Asian confinement practices: Yea or nay?

Confinement practices in Singapore Honeykids Asia
Asian confinement practices – some mums give it a go while others survive just fine without them. But what do mums really think about it? We ask the ladies around the HoneyKids office…

Once friends and family find out you’re preggers, the next question which will inevitably pop up at some point before baby’s arrival is…  ‘Are you going to practice confinement?’.

Living in a country like Singapore – which is a melting pot of cultures – most confinement practices are backed by tradition and laced with all sorts of scientific and pseudoscientific ‘facts’. So, it’s definitely something to ponder over, and thank goodness you’ve got nine months to make up your mind about it.

But before you feel pressured to adopt some of these practices, find out exactly what they are, and hear what mums around the HoneyKids office have to say about them as well.

Confinement practice #1: Kick back and relax!
You’re not allowed to do any laborious work or strenuous exercise for at least 100 days after labour. That means no cooking, no cleaning, just plenty of bedrest while your spouse, mum, helper or confinement nanny take care of the rest. Some confinement practices even limit new mums to their bedroom with the warning that venturing out to do a spot of laundry may result in a higher risk of bleeding, uterus prolapse and even depression.

Jana, mum of two, says, This would drive me CRAZY! As an active person, being told to stay in bed all day would be sheer torture. What helped me recover from my pregnancies was walking around and doing everything myself. Although having all that help would be great, it’s also nice to feel like a normal person again and not some delicate flower.

Selina, mum of two, says, I was on bed rest and in and out of an antenatal ward from 22 weeks during both pregnancies with my little boys, and wasn’t allowed to carry anything heavier than a kettle, so there was no way I was going to just hang out in my bedroom after that! No cooking, cleaning and handing it all over to your mum or nanny? Nice work if you can get it.

Confinement practice #2: Eating specially-cooked meals
Say goodbye to ‘cooling’ or food that make your body ‘cold’ like salads, watermelon, onions and jackfruit and ice (yes, that includes ice cream as well). Also, no deep-fried or oily food so takeout isn’t an option and burgers are definitely off the menu.

But you’re not going to starve either, because you can expect to tuck into a diet rich in ginger, black pepper and rice wine served with soup. Lots, and lots of soup! Plus, plenty of meat dishes such as liver, chicken and pig trotters, all with a side of rice. By the way, meats can only be steamed, boiled or grilled. Why? Because this diet apparently improves blood circulation and flushes out toxins.

Also, you can only consume warm drinks such as milk, hot chocolate and longan tea. Cheat days don’t just result in a guilty conscience, but in sore muscles, bloatedness, and lots of ‘wind’ or gas.

Jassmin, mum of one, says, For Indians there isn’t much of a confinement practice, but my mother did find some traditional Indian herbs and used them in all the dishes she cooked for me post delivery. I wasn’t very keen on eating them and am not sure how much it helped with recovery. But after four years, I still have the odd joint aches and pains and wonder if it would have been different had I followed a stricter confinement practice.

Jana says, NO NO NOOO….. The minute the doctor gave me the GO signal to eat, I asked my husband to head to McDonalds to buy me the following: a quarter pounder, milkshake, large fries and 6 piece chicken nuggets. Plus, breastfeeding makes you super sweaty so I’m always drinking cold stuff. It also makes you HANGRY so I’m always snacking and eating junk food.

Confinement practice #3: A week of spa days
Popular especially amongst the Malay community, mums are encouraged to have full body massages right after giving birth. These massages aren’t just part of a well-deserved spa day, but also help to contract the uterus, since it expands during pregnancy, plus it speeds up post-delivery recovery by removing excess blood from the womb. The massages end with a tight tummy wrap which is said to help you regain your postpartum waistline. Another common practice is to place specially-chosen hot stones on the tummy to remove impurities from the womb. Women are encouraged to do these hour-long massages on alternate days for a week for best results.

Tracy, mum of three, says, Massage? After giving birth to a watermelon out of something the size of a grape you say? Oh gosh, YES! Anything that would have helped me feel less like I had been run over by a truck, and more like an actual human would have got a big thumbs up from me! Love the idea of those impurities being rubbed away too. Having had three bubbas, the gunk that seems to follow their delivery is pretty grim. TMI? Sorry!

Jassmin says, YES! Gosh, I really looked forward to my massages! I had a lovely aunty come over to my place every other day for about two weeks and her magic hands just melted away all the aches, pains and stress I was feeling from being a new mum. She also did a breast massage to help with my milk production and a tummy binding thing to help tighten my flabby post-partum belly. All in all a great experience and highly recommended!

Confinement practice #4: Hygiene takes a hit
Tradition takes temperature into very serious consideration. In attempt to ward off the ‘cold’ wind, there will be no air-conditioning, no baths and no washing your hair for up to a month – or even longer. Basically, time to really stink up the place. A cheeky wash may result in more ‘wind’ and a higher chance for your weakened body to fall ill, or so they say.

Selina says, Ask any new mother when she last washed her hair and indulged in a bath…

Tracy says, Absolutely no, no, oh, and NO. I don’t think I have ever felt scummier than after giving birth (see above for that gunk business). I can’t even begin to imagine how grim I would look and feel after not washing for all that time. Would much rather be carried away on a cold wind than not wash for a month. I had one of my babies during winter in the UK. I washed immediately after having her and I survived in the face of zero temperatures. This one is, I am afraid, for me, a load of old poppycock and flies in the face of rationale.

Confinement practice #5: No sex for 40 days
This aligns with the medical recommendation of no hanky panky before your six week postpartum check up at the doctors, so that you can give your vagina or c-section scar time to heal.

We took a general poll around the office and we think all mums practice confinement on this front. *Cheeky wink*

Keen to try out confinement yourself? Read more about what you can expect and where to find a reliable confinement nanny in our detailed guide.

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