Were you advised post-delivery to leave your hair unwashed or avoid having the fan blow directly at you? Did your mum in law tell you not to leave the house for a whole month? How effective are traditional Chinese confinement practices and do they apply to mothers in Singapore?
The old Chinese saying about postnatal care, “Eat well, sleep well, nothing is better than sitting the month well,” implies how important it is for Chinese mothers to rest and recuperate for a month after giving birth.
Chinese confinement practices can be very rigorous, limiting the diet and movement of mums. Should each and every one of the rules be followed? What are the Chinese confinement practices that Singapore mums should follow?
Some Chinese mums find it difficult to adhere to the countless do’s and don’ts imposed by their well-meaning parents or in-laws.
We spoke to mums to find out how they coped with their confinement, and here is what they shared with us.
Rule #1: Don’t wash your 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 did not wash 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
A strict and regimented diet is part of confinement practices all around the world, and it is no different for Chinese confinement practices 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.”
But not all rules of diet work. Says Tracie, “One thing that didn’t work for me though was consuming papaya and fish soup to increase breast milk flow. That had no effect on me and sadly, I didn’t produce any milk.”
Another mum, Cheryl followed the diet rules very diligently. The mum of two says, “I didn’t touch any tap water. My helper boiled water to fill up a pail- enough for me to use daily. I used a herbal bath and boiled water for washing hands, brushing teeth etc. I didn’t drink water for a month, only had red dates tea.”
“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
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
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 everyday). 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. She adds, “I’ve tried both Chinese and Malay traditional postnatal practices, and I feel that the Malay method has fewer ‘pantangs’ (superstitions).”
What do experts have to say about the Chinese confinement practices in Singapore? Click next to read their advice.