Chinese Confinement Practices

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Chinese Confinement Practices

The Chinese pay great importance to the one month following childbirth. Great care must be taken to ensure new mothers recuperate well to avoid long term complications.

Not surprisingly, there will be confinement practices or beliefs unique to the Chinese. Passed down from our great, great grandmothers to present day moms.

In today’s context, some may find it difficult to adhere the countless Do’s and Don’ts imposed by their well-meaning parents or in-laws.

We look at some of them:

Rule #1: Don’t wash your hair

a woman washing her hair

a woman washing her hair

There are mums such as Tracie, who believe strongly in following the traditional confinement practices in Singapore.

This mum of one says, “I’m a strong believer of TCM. I didn’t washed my hair for two weeks as advised and I’ve never gotten migraines ever since!”

Mum of two, Stacy found the rule tough, but powered through and followed it. She shares, “The no washing of hair for 30 days was unbearable, but I managed it by applying baby powder instead,”

But she says she did break one rule and it did not serve her well in the long run, “I took a shower two days after delivering as it was encouraged in the hospital in New Zealand where I gave birth. But soon after I realised it gave me backaches,” she shares.

Rule #2: Eat lots of ginger

wooden spoon with minced ginger for confinement food

wooden spoon with minced ginger for confinement food

A strict and regimented diet is part of confinement practices all around the world, and it is no different in Singapore.

Tracie shares, “I ate confinement food full of ginger and other wind-eliminating ingredients, so my immunity is pretty good; I rarely fall sick.”

“All of my confinement food consisted of ginger and lots of it!” says Suzanna, a mum of three.

Rule #3: Avoid fans and air-conditioning

holding a remote to adjust the temperature of the air-conditioner

holding a remote to adjust the temperature of the air-conditioner

According to Cheryl, one rule that she could not follow was to sleep without air-conditioning.

“My mum wasn’t too keen but allowed me to sleep in an air-conditioned room (but I wore long sleeves, long pants and socks to keep warm) although she didn’t allow me to sit in direct draft of wind, so no fans.”

Rule #4: Restrict movement

mother and baby sleeping

mother and baby sleeping

New mums, according to Chinese confinement practices, must rest and have limited movement.

“I broke the rule of no climbing stairs with my second child who was born early (I had to go to the hospital every day), it was not a good idea and proved to be bad for my joints.” shares Stacy.

Following all the rules can be hard says Suzanna.

Expert Advice

Experts say a lot of modern mums prefer not to follow many of the confinement practices.

Traditional Chinese postnatal confinement practices originate from China, where the climate is quite different from the sunny and tropical weather in Singapore.

So, do the rules about keeping warm, avoiding wind, and abstaining from taking showers or washing hair apply in sunny Singapore?

An expert agrees that because Singapore is a hot and humid country, some traditions do not work well here, and most mothers choose to only follow the simpler confinement rules such as consuming confinement food and bathing with special herbs.

She recommends new mums to only bathe with the traditional Da Feng Ai herbs—which are said to help improve blood circulation and remove body wind.

She also says that although using air-conditioning to keep cool is acceptable, it should not be blown directly towards the mum because she has witnessed mothers suffering from poor health because they did not receive much help post-delivery or get proper care from confinement nannies. As a result, these mums constantly experienced headaches and backaches.

She explains that some mums here have a more “westernised’’ way of thinking and do not want to follow the confinement practices closely. She also agrees that not all the customs are relevant in Singapore’s setting and environment.

Tradition v Practicality

Chinese culture recommends a one-month period of postnatal confinement for new mothers.

Although it’s great to have all the help you can get as a new mother. It’s best to follow your instincts on what works for you to be comfortable during your recuperation period.

Delicious food loaded with ginger to help expel wind may not be on your usual menu. But if someone is lovingly preparing it on a daily basis while you get your much-needed rest, then by all means let them send the confinement dishes your way!

If you’re uncomfortable after a long day in the sweltering heat; there is no harm in having a nice shower, to cleanse and feel re-energized to focus on your baby.

When your mother fusses and insists for someone else to handle chores while you recover, it won’t hurt to listen and just put your feet up.

If in doubt, always discuss things through with your healthcare provider and listen to your gut feel. You know what’s right for your body, and you should do whatever feels right for you during this resting period.

(Source – The Asian Parent)

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