The Indian confinement care practice is based on Ayurvedic methods such as massages, herbal baths, belly binding and a well nourished herbal-based diet. Confinement practices vary depending on the different regional parts of India. Even the precautionary measures and confinement length vary on the Indian communities as well.
The Indian community in Malaysia is different as well, though most mothers follow measures that have been done by the elder women in their family. Although most modern mothers opt for Western methods, they would still incorporate some precautionary Indian traditions into their confinement care. In more traditional families, a section of your home will be kept specially for the new mother and newborn for an extended period of time during the confinement period.
The Indian confinement care period was done to nurture the new mother’s body back to her pre-pregnancy form and also after the strenuous process of giving birth. With the large amount of blood and energy that is usually lost during labour, the new mother’s body will enter a ‘cold’ stage. Being the same with other cultures in Malaysia, the Indian community also believes that certain food ingredients and drinks should be avoided during her confinement care. Consuming natural ingredients like fenugreek is recommended to increase milk supply as well.
Typically, if the families are able to afford it, the new mother will be assisted by a dai or a maid that prepares the special meals, does housework, bathes the new mother and newborn and also gives the massages.
Do’s and don’ts during the Indian confinement care period?
The entire Indian confinement care period is about protecting the new mother and newborn from future health problems and restoring the mother’s strength and health. Indian mothers are not allowed to leave their home hence, the meaning of confinement during this period.
During this time, the new mother’s are not encouraged to have baths but if they feel like they have to, are only allowed between 11 am to 2 pm when the weather temperature is at its highest and only on odd days like day 3,5,7 etc of their confinement period during the first two weeks. They are also to have baths in turmeric powder and other special herbs like neem leaves that are meant for confinement.
Neem leaves are believed to be a natural antiseptic and when used with warm water, can soothe the mother’s aching muscles. It is also encouraged for the new mother’s to splash some warm water onto their abdomen areas during their bath as it is believed to wash out the clots from their uterus. If the new mothers are washing their hair as well, they are only allowed to dry their hair with incense smoke, the smoke is also used every so often between the legs to dry out their episiotomy wound.
When the newborn is being showered by the dai, a kajal is placed on the baby’s forehead to ward off any evil. Not only does the new mother use incense smoke, the baby will be held above the incense smoke after showering to dry off excess water but to also open up their nasal passage. It is good to take note that the baby will only be held above the incense smoke for a few seconds only.
Daily massages performed by the dai on the new mother is done to avoid health problems such as headache, body pains, arthritis and rheumatism. Special oil blends including ghee, coconut oil and mustard seed oil are used during this period as well. After rubbing the oil all around concentrating more on the abdomen area, the dai will then bind it with a long cloth which helps tighten up the muscles.
This is called Maalish and it is believed to help the new mother get back into shape and more importantly, relax. Not only does the dai massage the new mother but the newborn gets them too. Although the baby may cry initially during the massage, they will soon settle down and begin to enjoy it. This is supposed to be good for their bones and also assist in their development. In more traditional families, ‘atta’ (dough) is rubbed all over the body and baby’s forehead to remove any excessive hair growth.
New mother’s are expected to remain in their bed as often and as long as possible wearing socks to prevent chills in their body. Windows must be kept closed, avoiding air-conditioners and fans as well to not let any ‘cold’ elements like wind come into the room where the new mother is resting. It is believed that it will cause colds as the temperature fluctuates too much. Covering the mother’s head with a scarf as well to retain the heat with no ‘cold’ air blowing and causing her a headache.
Reading, watching television, engaging in long conversations and any strenuous activities are not advised for the mother as it will be too tiring and stressful for her. Precautionary measures like bending over, cooking, doing housework of any kind is not allowed to prevent any form of injuries to the new mother’s body.
How long does the Indian confinement period last for?
As mentioned before, the Indian confinement care period varies depending on the regions in India. Typically, areas in the north, south and west the new mother’s will be in confinement for around 40 days after the baby is born. On average, most Indian mothers follow the confinement period of 40 days and may extend it depending on their situation. Although some modern mothers feel that they are fit enough to head back to work sooner than some, it is important not to force your body and remember that every new mother heals at different rates.
Where would the new mother usually do their confinement?
The new mother would typically do their confinement care period at home. With traditional Indian families, a section or room will be dedicated to the new mother and her newborn child. If the family decides to hire a dai, she will be living with your family during the entire Indian confinement care period to cater to the new mother and newborn’s needs.
However, there are specialised Indian confinement centres available in more metropolitan cities in Malaysia. The staff there will do everything the dai offers to the new mother including accommodation. As a lot of the Indian traditional confinement practices can be many, most mothers who opt to follow these measures and can afford it, prefer to go to a confinement centres to assist with the whole process.
What is a special confinement food diet and what ingredients are used?
Just like the other cultures in Malaysia, the Indian community also believes that ‘cooling’ foods need to be avoided like cucumbers, coconut milk, pineapple, tomatoes etc and to retain as much heat as possible. Indian mothers are also advised to consume garlic milk as it prevents wind in their bodies. Foods that are recommended during Indian confinement care are chicken, ginger, shark fish, certain types of herbs and many others. Different types of ingredients offer various benefits to the new mother which in turn assists the nutrients in the breast milk for her newborn.
Betel leaves and certain types of gourd vegetables like tori and lauki are believed to increase the new mother’s milk supply. It is believed that incorporating more ghee into the new mother’s diet will help regain strength and in aiding muscle repair as well.
Increase the amount of ghee in the new mother’s diet; it is supposed to help regain strength and aid muscle repair. Understandably, Indian food is known for packing a punch with their herbs, spices and chillies and new mother’s in confinement are not allowed to incorporate chilli into their diets but can instead replace it with black pepper.
Foods like onion and jackfruit are not recommended for new mothers as they are classified as ‘windy’ foods and are believed to cause colic in your newborn. It is advised to incorporate plenty of ingredients like garlic, fenugreek and black cumin into the new mother’s special diet during confinement. These ingredients are known to be powerful supplements that boost a mother’s milk supply tremendously! Plus, they assist in eliminating toxins out of the body and ensures that the new mother’s have a steady and healthy postpartum period flow.
Typically, the new mother’s diet in Indian communities would be made from ginger oil with lots of garlic, herbal powder and black pepper for heat. Plenty of chicken and shark fish will also be served to the new mother during this period. Foods that will be completely cut out of her diet are onions, juices and cold fruits.
Other ingredients that will help the new mother during her confinement care period such as almonds, black cumin seeds and ajwa are said to help mothers quickly shed their pregnancy weight and also assists in better internal healing too.
Being put on a special diet during the new mother’s confinement care period is to help re-strengthen her body and replenish all nutrients that may have been lost during childbirth as well. Not only are the nutrients extremely important for the new mother but also important when producing the milk supply for her newborn.