The Confinement Period




Photos Courtesy of Thuy Tran
Photos Courtesy of Thuy Tran

Welcome to the first part of my series of post dedicated to the First Month! In the first post I thought I will look at the Confinement Period and it’s significance in Asian culture. I also thought it was appropriate to start this post sharing some wonderful images taken by a family friend who is also a wonderful mother and just and all round talented and creative woman. Just love her culinary and photography skills.

The Confinement Period is usually the first month of a baby’s life and also the first month being a mother. As all Asian mothers know the first month is called the “Confinement” period because you are basically confined in your home for a whole month. During this period you are allowed as far out as your backyard but no further so if you are like me it was basically a little like a prison sentence but I know some of the reasoning behind it, whether you agree with it all not if you are Asian you basically have no choice!

The Confinement period is usually govern by strict rules and regulations. Some of these rules are based on age old wives tales but others have some merit. So in this post I will attempt to identify some rules that I believe are old wives tales while identifying the rules and procedures I stuck to for the whole month.

The main wives tale that our Mother and Grandmother would like us to follow was that we should not wash our hair for the first month after giving birth. The main reason for this is they believed if we wash our hair during this first month we are more likely to get headaches and migraines later in life. However, if you are like me and can not stand to go a day without washing my hair how was I going to survive a month without doing that? Hence, this was one of the rules I chose not to abide by and it was mainly because I believed that migraines can be caused by a number of different reason and is not directly attributed to one washing their hair after giving birth. Therefore, I have classified this rule as a wives tale.

Another procedure was that you had to heat a brick, wrap it up with a towel and put that on your tummy for an hour. I was mortified when I heard you had to do this and yes you might have guessed from
my reaction that this was a procedure I did not follow. However, I did compromise with my mother and my husband by putting a hot water bottle on my tummy for an hour. They were happy for me to replace the brick with a hot water bottle. The main reason for doing this was to flatten your tummy and get it back into shape! Wasn’t really convinced about that but I did find it relaxing and warm having the water bottle on my tummy especially since I had my son during winter and found it good to fall asleep with. So it is totally up to each individual whether you want to classify this as a wives tale or not.

The next rule is strictly no physical activities, my parents literally wanted me to stay in bed pretty much for the whole month. It is pretty much common belief that your uterus hasn’t returned to it’s normal position so any heavy lifting or heavy exercise can cause problems later on as your body is trying to adjust post baby. Part of this made sense so I couldn’t classify this as totally old wives tale, but staying in bed for a whole month doesn’t make sense either. I did some research and light exercise like Pilates or Yoga is actually very good for you post baby. These form of exercise can help you relax and sleep better. Try to avoid strenuous exercising such as aerobics and body combat for at least 12 months. This gives your body plenty of time to heal and get back to normal. I know that some celebs pretty much bounce back to normal after giving birth but if you look after your body you will reap the benefits in the long term.

Another procedure was a daily ritual of a steam bath. I really thought this was a wives tale but my parents were unwilling to budge on this. So hence, I had to undertake this steam bath in a daily basis for 2 weeks. The steam bath involves boiling a pot full of herbs such as eucalyptus and lemon grass and also a splash of Chinese wine. Once the pot has boiled you are meant to strip down to your undies and cover yourself and the pot with a blanket, bear in mind leave a distant between yourself and the hot pot. The idea is to inhale the herbal steam as it will help to cleanse and heal your body. At first I was abit skeptic of this procedure but even my dad was adamant that I do it. I had no choice but even after the first time I felt really good. My skin felt cleaned and fresh and I was surprisingly very relax after each session. After an hour of the steam bath you wipe yourself dry and then have a quick bath and you feel pretty awesome afterwards! I will try to find out what goes in the pot if people want it but most Asian parents will know what to put in there. It is pretty much standard with only one or two variations on the ingredients.

Next is your diet during the Confinement period which is probably the most important part of this period. During the Confinement period you are pretty much limited to what you can eat. If you are lucky enough like I was all my food during this month was prepared by my mother. This is due to the fact that you have to avoid any fatty and high processed foods during this month. Most of the food must be steamed, grilled or baked rather than fried and your diet must be mainly made up of fruits and vegetables. Fish is usually preferred over meat but you still need to have at least two days of some meats to get your iron intake. All this is important as it is believed what you eat is what baby will eat through you breast milk so the diet becomes very important especially in the first month as baby’s tummy is still in it’s early stages so a good diet it thought to help baby avoid any tummy aches. This I believed to be true so I stuck to the strict diet regime for the full month. After the Confinement period your rules for your diet is relaxed but I chose to try to stick to a relatively healthy diet for the duration of by breast feeding period. There were lapses of the odd fast food but hey you can’t be good all the time right?

Finally, the only other wives tale that I would like to touch on is the going without a bath for at least 2 days after giving birth. It is believed that having a bath straight after giving birth will make you catch a cold and weaken your immune system in your later years. However, modern medicine have dismiss this wives tale. You are encourage to have a warm bath after birth to firstly clean yourself from all the blood and guts from child birth and secondly to relax after the intense pain from child birth. I understand during our parents and grandparents generation warm water wasn’t readily available and having a cold bath straight after delivery may cause a cold if the mother’s immune system is already weak, but that was the past and a nice warm shower is readily accessible now so I chose not to follow this procedure.

Well that concludes the first part of my series of post. I hope you find some parts of this post useful. Bearing in mind I only touched on some of the rules and procedures common during the Confinement period there are some others that people may follow that I didn’t. If there is some other helpful procedures I haven’t touched on, it would be great if you can share it on this post.

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