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Post-Natal Confinement: Why Asian Mothers Stay In Their Pyjamas For 30 Days

June 14, 2018

red date jujube for new mothers

In the Western world, the period after childbirth is typically associated with sleep deprivation, endless nappy changes, and forgetting about oneself. In the Far East, however, women have practised confinement for thousands of years. Chinese women adhere to strict rules about the dos & don't for the first 30 days after giving birth, and focus their attention on healing and recovery. 

Post-Natal Confinement: Why Asian Mothers Stay In Their Pyjamas For 30 Days

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:

  • No fans, wind drafts, to keep warm at all times, and ideally to stay indoors. This practice is aimed at dispelling “wind” from the body and avoid cold. 
  • Avoid cooling foods such as cucumber, eggplants, pears, and do not touch cold water. Keeping the body warm is essential to avoid stagnation in circulation.
  • No visitors. This is meant to allow mom and baby plenty of rest without any disturbances, and also to allow the baby to build up her immune-system in the early days.
  • Do not wash your hair for 30 days. This was practised back in the days when heating and running warm water in the house wasn't as prevalent. 
  • 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Some of the practices may sound extreme and a bit outdated but it gives an idea about the principles of confinement - keeping the body warm, avoid catching "wind" or damp air, prioritising getting rest over anything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. 

Find some lovely "red dates confinement recipes" in the next blog post which you can try at home. Or send a fun care parcel to a friend who recently gave birth and deserves a healthy treat.  

Red date jujube bib care parcel