The confinement period is the most important postnatal care time frame that happens after a mother has given birth. This period is for the new mother to rest and restore her strength physically and mentally after the trauma her body has just gone through. It is important for the new mother to be confined to avoid acquiring certain illnesses such as premature aging and also rheumatism. During this period, the mother will be given a new diet catered to her body needs that will enhance her body strength and also milk production.
With the traditional Chinese method of confinement, certain Chinese confinement food recipes are followed to be prepared to refurbish her health and strength for her parenting journey. Having a good diet that improves the new mother’s blood circulation, keeping the body warm and is easy to digest is the fastest way to speed up her journey during the confinement period.
The Chinese confinement food’s diet is different for every mother as it depends on their situation and what their body requires. For example, a mother may require a dietary catered to breastfeeding whilst the other may require more nutrients for her lochia. However, if any complications were to arise during your confinement period, you should contact their doctor immediately.
These Chinese confinement food recipes consist of ingredients that are considered beneficial to restoring the body’s strength and provide nutrients required by a new mother’s body. With the number of changes that happen to a woman’s body during and after childbirth, it can sometimes be detrimental to her health and well-being. With this, the Chinese confinement practice has traditions that will take care of soon-to-be mothers as well as new mothers during this period.
Apart from the traditional food recipes that are prepared for new mothers during the confinement period, other practices include massages, special baths and also some rules that the mothers should observe during their confinement.
In the Chinese confinement food & diet, traditionally used ingredients such as ginger, wine and sesame oil are often used as it helps with promoting blood circulation, dispelling wind from the body, lactation and also bone health. Most importantly, it will also help prevent allergies such as colic in your newborn baby.
Other common Chinese confinement food dishes include pigs trotters with ginger and vinegar, chicken with sesame oil, fish soup and traditional tonic soups. Fish is an extremely good source of protein which also helps aid tissue development and repair. Fish not only prepared through steaming during the confinement diet but it is also prepared with papaya into a soup. It is believed that fish soup boiled with papaya is beneficial for milk production.
Chinese traditional confinement practices believe that plain water should not be consumed in large amounts to reduce the risk of water retention. Instead, a special drink prepared with a mixture of herbs and preserved dates is recommended.
Another traditional belief is that food items that are ‘cooling’ should be avoided, instead of food that is ‘hot’, helps nourish and rebalance the new mother’s body after giving birth. Typical Chinese ingredients that are used during the confinement period for new mothers are listed below along with the purpose for the body.
Chinese Confinement Food Important Ingredients
1. Black Vinegar
It is known for its therapeutic ability to purify the blood and also cleanses the arteries. Black vinegar is typically used with recipes with pork as its main ingredient.
2. Old Ginger
Old ginger is believed to dispel any gas or wind in the body that is acquired by the new mother’s body after giving birth. It is also believed that this wind needs to be removed from the body otherwise it will lead to aches, pains and rheumatism in the future.
This is the most popular ingredient that is used in various recipes for new mothers in confinement. It clears phlegm, stops cough, has healing properties along with detoxification effects.
3. Sesame Oil
With similar meaning to ginger, sesame oil is also used for its ‘hot’ nature and used to dispel the wind in the new mothers bodies. If the new mothers have planned to follow the Chinese confinement practices or have their own mothers/ mother-in-law that are traditional, they will find that sesame oil will be introduced into their diets from very early on into their pregnancy as it is also believed to improve blood circulation and treating conditions like constipation and inflammation.
Not only is it used for its anti-oxidation properties, sesame oil is also very rich in essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin E which are vital for the new mothers’ bone and joint health. Sesame oil is also used in confinement food’s recipes to enhance the flavor of the food as well.
4. Black Fungus
Black fungus alleviates dryness and promotes circulation in the new mothers body but also nourishes the lungs, liver and stomach. It is another popular ingredient not only in confinement food’s recipes but also normal Chinese recipes. Often added in soups with dried vegetables, it is known to expel toxins from the mother’s body whilst nourishing them.
This fungus is known to lower blood cholesterol, supporting the immune system, and also excellent to prevent colic and allergies in newborn babies.
5. Chinese Wolfberry (Gou Qi)
Wolfberry is extremely well known for promoting good eyesight as it is high in antioxidants that delay ageing. It also improves strength and boosts energy that is packed full of minerals and vitamins.
It is also consumed as it is high in antioxidants which delays ageing in new mothers and improves strength. Not only is it packed with minerals and vitamins, it also promotes good eyesight, detoxifies the body and reinforces the liver and invigorates the kidneys.
6. Dang Gui – (Angelica)
This is known as a blood tonic that is consumed by women to maintain a more regular menstrual cycle. It is used to promote blood circulation, enriches the blood, and also regulates the body’s immune system. It is an important herb to incorporate into the new mother’s postpartum period.
7. Red Dates
Red dates are usually brewed with Chinese wolfberry and dried longan to drink during the postpartum period as it nourishes the blood and provides a calming effect on new mothers. With its calming effect, many new mothers drink this constantly if they are dealing with postpartum depression. Most Chinese traditional confinement practices will add this as a supplement to substitute water as the Chinese believe that it contains ‘wind’.
Not only does it have a calming effect, it also has many health benefits. It is an excellent source of iron which will help new mothers that are planning to breastfeed, replenishes red blood cells, and also enhances the immune system.
8. Black Bean
Black beans are a popular iron-rich ingredient that is a great addition to confinement food. During delivery, no matter natural or cesarean, new mothers will experience a tremendous amount of blood loss which puts them at a risk of anemia and other complications that are related to blood loss. It is important to feed the new mother ingredients that will help replenish the blood loss suffered during delivery.
9. Dried Longan
This naturally sweet and tropical fruit is low in calories and fats known to nourish the blood, strengthen the heart as well as improve blood circulation. The ingredient also reinforces the heart and the spleen for better blood-building functions whilst promoting restful sleep as mentioned in the red dates section. Improving sleep quality is extremely important with a newborn baby and is also found to relieve stress and fatigue.
Pepper is a widely known ingredient that has antibacterial benefits to cleanse the digestive tract. Not only is it a great antioxidant, but it also helps promote regulating bowel movement.
Chinese Confinement Dishes
Below are some well known recipes in the Chinese confinement period used for new mothers and its benefits from consuming them.
Sheng Hua Soup
Ingredients: Sichuan lovage root, Semen Persicae, Chinese Angelica, Roasted Licorice Root, Ginger
Benefits: Traditional herbal confinement soup that aids in womb recovery by clearing it of harmful toxins and lochia. The soup helps warm the middle section and disperses the cold, helps metabolism and improves circulation. Typically this soup is consumed 3-4 days after giving birth.
Red Glutinous Wine Chicken (Hong Zao)
Ingredients: Chicken, ginger, cooking wine, red glutinous wine lees, sesame oil, sugar, salt
Benefits: A popular Chinese confinement dish, this dish is consumed to regulate the new mother’s menses as well as replenishing their qi.
Black Vinegar Pig’s Trotters
Ingredients: Pork trotters, black vinegar, sweet vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar
Benefits: Another popular confinement dish, it helps expel wind from the body, purifies the blood, improves blood circulation, strengthens the immune system and replenishes calcium and collagen.
Papaya Fish Soup
Ingredients: Green papaya, fish bones, Snakehead, ginger, garlic, red dates, salt, sesame oil
Benefits: This is a popular dish that helps boost the production of the new mother’s breast milk, aids digestion and wound healing.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some insights into the benefits of the core Chinese confinement food and its ingredients. Stay tuned if you’d like information on some Malay confinement food and Indian confinement food ingredients and their benefits!