After childbirth, a woman loses a lot of her strength and needs to take out time for recovery. The confinement practices which cover many aspects, from diet to hygiene, provide time-tested guidelines which ensure a fast & full recovery and help prevent any ailments later in life.
A key component is the food
Confinement diet is focused on eating a natural, nutritious and wholesome diet, harnessing the power of natural foods and herbs, to help the body replenish nutrients and also to boost milk production. It involves lots of herbal soups and stews, using ingredients which are "warming" to the body, such as ginger, sesame oil, red dates / jujube (find jujube here).
Other traditional practices include:
As these practices require discipline to follow through, the new mom is often helped by a family member such as her mother, her husband, or hired help. It is common to hire a confinement lady for 30 days who will attend to the needs of the mother and baby such as take care of the cooking, washing, and feeding the baby at night.
Some of the practices may sound extreme and a bit outdated but it gives an idea about the principles of confinement - keeping the body warm, avoid catching "wind" or damp air, prioritising getting rest over anything else, and getting someone else to do the work! It is believed that these practices help prevent post-natal ailments such as hair loss, backaches, rheumatism, and premature ageing. Nowadays, confinements are still very widely practised in China, although not all rules are followed as strictly such as not washing your hair.
Whether you are a believer in the Chinese confinement practice or not, one thing is for sure - it helps take away pressure from new mothers. Instead of forgetting about oneself and sleepless nights, Chinese mothers are expected to have one month of rest and being pampered by someone else. The focus is not just on the baby but also on the mother who more than anyone else deserves this attention.
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