New confinement practices among the Chinese

Mum ate nothing but chicken cooked in tonnes of ginger, sesame oil and rice wine every day, for the entire 30-day period. In the morning she drank kopi-o (black coffee) mixed with rock sugar, and during the day, only warm water with ginger-fried rice soaking in it. 

The traditional practices also dictated that she bundle herself in warm clothing from head to toe and not wash her hair throughout the month. 

That was some 30 years ago, an era when the benefits of breastfeeding were not fully extolled and colostrum was a “bad substance” and discarded. 

Fast forward a few decades and, thankfully, my confinement rituals were not so restricted. 

For my first child in 2006, I surprised myself and did not wash my hair for 30 days, thanks to powdered shampoo. 

However, when my second child came along four years later, I wisened up, against my mother’s advice. After 12 days, I gave my hair a triple cleanse and wash, with real shampoo. 

As for meals, I had chicken, pork and fish, various soups and essence, and a reasonable selection of vegetables. Fruit intake, however, was limited to papayas, guavas and apples. 

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 (Encyclopaedia Britannica). 

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. 

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