pass soon enough, and the motivation for confinement comes from a good place. As a general guideline, it is important to balance familial harmony, obligation, and beliefs while applying what is actually good for you and your child.
For starters, bathing and washing hair helps with your personal hygiene and makes it more bearable for everyone around you. Exercise is a good way to boost your mood and overall health, which helps alleviate some of that confinement stress. Drinking plenty of liquid is important, as the kidneys will produce more urine to remove the excess fluid accumulated during pregnancy. Where possible, do some research for non-prohibited activities that improve your wellbeing. For instance, postpartum massage helps with pain relief, stress reduction, and relaxation (if you had a C-section in the hospital, please check with your doctor). Or experiment with non-taboo fruits and find your new favourite.
What's good for your physical and mental health is also good for your child, and a balanced diet is especially important if you're breastfeeding.