The Confinement Month- Part 1

April 2013

Someone shared with me that the confinement month(also known as 坐月子) is sometimes known as the fourth trimester. According to Chinese tradition, the one month or so(30-40 days) is the most important to a woman who has just given birth. The woman’s body is the weakest and most vulnerable to future ailments after childbirth, and hence it is imperative that she observe a series of traditions and keep to to a confinement cuisine consisting of ginger, red dates, sesame oil and whatever “heaty” ingredients. The theory is that the woman who has just given birth is now in a ‘cold stage’ due to the loss of blood and energy from the birth. As such, the confinement period focuses on re-energising your body with the ‘warmth’ that has been lost.

Traditionally, confinement period is assisted by mothers or mother-in-laws. However, it is really hard work(just imagine preparing confinement food, cooking, cleaning, caring for babies) and I dont think E or I want to subject our mothers to a month of confinement duties after how my mom helped me with my confinement 2 years ago. So nowadays, most people will hire a confinement nanny to assist them during the one month. And hiring them not cheap(ranges from $2000-$3000) at all and there is no guarantee that you will get along with your confinement nanny’s working style. In the end, E and I just made the decision to go without one for this confinement(So, E just owe me $3000 or one new bag- to be paid in due time.).  Days before giving birth, I got quite worried on whether I could cope with the new demands of our newborn, along with caring for Ryan and still have to follow the confinement practices. So far, I think it is pretty manageable- tiring but still surviving. Really cannot wait for confinement to end!

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Chinese confinement can be really be painful, especially living in hot and humid Singapore. For me, I try to follow as close to the traditions as much as my tolerance level allows. First up, one of the confinement restrictions includes no bathing or washing of hair after birth. Apparently if you bath or wash your hair during confinement, “wind” will get into your body and you will have body aches in the future. This is one rule that I dislike the most! This is something almost unthinkable to not be able to do in Singapore. For the record, I washed my hair and bathed with warm water infused with Chinese herbs(if I am not wrong, they are called Da Feng Cao) everyday. These herbal sachets($2 each) can be purchased from any Chinese medical halls. I checked with my gynecologist and pediatrician about these rules and of course, they said there was no scientific conclusions to this “no bathing” tradition and hygiene is the most important especially for breastfeeding mothers.

PicMonkey Collage

Also, during confinement, we have the confinement cuisine to follow. Basically, ladies who have just given birth should stick to a diet of nourishing and “heaty” food. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that a cold diet after giving birth can harm the spleen and stomach, and complicate recovery. Liquid wise, I was allowed to drink only warm drinks like longan and red dates, warm milo and milk. Water(warm or cold) was not allowed because it will cause water retention. For food, everything has to be cooked with liberal usage of sesame oil and ginger- so as to get of the “wind” in the body. Chinese herbs such as pao shen(泡参) and dong qui (当归) are also vital tonics to help the body heal. During my first two weeks, I ate only stir fried vegetables, steamed threadfin fish (ngoh he), stir fried pork and fish and papaya soup( which is supposed to help in milk production). From the second week onwards, my mom included stir fried kampong chicken in my meals. My soup variation increased- I had pig stomach soup and pork ribs and black beans soup. My mom insisted that I should eat as much as possible during confinement month so as to regain my energy. So you can imagine how hard it is to lose weight during this period of time… (-_-)”‘ But of course, the food that I am eating are much healthier the ones my brain is craving for(along the lines of iced cold drinks, burgers, pizzas and pepper crabs).

Okay, I will update more on my confinement on my next post. Need to feed the baby now! Till later!

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