In Singapore, regardless of race, unless you have no Asian blood in you, it is almost a given to be expected to do at least 4 weeks of “confinement” post-partum.
What is it? It entails many practices meant to keep both baby and mother indoors during the period of confinement to protect them from ill health. There are also multiple rules relating to what the mother must and must not consume during the period as there is a belief that the delivery has led the mother’s body to have “cooled” and “wind” to enter and so she needs to ingest foods which would help to restore “warmth” and get rid of the “wind”.
Most women in Singapore dutifully do this out of fear and respect, even though most find it torturous. Some women who have chosen not to follow with such traditional practices have also developed pains, real or imaginary, and such tales continue to encourage most new mothers to stick to the practices.
Personally, I did not follow any confinement practices for all my three children for the following reasons:
- I believe Singapore is a very warm country with decently good air (except during hazy periods) and so there is no need to “stay indoors” avoiding fans and cool air-conditioning in order to avoid falling sick. In fact, it is very suffocating to stay home with no windows open or fans/air-conditioning turned on. Similarly, it is more hygienic to shower regularly in our climate than not.
- I happen not to like vinegar nor ginger at all.
- I believe looking after my mental health is as important as looking after my physical health post-partum, and so I preferred to do activities which I enjoyed and helped me to relax. This included enjoying some “me” time, eg. getting my nails done at a nail parlour, showering several times a day when I felt uncomfortable (esp since pumping or holding crying babies made me feel very warm!), eating/drinking food I liked, etc.
- Our family had chosen not to hire any confinement nannies or helpers and so there were other stuff I needed to get done (eg. send my kids to school or wash milk bottles/pump parts) during that period as my hubby couldn’t afford to take that much extra time off work.
What I did do instead was:
- Ensured I ate as well as I could during that period to ensure I gave my body the nutrients it needed to recover and also produce good milk for the baby.
- Tried to rest as much as I could and leave as much as I could to others to help with.
- I did the traditional Malay massages in the first 2 weeks post-partum as I enjoyed them, felt they helped my body expel lochia faster, and the masseuse helped me get rid of stubborn lumps in my breasts as well.
- As mentioned above, I looked after my mental health is as important as looking after my physical health post-partum.
Our Ministry of Social and Family Development (“MSF”) has published a rather helpful summary of what confinement practices entail and which are myths. The only point I disagree strongly with is the line regarding post-natal blues or depression. In my opinion, every parent should be aware of, and be prepared to go through, some form of post-natal blues, which can be very difficult to deal with and/or last for a long period of time. In fact, anyone helping to look after a newborn might experience it in some form due to the lack of sleep and the stress of new changes and decisions they have to make on an hourly basis. I hence encourage all new parents to actively seek support through it. I am not professional trained in any way but please feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to share my experiences and provide reassurances!