By Gina Yong, CEO of Bonda Villa Confinement Centre.
Confinement care is an age-old necessity for many cultures. The confinement period is the time for the new mother to rest and rejuvenate. In medical terms, the confinement period is known as puerperium, the period of adjustment after childbirth during which the mother’s reproductive system returns to its normal pre-pregnancy state.
In Malaysia, our ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian communities all have their respective confinement practices; but they do have one thing in common: that is to help the new mother recover from the rigours of pregnancy, labour and childbirth as well as regain her physical and emotional strength. The confinement period varies between 30 to 44 days.
The theory is that after delivery, the body is susceptible to ‘cold’ and must be kept warm. And if a new mother doesn’t follow these rules, she’ll “pay for it in her old-age”. Being pampered for a month after the delivery of your new baby could be a grand experience. However, there are some confinement rules which are forced onto the new mother that can induce a lot of stress.
Some of the rules include:
- Mothers must stay indoors the whole 40 days and not allowed to walk more than a few paces.
- No baths or showers for mom (!), or they can bathe in a special herbal bath after 12 days.
- Not allowed to wash hair or brush teeth!
- Head, hands and feet should be completely covered to avoid wind blowing directly onto her skin.
- No crying and watching television, or the new mother will go blind
- Shouldn’t eat vegetables and fruits which are deemed ‘cold’.
- Should eat food, especially meat, which is laden with ginger, wine and sesame oil to ‘heat up the body’.
It all sounds illogical and ancient, doesn’t it? However, many people still believe in it and follow the rules, ‘just to play safe’. But for others, traditional confinement practices become less relevant as mothers become more educated and westernised in their outlook.
Whatever your beliefs are, remember that the confinement period is a period when the new mother’s nutritional demands are high, owing to the recent blood loss from the delivery and the demands of breastfeeding. A well balanced diet is essential, rather than specific food types, to replenish and rejuvenate the body. It is usually a good idea to continue your prenatal vitamins to satisfy these nutritional demands. This is especially so during breastfeeding.
It is recommended to avoid ginger and all herbs in the first week to prevent or reduce baby’s jaundice level. Special confinement food could be taken in moderation, for when taken in excessive amounts, they may affect you and your baby adversely. There are various substances present in the herbs that we are not fully aware of. The consumption of a little alcohol is permissible. However alcohol has been shown to inhibit let-down and decrease milk production. Therefore, adequate fluid consumption is strongly advised. Some herbal medication may increase the risk of bleeding and therefore should be avoided
Hygiene and personal comfort is also of utmost importance for the new mother to be able to embrace her life as a mother with minimal stress. Bathing regularly ensures both the mother’s and baby’s comfort and hygiene. It reduces the incidence of skin and wound infections. It also reduces the occurrence of mastitis or breast infections for breastfeeding mothers.
In our hot and humid climate, switching on the air-conditioner or fan goes a long way in making you and your baby comfortable. It may even help prevent heat rash in baby from developing. There is no scientific evidence that being cool and comfortable during your confinement will cause you to suffer rheumatism or arthritis in your old age.
Confinement practices don’t just cover rest and nutrition; it should also support your lifestyle and parenting acumen, the most important being the successful breastfeeding of your newborn. While breastfeeding is acknowledged as being the best for mother and child, many new mothers actually gave up breastfeeding within the first month due to lack of information and support. Many antiquated confinement practices also plays a role in preventing the new mother breastfeed successfully.
Most of the new mothers today already understood that they should not be following confinement practices blindly, but yet they are hard-pressed to find help who are willing to accommodate their more educated and modern views. Most new parents are left at the mercy of old-fashioned and non-breastfeeding-friendly Confinement Ladies who refuse to compromise on practices that would sabotage the new parents desire to breastfeed their baby.
Therefore, it’s essential that you get good and effective help during the confinement period, so that your breastfeeding goals would be achieved. Interview potential confinement ladies in advance and do ask for references to ensure that she will truly support you in your decision to breastfeed your baby. Asking questions such as “What should I do if my baby keeps crying?” or “Do you think I will have enough milk for my baby?” will tell you how experienced and supportive she is in taking care of exclusively breastfeeding mothers.
One relatively new trend is staying at a confinement centre for one month. The lack of space, the difficulty in finding good and trusted help or the unwillingness to have a stranger to stay a month in their homes has made choosing a confinement centre the most obvious and sensible choice for many new mothers. These facilities offer a complete package where a mother and her baby’s needs are fully taken care of.
Whether you choose to hire the services of a Confinement lady or opt to stay in a confinement centre, you should ensure beforehand that your decision to follow healthy logical traditions and practices will be respected, and that you would get super breastfeeding guidance and support.
Congratulations and enjoy your baby.
Gina Yong is the CEO of Bonda Villa Confinement Centre. She believes that Health is the most important thing in Life and that it is our responsibility to preserve it. She is a mother of 4 beautiful children. She failed to breastfeed her eldest son but after much determination and research, she successfully breastfeed the other 3. Gina is now a Wellness Consultant and Breastfeeding Counselor. She has helped many parents in giving the best of life to their children. She hopes that through her education and research, more babies will be added into the growing statistics of “Exclusively Fed on Mommy’s Milk”.