Congratulations on your pregnancy! Are you looking to follow the Malay confinement food practices and wondering what the benefits are? Look no further, in this article we talk about what the benefits are too specific ingredients used during the confinement period, their purpose, and various dishes you’ll be consuming.
In the Malay culture, it is advised that the woman follow a special diet mainly consisting of ‘heaty’ food and encouraged to avoid cooling foods to restore the balance in the new mother’s body after going through the birth of your newborn. Giving birth causes the new mother to lose a substantial amount of blood and it is extremely important to increase your intake of iron rich foods for your red blood cells, food high in fiber and antioxidants and to restore body function.
Apart from their special diet, other practices such as massages and herbal baths are to be followed as well to get the body back into its pre-pregnancy form.
The below list are a few ingredients that are commonly used in the Malay confinement diet and it’s benefits:
Malay Confinement Food Main Ingredients
Jamu is a combination of herbs and is believed to keep the mother’s body warm, shrink the uterus and increase energy levels. This drink is to be consumed daily during the confinement period.
With the special diet and needing to consume ‘warming’ foods, ginger is an ingredient that is added into the majority of the dishes during this period. It helps to promote blood circulation, strengthen the joints and prevent or relieve wind in the body.
Snakehead fish is believed to have healing and nourishing properties that will promote wound healing that can be very helpful for women that choose to have a Caesarean section. Called Channa striatus in scientific terms, this fish is rich in proteins, albumin and fatty acids.
This ingredient helps shrink the new mother’s womb back to its normal state. It is believed turmeric also functions as an antibiotic and promotes a healthy circulatory system in the body.
Having a healthy and balanced diet during this confinement period is crucial. With this, consuming green vegetables will obviously be on the list of the mother’s diet. Spinach is one of the many types of green vegetables that can be eaten after your childbirth. Being such a versatile vegetable, it can be added to soup and even sauteed for a changeup in case you might feel slightly bored if eating the same ingredient cooked in the same way over and over again.
Spinach is low in calories but high in fiber and also contains Vitamin C and iron which is what is needed for new mothers to rebuild after giving birth.
Consuming legumes, beans or nuts provides optimal nutrition for the new mother. Nuts can also be given to new mothers that have lost a lot of blood during childbirth. Did you know that in a cup of nuts weighing approximately 198g there is 6.6mg of iron in it?
Beans is another source of protein that helps repair any body tissues that may have been damaged during childbirth.
On top of that, nuts are a great source of fiber as well that helps reduce the risk of constipation. It is recommended to eat nuts alongside foods that are high in vitamin C to help the absorption of iron. Of course it is not recommended for mothers who are allergic to them to consume these ingredients.
It is good to take note as well to ration yourself when consuming any nuts, beans or legumes especially if you or other family members have a history of these allergies as it may cause your baby to have the same allergies as well.
Amongst these ingredients, the best source of protein will be from fish. Fish that is typically recommended for new mothers are salmon, snakefish, red fish, mullet fish, dragon fish, shark dish and selar fish. These fishes are known to be rich in omega-3, amino acids, minerals like zinc and iron that are essential for internal wound healing. It is also believed to reduce risk of depression, improves brain function in your newborn and helps build the baby’s nervous system as well.
Fishes such as cod, stingray, catfish and cencaru fish are not recommended during the confinement period as they have the potential to cause bleeding and bloating. If you feel that you’re constantly eating fish and would like to have a switch up between protein sources, other alternatives are chicken, meat and mutton. Remember to choose the healthier methods like baked, steamed and boiled.
Many local Malay ingredients that are used during the confinement period are readily available in every supermarket. Ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, sweet potato, kantan flowers, kesum leaves and ginger contain fiber, minerals and various vitamins new mothers need after giving birth.
Ulam is a popular Malay dish that has a variety of herbs and green vegetables such as pegaga leaves, noni shoots, sorry leaves, cemumar leaves, bebuas leaves and many more.
Malay confinement Food Dishes
Stewed snakehead fish with pepper
Ingredients: Snakehead fish (ikan haruan), ginger, onion, shallots, tamarind, black pepper, salt, oil
Benefits: It is believed to help speed up the recovery process and any internal wound healing. If you are planning to have a c-section, this dish isn’t recommended to be consumed prior to giving birth as it can form celluloids that attach to the internal organs of the body which is called ‘adhesion colic’.
Pan-fried beef with turmeric
Ingredients: Beef slices, turmeric, onion, garlic, ginger, salt, red and green chillies, cooking oil
Benefits: As mentioned turmeric is an ingredient constantly used during the confinement period as it helps shrink the womb back to its pre-pregnancy state. It also helps replenish any blood loss during delivery and prevents anaemia as well. This dish can be switched out between the various types of protein from beef, chicken and fish.
Ingredients: Chicken Legs, Ginger, Coriander Powder, Turmeric Powder, Tamarind Paste, Dried Chillies, Garlic, Shallots, Ginger, Belacan, Buah Keras, Lemongrass, Coconut Milk
Benefits: Chicken being another great source of protein whilst having some rice gives the mother some carbohydrates as well.
Stuffed Bean Curd (Tauhu Sumbat)
Ingredients: Firm Tofu, Beansprouts, Cucumber, Lettuce, Jicama, Chilli, Cloves, Shallots, Tamarind Paste, Roasted Peanuts
Benefits: Bean curd is made from soybean. Bean curd is gluten-free and low in calories and it does not contain cholesterol. It is also a source for iron, protein and calcium.
The pegaga leaf is rich in its own nutrients that can treat or prevent constipation. It also provides vitamins and minerals a new mother needs after giving birth.
Dates are great because they’re small and provide natural sugar contents which can provide energy quickly to mothers. Eating a piece of date meets the calorie and carbohydrate amount needed to breastfeed during the early stages. It is also great to eat as it can reduce hunger and the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) in new mothers.
Benefits: It is believed that eating dates immediately after giving birth may also help reduce any blood loss that happens.
With all these ideas and reading about the benefits of following the Malay confinement food, you should be able to have a clearer idea of why these ingredients are widely used during this time! We hope you’ve had some of your questions answered on the benefits of these ingredients and hope you have a safe and pleasant confinement period!