Congrats on your pregnancy! Are you interested and looking into doing your confinement period the Chinese way? This article will provide you with all the information you need to do right down to the do’s and don’ts during this time!
The Chinese confinement term or ‘zuo yue zi’ “坐月子“ in Mandarin literally translates to sitting on the moon. That is what the new mother needs to be doing this entire chinese confinement care period. The Chinese believe that during the new mother’s pregnancy, there are physical changes that happen in the woman’s body and will cause her to lose her strength and physical functions during childbirth.
Confinement care in the Chinese culture has been happening for thousands of years and has become ingrained into society. Their way of doing chinese confinement hasn’t been leading them astray for the many years they’ve been doing it. Of course, many things have changed and improved over the years and some of their ‘pantang’ doesn’t apply to modern day use.
They also believe that the moment the mother becomes pregnant, she will need plenty of good nutrition to nurture the fetus but also keep the mother healthy. Once giving birth, the nutritious food is still continuously given to the mother to help recover her weakened body bringing back her strength and physical changes that have happened during the pregnancy.
Chinese confinement care period is done for a number of reasons. The main one is to allow the new mother to rest and to fully ‘bond’ with the baby. As the new mother’s body is undergoing changes, this period allows recovery. Everybody has heard of special confinement food prepared for the new mother during this period, it is not only tailored to help quicken the mother’s recovery but also has special functions like getting rid of the ‘wind’ from the body, heatiness, improving blood circulation, increasing the new mother’s milk supply and many more.
What are some do’s and don’ts during the Chinese confinement care period?
If you come from a traditional and superstitious family, it is believed that after the new mother has her baby, the body has become fragile, ligaments become loose with an open space from where the baby used to be. In Traditional Chinese Medicine views, improper healing and future complications may arise if any cold (yin) enters the new mother’s body during her confinement period.
They are advised to avoid any ‘yin’ as the body requires time to come back into balance with the energy forces (yin and yang). This is why they are told not to wash their hair, avoid cold drinks and food and going outside. Although going outside is a prevention to protect both mother and newborn as their systems are still weak to avoid catching bacteria and flu. The Chinese also believe that the new mother must stay inside during her entire confinement period and avoid any strenuous activities as it will lead to muscle weakening as well.
Cooling ‘yin’ food and drink items like cucumber, cold drinks, cabbage and pineapple should be avoided during your confinement. Onions and jackfruit also known as ‘windy’ foods should also be avoided as the Chinese believe it causes colic in your baby. New mothers should only be consuming freshly cooked food or heated up if you’ve opted for the confinement meals providers available but they should never consume reheated food from the day before or food that has been left out during the day as bacterial growth may form.
New mothers during this chinese confinement care period will usually eat 5-6 meals a day. Although this may seem like a lot of meals, the quantity should be small and packed full of nutrients for the new mother. It will usually be a mixture and alternate meal between soups and solid foods. Food cutlery, bowls, plates etc will require sanitisation with hot water before placing food in them to remove any lingering bacteria. New mothers should make sure they have plenty of liquid intake such as water, chinese herbal tea and a special confinement drink made from preserved dates and herbs. Mothers should avoid consuming coffees and tea during this period.
As said before, washing your hair is a no during your confinement. However with modern technology, most mothers are able to get around this rule by using dry shampoo as an alternative. In addition to that, ‘cool’ elements need to be avoided not only in food as well. So that means, no drinking cold water, cold showers and air-conditioning.
It is also said that if you would like to take a bath, a warm special bath infused with herbs is prepared. Herbs such as Negundo Chastetree are used along with ginger and peppermint and some others to soak in. These blends of Chinese herbs are used to increase your heart circulation, relieve any pain and also help to eliminate any excess dampness like mucus or fluid in the mother’s body.
If you are one that usually does the household chores and cooking at home, be grateful you won’t have to during this period! New mothers require tons of rest during their confinement period, so no chores or cleaning for you! This is why if families can afford it, they would hire a confinement lady that helps to cook meals for the mother, take care of the newborn as well as some housework chores.
New mothers that are opting for a C-section during giving birth, should take note that the confinement diet is the same as normal deliveries. Whilst your hospital stay and confinement period might be slightly longer due to the larger wounds and stress your body has been through, it is recommended not to use any alcohol and sesame oil in cooking for the first 2 weeks of your confinement to allow your wounds to heal. It is also recommended that snakehead fish soup helps with wound healing from having a C-section.
How long does the Chinese confinement care period last for?
The Chinese confinement care is usually over a period of 30 days (a month) which also depends on the new mother’s speed of recovery and can be extended if her body isn’t fully healed. Both new mother and baby are cared for by either their family members or hired confinement lady that cooks their special diet meals with Chinese herbs and any care either mother or baby needs. It is one of the most crucial periods for the mother’s body to recover in a nourished and rested way otherwise she may end up with a weaker body or future complications.
Where would you do your chinese confinement care?
Traditionally, the new mother’s would be doing their confinement care at home with the assistance of their mother and mother-in-law. Whoever is helping them would be living in the new mother’s house for the entire period of confinement and assisting in the preparation of meals, the newborn and housework. This is so that the mother’s will be in the comfort of their own home without being too uncomfortable with their newborn.
However, there are plenty of confinement centres around if the families are able to afford it with extremely comfortable facilities as well. Some prefer this option to avoid troubling their elderly mother’s in preparing multiple meals daily for a month. On top of preparing nutritious meals for the mother’s, these comfortable facilities have confinement lady that will assist with your newborn and answer any questions you may have about caring for them as well.
The options are endless to where the new mother is able to carry out her chinese confinement care period. Mother’s should weigh out their options and choose whatever is most comfortable to them.
What is a special confinement food diet and what ingredients are used?
New mothers during their confinement period will be required to eat lots of dishes that have yang ‘hot’ ingredients to warm their body up and is believed to also improve blood circulation and in strengthening the joints. Fish soups are also believed by the Chinese to help boost the new mother’s breast milk supply.
If the mother’s special confinement care diet is following a more traditional Chinese routine, many dishes will include a lot of ginger, wines and sesame oil. The most famous confinement dish that all Chinese will know about are the pigs trotters cooked with ginger and black vinegar. This dish is said to replenish the calcium levels in new mothers after giving birth.
Another famous soup that has been mentioned to increase the mother’s milk supply is fish soup boiled with papaya. Other traditional dishes include chicken cooked with sesame oil, tonic brewed with 10 herbs, pork liver kidney and many others. During chinese confinement care period, you may find soups that are more meat-based as they provide added nutrients and also hydration to your body.
The new mother’s special confinement diet will mainly consist of high protein, low fat food to assist with the wound healing and rebuilding of any trauma caused inside her body. Foods with low fat will help to prevent any indigestion. Although the new mother will be on bedrest, she will need a balanced amount of calories to also assist with recovery and provide energy to care for her newborn and with breastfeeding.
Having a decent amount of calories doesn’t mean the new mother needs to load up on empty calories that don’t contain any nutrients but rather consuming items such as Chinese herbal soup and drinking teas like red dates and goji berry can be used to add calories to the new mother’s diet as well.
Food rich in iron are extremely important during this chinese confinement care period as the new mother will have lost blood during the delivery or C-section and it’s important to replenish these during this time. Items such as pork, fish, chicken and dark vegetables should be included often for the new mother to help in her recovery. Not only is iron important but also fiber. It is common for new mothers to become constipated during her confinement because of constantly being on bedrest and also less activity being done, so consuming fiber will assist in going to the toilet.
After the new mother has given birth and required confinement care, typically she will be following a diet focusing on various things to help recover her body after birth.
The first week will be focusing on consuming food items to flush out the remaining placental blood such as fish soup, pig’s liver and kidney, Chinese herbs, red dates tea and ginger. The food menu will be a lot lighter as well and not greasy. Chicken will be used for natural births whereas pork will be used for C-sections during this period.
In the second week it is important to also focus on the new mother’s milk product to ensure she has enough nutrients in herself for both her and the newborn. Food items to eat during this period are whole grain products, green papaya, pig’s feet and loin along with herbs such as ginger and ginseng.
In the last 2 weeks of the mother’s confinement care, focuses more on increasing her strength, milk supply and also anti-aging. Fruits, vegetables, kelp, seafood and shellfish such as scallops and shrimp will be added to the new mother’s special diet. The usual lotus seeds, red dates, lotus seeds and Chinese herbs that have been used throughout the mother’s confinement care will be used these last weeks as well.
Even though these precautions may seem a little too much, they are said to ensure the mother’s body retains as much heat as possible to avoid health problems like headache, body pains and arthritis in the future.