No turning on the fan, no washing your hair, no cold drinking water – is there anything at all that a new mum can do during the confinement period? Some of these “rules” sound reasonable, some questionable and others, completely bizarre.
As a new mum, we understand that you might be wondering how many of these practices you must follow and how many are based on myths?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help you bust some of the most common confinement myths to make your confinement period more bearable!
According to TCM, a woman’s body enters a “cool” period after giving birth because she loses a lot of blood and qi. For this reason, Chinese tradition advises the new mother to undergo a month-long period of “confinement”. The mother is supposed to regain her equilibrium during these restful weeks and get back to full health through a modified diet.
Even while some methods of confinement are widespread, it’s not a good idea to adhere to them uncritically. Learn the TCM perspective on the truth behind the myths.
Importance Of Confinement After Giving Birth
Your body needs some time to rest after giving birth. In the past, when the rates of baby and maternal death were high, confinement kept the kid and mother within, protecting them from illness.
10 Common Confinement Myths You Shouldn’t Believe
Myth 1: Thou Shalt Not Shower
Wait, what? No showering? Yes, you read that right. One of the most common confinement myths in Singapore is that new mums should stay clear of bathing or touching water as touching cold water will cause ‘wind’ to enter the body.
This is then believed to cause a myriad of diseases later in life, including arthritis and chronic headaches2.
You’d be glad to know that there is no basis to these beliefs at all! Maintaining personal hygiene is important and showering regularly reduces the incidence of skin and wound infections. It also means you feel fresh and people around you will find you more bearable!
Myth 2: Thou Shalt Not Turn on Fans or Air-Conditioners
Just like bathing, this is based on the belief that you need to prevent ‘wind’ from entering the body. In addition, new mums are told to wear warm clothing and socks. Well, given that we live in hot and humid Singapore, mums would be glad to know that this isn’t true.
Also, when you’ve just given birth, your hormones are constantly fluctuating, and this causes changes in your body temperature.
The last thing you need is to feel hot and sticky, or have your sleep ruined by night sweats. Go ahead and stay cool in comfortable clothing and turn on the fans or air-conditioners if it makes you feel comfortable. It may even prevent heat rash.
Myth 3: Thou Shalt Not Drink Plain Water
While this sounds like a violation of basic human rights, it is one of the most common confinement myths in Singapore. Mums are advised to drink longan and red date tea, rice wines, ginger, and consume herbs to drive out the infamous wind, boost blood circulation, and keep the body warm1.
While there are benefits to consuming some of these, they shouldn’t replace water. Adequate fluid consumption is essential especially if you’re breastfeeding. As for alcohol, a breastfeeding mum should avoid it because alcohol gets into breast milk and large amounts of it can be harmful for the baby’s growth and development.
So, Mums, drink lots of water, tea, and even juice to keep yourselves hydrated and sustain your milk supply during your confinement period. If you are taking herbs to help boost your milk supply, do ensure that they are safe for some herbal products may contain toxic substances.
Myth 4: Thou Shalt Only Eat Meat and Liver
Yes, you’ve lost a lot of blood during delivery and yes, you are losing nutrients through breastfeeding. As such, it is understandable why the old folks harp on such foods as they are excellent sources of protein and iron.
But it is equally important for new mums to have a well-balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This is for your recovery as well as for breast milk.
Remember the good old food pyramid? Yes, stick to that and you’ll be fine!
Myth 5: Thou Shalt Stay Clear of Caffeine and Spicy Food
Unless the caffeine keeps you up at night or the spicy food upsets your tummy, you can safely consider this another common confinement myth in Singapore.
The spice in your food will neither upset your baby’s tummy through your breast milk, nor will it affect their sleep. Of course, consume everything in moderation and all will be well.
Myth 6: Thou Shalt Do a Traditional Postnatal Massage
Traditional postnatal massage has been gaining popularity over the years. In fact, mums swear by the bengkung wrap to slim down their waist and hips. However, not all mums enjoy the postnatal massage and some really find the traditional belly wrap uncomfortable.
Here’s the thing – there is no medical basis that such massages are necessary for healing or slimming down. Sufficient rest and exercise in due time does that trick. Massages are more of a way to help mums to relax and squeeze in some ‘me time’. If it works for you, go ahead but don’t feel pressured that you must do it.
Also, do be careful. If done incorrectly, or too soon after a C-section, massages and traditional belly wraps can be harmful.
Myth 7: Thou Shalt Lie in Bed All Day
It is true that new mums should be resting more. This is because too much movement can increase muscle weakness after giving birth. Furthermore, for those who had a c-section, the incision needs to heal.
However, this common confinement myth takes rest a tad bit too seriously.
It is good to move around once you’re comfortable doing so. This also decreases the risk of blood clots forming.
Myth 8: Thou Will Undergo Depression
Yes, baby blues are a thing and it’s normal to feel a little down right after giving birth. This is normal and due to the hormonal changes after pregnancy. It should go away within two weeks. However, if your symptoms persist, worsen, or start experiencing suicidal thoughts, you should seek professional help.
Having said that, you shouldn’t allow childbirth or your confinement period to upend your life and stop you from eating what you like or feeling like you should be bedridden. Such restrictions may really cause you to start feeling depressed. This is a time for you to rest, recharge and bond with your baby not follow a list of rules you fail to make sense of.
That’s why it’s important to bust some of these common confinement myths in Singapore and know what you can do and how you can help yourself overcome some of the challenges you face during your confinement period.
Myth 9: Thou Shall Consume A Lot Of Wine, Sesame Oil, And Traditional Herbs To Expel The “Wind”
There is also no medical support for this. Consuming these things in moderation has no negative effects. But if you consume too much of them, you and your unborn child may suffer.
Herbs could include compounds that we are not entirely aware of, whereas alcohol could pass through your breast milk and be given to your child, possibly harming their liver or making their jaundice worse (if present).
Myth 10: Thou Shall Not Have Sex For Forty Days
Certain religious doctrines, such as those practised by some societies, such as Malay customs. Medically speaking, refraining from sex enables the lochia to end and the episiotomy wound to be fully recovered. Additionally, it might lower the frequency of infections.
When To Have Sex After Giving Birth
Image Source: iStock
Regardless of the delivery method, many medical professionals advise delaying having sex until four to six weeks after delivery, even though there is no legal requirement for this. The first two weeks following delivery are the time when complications are most likely to occur.
What Food to Avoid During Confinement
During this crucial period of confinement, your recovery must take precedence over learning to coexist with and take care of your newborn child. You must be very careful with the food you eat and stay away from foods that will aggravate your body or slow down your recovery if you want to recover quickly and get your health back to where it was before becoming pregnant.
Coffee, tea, coke, and even chocolate are examples of caffeinated foods and drinks that may be harmful to both you and your unborn child’s health. Because caffeine interferes with sleep, you won’t get the rest you need to fully heal.
Additionally, it enters breast milk, which can make babies agitated and make them have difficulties falling asleep. In addition, caffeine cannot be adequately absorbed by your baby’s digestive system.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and some confinement diets employ alcohol to increase circulation and aid in the shedding of colds. Although it aids in body warming, it should only be used sparingly or not at all.
Alcohol can be transmitted to your kid through breast milk, which can cause sleeplessness and an accelerated heartbeat in the infant. Some mothers may even experience lactation issues as a result of drinking.
Hot and spicy foods may not be good for your infant while you are breastfeeding. Your baby might be able to manage spicy food if you’ve always eaten it, even when pregnant. However, it is advised that you refrain from eating spicy foods until you stop breastfeeding because they could make your baby uncomfortable if you do so while you are pregnant.
In recovering mothers, spicy food can also result in bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation, which can hinder your uterus’ ability to heal. Additionally, you won’t want to experience constipation or firm stools while you’re still healing from any vaginal injuries.
Oily Food & Food with High Salt Content
After giving birth, it is typical for new mothers to have weakened digestive systems, which makes them more susceptible to constipation and diarrhoea.
In addition to being high in calories, fat, and sugar that are difficult to digest, greasy food, junk food, and processed foods with a lot of salt can further aggravate your digestive system and intestines. Additionally, these foods are lacking in nutrients, which isn’t good for you.
Image Source: iStock
Watermelon, pear, green beans, and other cooling meals are among those that are said to introduce “wind” into your body, which can upset your stomach and spleen, cause bloating, and obstruct the expulsion of poisonous fluids from your body. These foods shouldn’t be on your confinement meal menu because they might hinder your recovery process.
Seafood with High Mercury Content
Seafood’s rich protein content and omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for recovering mothers since they help to preserve healthy brain function, increase intellect, and improve heart and eye health.
However, consuming seafood with a high mercury concentration might result in consequences such as stomach issues. You should therefore avoid seafood with a high mercury level, such as barramundi, swordfish, fresh tuna, king mackerel, and others.
Instead, think about choosing foods like salmon, prawns, lobsters, and canned tuna that have a lower mercury concentration.
Citrus fruits like oranges, limes, and lemons are not harmful in little amounts, but if you consume these fruits more regularly in bigger amounts, it can irritate your baby’s digestive tract and result in rashes or discomfort.
Does Ginger Cause Jaundice In Baby?
There is no proof that consuming ginger while breastfeeding can result in your child developing jaundice. While nursing and while in labour, you should consume it in moderation.
Why should new mothers avoid ginger?
The root of ginger has been used historically to relieve nausea and other digestive problems. Additionally, it is thought to possess anti-inflammatory effects, which may be useful if your body is in pain or uncomfortable during pregnancy or delivery. Ginger is also used by some women to treat postpartum depression.
Overeating, however, might result in adverse effects such as heartburn, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting, just like with any drugs.
Can I Eat Prawns During Confinement?
Prawns are safe to eat during confinement. A good dose of protein like prawns can offer new mothers the energy they need for everyday tasks. Additionally, prawns include vitamins A, zinc, and potassium, which can help new mothers recover from giving birth.
Is Pig Trotters Vinegar Allowed While In Confinement?
A well-known tonic used during postpartum confinement is Pig Trotters Vinegar. Pig trotters are cooked in salted water, then the sediments are strained out to create this dish.
Pig Trotters Vinegar is thought to have various health advantages in traditional Chinese medicine, including boosting blood circulation, lowering oedema, and strengthening hair and nails. Additionally, it may enhance lactation following delivery.
Remember, mums, staying happy and healthy is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby!
Updates from Matt Doctor
Here at theAsianparent Singapore, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advice or medical treatment. theAsianparent Singapore is not responsible for those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend consulting your doctor for clearer information.