Confinement care usually refers to a postnatal traditional recovery practice after childbirth that begins immediately after the baby is born with special treatment that may last a minimum of 30 days depending on their culture. This is to help the mother return to her pre-pregnancy state which includes being more aware and cautious with areas such as clothing, physical exercise, living environment and most importantly, food. The new mother will require a lot of help and support for both her and the newborn for recovery. In some cultures, it is typically for a month whereas some go up to 100 days.
Living in a culturally diverse country such as Malaysia, they all have their own way of confinement care. Being a parent to a newborn isn’t easy and this article will have all the general information on what you need to know during confinement. If you’re interested then, carry on reading! We will touch base more in detail with the various types of confinements in future articles.
What are confinement care practices?
Essentially, the new mum is being quarantined in the comfort of their home to recover from their pregnancy term and labour. Back in the day where mortality rates were high, confinement practices were done to keep the new mother and baby indoors to protect them from falling ill.
However, there are many confinement centres around to help as well. Usually, the mother and newborn are not allowed any visitors and are supposed to limit even close family members until the confinement period has finished. This is to prevent both mother and child catching any wanted bacteria and complications right after giving birth and also to regain strength and recover from labour.
Confinement practices vary between the different cultures in Malaysia but most importantly, it is done to help the new mother get back to her pre-pregnancy state via nutritious high protein food.
How long is the confinement care period usually?
As mentioned before, the confinement period varies depending on the mother’s cultural background. However, the minimum period is 30 days. The confinement period can be extended longer in different situations that need more help. It is said that having a caesarean section will take the mother longer to recover rather than natural birth.
In Malaysia, a new Malay mum would be in confinement for a period of between 42 – 44 days. Whereas a Chinese mum’s confinement would last typically for a whole month from when the baby is born. With an Indian mum, the confinement period usually varies between 30 to 40 days.
The confinement period is a time for the new mum to be on bed rest, to allow bonding time with her newborn baby and to avoid doing any physical work. It is also good to note that any sexual activity is not allowed during her confinement period as the mother has not fully healed yet from giving birth.
Who is it that helps the new mother during the confinement care period?
If your family is extremely traditional, usually it is either your mother or mother-in-law that will be taking care of you during your confinement period.
In Malaysia, some Chinese mothers that can afford it, sometimes hire confinement nannies known as ‘pui yuet’ in Cantonese that will see to both the mother and newborn’s needs. Just like in the Chinese confinement culture, both Malay confinement and Indian confinement similarly hire confinement nannies that help with the new mother’s needs.
However, in bigger cities, mothers also have the option of checking into a confinement centre after giving birth if they would like to avoid troubling their elders. Checking into these centres provides everything the new mother and baby would need such as lodging, confinement meals and ladies on standby to help if needed. It is also good to take note that most confinement centres around do not allow the fathers to stay alongside the mother and baby.
If you prefer not to be away from your partner during your confinement period, there are also the options of hiring a confinement lady that comes to your house daily to care for the mother and baby. Nowadays, there are also readily available options to order confinement meals if families would like to avoid the hassle of cooking multiple meals a day. They would usually either be delivered daily to your home or sent frozen altogether which would just require reheating.
Do you need to follow all the confinement restrictions?
In this day and age, some new mothers find confinement old fashion and prefer to follow more restrictive practices but not to the point of confinement. On the other hand, many mothers do still prefer and observe the confinement period that welcomes the bedrest alongwith building up their immune system and strength in this tradition.
Some mothers who may have gone through tough labour require more restrictions than others. It is good to take note that having a cesarean in comparison to natural childbirth requires a longer healing time due to the wounds done during labour.
However, new mothers should do whatever is more comfortable for them. The various practices are extremely extensive and some may work for you whilst others may not. There is always the option of tweaking the steps slightly to accommodate what you feel is best for both you and your newborn.
Do all new mothers have to follow a special confinement diet?
Depending whether your family is the more traditional minded kind or not, some elders may sometimes expect the new mother to follow a special and structured diet during the confinement period. This special diet is catered to improve the new mother’s strength and immune system. It usually consists of high in protein and energy foods that help shrink the uterus, giving it time to heal. This is also extremely important for the production of the mother’s breast milk as well.
Sometimes, special herbal foods will be consumed by new mothers only after their lochia has fully been discharged. Postpartum Bleeding or Lochia is a vaginal discharge consisting of uterine tissue, mucus and blood and usually happens between 4 – 6 weeks after giving birth.
Do I need to complete the confinement period?
After giving birth, the most critical time that causes complications to the new mother is between 4-6 hours after delivery due to the excessive blood loss from where the placenta was attached to the mother’s uterus and also sometimes from a small rupture of the uterus during labour. It can sometimes also threaten the baby’s life if it is starved of nutrients and oxygen if it happens before.
After birth, both baby and new mother are still at risk of having other complications if both their bodies do not have the physiological adjustments that are supposed to happen after giving birth. The result in this happening is the loss of essential oxygen and nutrients needed in both their bodies.
New mothers require a lot of rest after birth especially the first two weeks. During these two weeks, the new mothers are adjusting to the baby’s feeding schedule and also building up their breast milk production. This is where the special diet comes in as mentioned earlier to build up their breast milk production. New mothers require a healthy and balanced diet filled with fibre, protein and whole grains alongside plenty of liquid. If they have had a significant amount of blood loss during the delivery of the baby, vitamins, iron replacement and iron enriched food can be provided for them as well.
Even though it is advised to get plenty of bed rest, once the new mothers are feeling comfortable, they are able to walk around the comfort of their homes to reduce the risk of blood clots from happening.
The risk of a new mother going back to their ‘normal’ lives too quickly, increases the risk of complications such as postpartum depression, heavy bleeding, breast infections and many others. It may start off with something small such as difficulties with going to the bathroom, backaches, headaches and chills which you may think is normal and not worth checking out. Once you do, the complications may turn out to be something serious. This is why confinement after birth is extremely important not only for your newborn but also for the new mother.
Whilst the mother is pregnant, her body system changes to accommodate the baby growing in her. After giving birth, the new mother’s body systems need time and resting period for her body to adjust back from her pregnancy state, to pre-pregnancy state. This is why the confinement period practice for new mothers is essential for the adjustments to occur to prevent any potential complications.
Even though the various cultures in Malaysia have different practices for the new mother during confinement, the end result is the same and that is to nurse her back to health, restore her strength and protect both newborn and mother from future ill health. If in doubt, you can always consult with your family, friends, doctors on what is the best step for you, your body and newborn. In conclusion, new mothers can choose the various methods if they would like to follow the more traditional practice of confinement periods or the restrictive practices which we will go more into depth in our future articles, so stay tuned!