Confinement is a common practice in many Asian cultures where a new mother recovers after giving birth and nurtures her body back to its pre-natal state over a period of 30-45 days. But what lifestyle changes do new mothers have to adopt to regain their strength? Find out here.
What Happens to a Mother’s Body after Childbirth?
Besides adjusting to parenthood, a new mother’s body will undergo many physical and emotional changes after delivering a baby.
While pregnancy and childbirth are no walk in the park, recovering from childbirth is also equally challenging. New mothers lose a lot of energy and blood after delivering a baby, whether it’s through a normal vaginal delivery or a caesarean section. Thus, they would need time to recuperate and regain their strength and health during the confinement period.
The idea of confinement might seem daunting because there are tons of strict dos and don’ts as well as old wives’ tales for new mothers to nurse their bodies back to health. These include no carrying of heavy items, no consumption of cold drinks, no leaving the house and bathing only in water boiled with special herbs. Some new mothers might find these rules intrusive and restrictive since there are so many of them. Most of these practices originated from our Asian culture and hence, may not have much scientific proof behind them.
With various types of confinement advice and myths on the internet, how should a new mother go about nursing herself back to health after delivering a baby? What fundamental lifestyle changes should she undertake?
Here are 4 of them.
Top 4 Lifestyle Changes for New Mothers
1. Stay Indoors as Much as Possible
You might think that your body could use some sunshine outdoors after delivering a baby. But confinement practices state otherwise.
Since a new mother’s body is very vulnerable after childbirth, she is advised to stay indoors to avoid pollution and lower the risks of contracting common illnesses. She should also avoid strenuous physical activities in extreme weather conditions to allow the body to heal and adjust after delivering a baby.
2. Stick to a Diet with Confinement Foods
Just like how eating well is important during pregnancy, new mothers have to nourish their bodies with the right nutrients to recover from childbirth.
Many new mothers consume confinement foods after giving birth. These meals are free from alcohol and contain no raw or ‘cooling’ food. Instead, they incorporate various herbs and spices that are known to speed up recovery like ginger and sesame oil.
Some examples of confinement food include herbal chicken soup and seabass peppercorn soup. Fish soup boiled with papaya is also believed to improve a mother’s milk supply for her baby.
Specially prepared drinks such as herbal drinks with a mixture of preserved dates are also preferred over plain water during this period.
New mothers can cook these dishes themselves or hire an experienced confinement nanny who knows how to cook confinement food. They could also order confinement food from a caterer.
3. Shower only With Hot/Warm Water
Some cultures uphold a strict “no bathing for a month” policy after childbirth to prevent ‘wind’ from entering the body.
On the contrary, bathing is perfectly safe for new mothers. However, new mothers should shower with warmer water and dry their bodies immediately to avoid catching a chill or other sickness.
4. Use Fans & Air-conditioners in Moderation
Since a new mother is more susceptible to common illnesses due to hormonal imbalance, a reduced immunity and fatigue from adjusting to parenthood, should she avoid the fan and air-conditioning (even on a hot day)?
While there is no need for new mothers to consciously keep their bodies warm after giving birth, a new mother should not expose herself directly to blowing wind or cold air as she could catch a cold. Overexposure to cold air could also cause joint pain.
Conversely, on hotter days, a new mother can use the fan or air-conditioning in moderation to make herself more comfortable. But she has to avoid using them at full blast. It is fine to keep cool, especially in Singapore’s hot and sweltering weather to prevent unwanted issues such as heat rash.
Besides adjusting to parenthood, new mothers should try to make themselves as comfortable as possible during post-partum confinement to build their physical and mental strength.
While many of these confinement “rules” are borne out of the older generation beliefs, many new mothers nowadays are still expected to follow them due to the beliefs of their parents or in laws.
Most of these confinement rules are generally from Chinese and Malay cultures, while the Westerners may have never even heard of these rules before.
As such, as women in today’s modern society, it is important to strike a careful balance between following these rules, and also making sensible choices to help us regain our health post delivery in the quickest way possible.