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. It generally lasts six to eight weeks and ends with the first ovulation and the return of normal menstruation.
With increased information and awareness about health, nutrition and breastfeeding, current confinement trends have certainly become more progressive. For one, a mum who breastfeeds knows the need to consume a variety of foods that provides adequate nutrients, and avoid or limit substances like alcohol and caffeine. Modern lifestyles and working mothers also mean convenience is key in shaping trends. Modern confinement practices emphasise rest, a balanced, nutritious diet and good hygiene.
Many traditional habits are no longer blindly followed [as] mothers are more educated and will ask the logic behind each practice. For instance, 20 years ago, mothers were encouraged to eat one whole chicken a day to regain their strength. No fish or vegetables were allowed, [curtains were] drawn at all times to avoid any draft, mothers were prevented from watching TV or reading lest their eyesight weakens later in life. A woman should also refrain from taking a bath for the first 30 days after childbirth.
Women these days are not so old-fashioned and can accept new trends. Now, after 12 to 14 days when lochia discharge stops, mothers can [take a shower/bath/hair wash]. In addition, mothers need to be relaxed, comfortable, consume enough nutrients to breastfeed successfully and also prevent post-natal depression. [Given] our weather, air-conditioning and fans are necessary as long as the air flow is not aimed directly at the mother. Mothers are also watching TV, surfing the Internet and reading during confinement.
In the first two weeks of confinement, a mother should take foods that are mildly nutritive while in the last two weeks, stronger herbs to revitalise the body. [Avoid vegetables] that are ‘cooling’ or cause ‘wind’ in the stomach [and go for greens] like kai lan (kale) and French beans ... fried with ginger and sometimes minced meat. However, the basic practice of consuming ginger, sesame oil, red dates drink and herbal soups remains.