As a Singaporean Chinese, confinement practices were considered necessary for me to follow after the delivery of my son. But many friends told me about common confinement myths and beliefs, and I felt quite torn – should I follow the traditional way of these trusted post-partum care passed down across generations? Otherwise, would I suffer the repercussions of not following these rules?
With so many confinement do’s and don’ts shared by my mother, mother-in-law and mummy friends, it became quite overwhelming on top of trying to cope with a newborn.
As a practical person, I decided to do it “my way” and threw some of those seemingly baseless practice out of the window. I made sure I did things that made me feel comfortable. Some call it a “modern confinement” – I think I’ll call it “practical confinement” along with some myths debunked.
1: Can new mums wash hair and bathe during confinement?
Instead of having sweaty and gross hair for a month, I washed my hair every 2 days using hot herbal water when I had my warm showers. I felt much cleaner and it helped with my wound healing too as I was worried about getting it inflamed. The idea is to make sure hair and body are towel-dried soon, and disallow “wind” from entering the open pores and hair follicles. So, I made sure to blow dry my hair and shut the windows and doors after bathing too.
2: Can I bounce back to work after having a baby?
I’ll admit that I was stubbornly doing my work and was sitting for long hours during the first month of having my baby. Now, I’m suffering from lower back pain. On hindsight, I should have been lying down a lot more during my post-partum recovery period.
3: Is it okay to switch on the fan and air conditioning?
Singapore’s humid and sunny weather makes it challenging to withstand especially when our body temperatures and hormones can be quite different after having a baby. In ancient times, women were told not to use the fan or air conditioning for fear of “wind” entering their body, especially in the winter seasons. Personally, I used both to help ventilate the house and kept myself comfortable but avoided facing them directly.
4: Is confinement food necessary for post-partum mums?
Our body needs to recuperate right after having our babies, so eating well is a way to nourish and nurse ourselves back. Some mums don’t enjoy the strong herbal tastes of the generous use of ginger, sesame oil or vinegar in their confinement meals. To me, I enjoyed the dishes and made it a point to eat well – it’s definitely not the time to worry about losing weight. This period is about healing and having nourishment so we can have the energy to care for our babies and breastfeed them.
5: Do breastfeeding mums need a special diet?
Breast engorgement, building up the milk supply, pumping and latching my baby… this initial period made me feel like a cow, and a sticky, smelly one too. Thus, point #2 is essential for personal hygiene and comfort. Also, after trying several foods that are known to help boost breastmilk supply, I personally found that papaya soups worked best for me! Some of my mummy friends share that lactation cookies helped improve their supply too, so some trial and error is involved to find out what works for your body.
6: Can I drink bubble tea, coffee or cold water during confinement?
I’ve seen so many new mummies ask this because drinking hot red dates water for the entire month seems daunting. It’s important to ensure we are sufficiently hydrated, especially if we’re breastfeeding our babies. Besides drinking red dates tea, I drank hot milo, had soups with my lunch and dinner, drank warm water and warm milk too. Some friends stopped drinking their favourite bubble tea, coffee, soft drinks and cold water when they were pregnant, and I understand how hard it must be to stay away from their comfort drinks. So perhaps, everything in moderation as long as there are no serious implications to baby or mummy?
Are you a pregnant mum who’s planning for her confinement period? Do you know someone who decided to skip this post-baby care? Leave a comment below to share your experience and tips with fellow mummies too!