Confinement food across various cultures
Confinement is a period for your body to recuperate and recover from childbirth. The idea of confinement is familiar to Asians but foreign to Westerners. In the past when infant and maternal mortality rates were high, it was a practice to keep both the baby and mother indoors during the period of confinement. This was meant to protect them from ill health.
By now, you may have been exposed to some of the practices or ideas from your parents. You may or may not agree with them but many of these originated from Asian culture and hence, possess no scientific basis at all. They range from the prohibition of certain daily tasks to the restriction of certain foods – with the strong belief that these practices can provide the mother adequate rest and replenishment during this period.
Following are some of the dietary practices observed during confinement in the Chinese, Malay and Indian communities:
• To purge out the “wind” in the body after delivery, promote “blood circulation”, strengthen the joints and promote milk supply
Bathing, washing hair and going out are traditionally discouraged during confinement
The Chinese, Malay and Indian communities have a number of practices for the mother and the newborn baby during the confinement period. The basis for such practices is to protect the new mother from future ill health, restore her strength and protect the family from ritual pollution. Following are some of the confinement practices observed by these communities:
The Chinese believe in staying indoors throughout the confinement period to avoid outdoor pollution.Strenuous physical activities are discouraged to prevent further “muscle weakening”.Some hire a confinement nanny to help with the housework and caring for the baby.
Other practices may include:
| Malay practices Traditionally, childbirth is in the mother’shome attended by a bidan (Malay midwife) and the umbilical stump dusted with a mixture of spices.
Fortunately, this has been replaced by hospital births that reduce complications and infection rates.
Immediately after birth, both mother and baby should be bathed in heated water filled with herbs.
The mother should “keep warm” through various traditional methods. These may include sitting near to or lying above a heat source, or warming the abdomen by applying a heated stone over it.
During this confinement period, a female masseuse is
The practice of tightly binding the tummy is called berbengkong, and is believed to help in maintaining the body shape.
Sex is also strictly prohibited during the confinement period.
| Indian practices
Indian mothers are also discouraged from leaving their homes during their confinement period.Bathing is discouraged and if done, it should be performed with special herbal preparations and turmeric powder.Bathing is only allowed between 11 am and 2 pm when the temperature is at its highest.
Daily body massages with oil are also encouraged.
• Not allowed to enter the prayer altar room.