Confinement Tips For New Mums: Recovering After Childbirth


What are confinement practices?

Confinement practices are traditional postnatal practices that help a new mum recover from the rigours of pregnancy, labour and birth. Mum and baby are “in confinement” because they are effectively “in quarantine” at home. Traditionally, they do not receive visitors apart from close family members until the confinement period is over.

In Malaysia, our ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian communities all have their respective confinement practices. The common thread amongst the practices of the different communities is to support the new mum and help her recover from childbirth as well as regain her physical and emotional strength.

How long is the confinement period?

For a Malaysian-Chinese mum, the confinement period lasts for a whole month from baby’s birth. Malay women usually observe a pantang period of 42 to 44 days. For a Malaysian-Indian mum, the confinement period varies between 30 and 40 days.

Some mothers choose to extend their confinement period in certain situations to receive more help and care. For example, you might not have family living close by, or you are taking longer than usual to recover from a caesarean section.

Is it absolutely necessary to observe all confinement taboos and restrictions?

Some mums consider confinement to be old-fashioned and opt to not follow the more restrictive practices. Yet, many do still observe confinement as they welcome the enforced rest built into this tradition. Whatever your options, do what is comfortable and relevant to your situation.

Chinese confinement restrictions include:

  • No washing your hair for the entire confinement period. Some mothers get around this rule by using dry shampoo.
  • Avoiding exposure to “cool” elements such as cold water and low temperatures like from an air-conditioner or a fan.
  • Bathing only with special herb-infused warm water.

These prohibitions help ensure that your body retains as much heat as possible. This will help you avoid health problems such as rheumatism, arthritis, headaches, and body pains later in life.

Malay practices:

  • Hiring a traditional masseuse (bidan) to massage the abdomen and bind the tummy with a special postnatal corset (bengkung).
  • Use hot stones (Bertungku) on the abdomen to ‘cleanse’ the womb (menaikkan rahim).

Indian women may:

  • Bathe only with a herbal infusion.
  • Have a daily massage with special oil blends, such as mustard seed oil.

Will I have to go on a special confinement diet?

If yours is a more traditional-minded family, family elders may expect you to observe a special diet during the confinement period. The aim of the diet is to boost your immune system and strength.

Chinese confinement diet
You will have to eat a variety of dishes that will “warm” the body up. These include ginger and a traditional tonic brewed with herbs. They promote better blood circulation and strengthen the joints. The Chinese also believe that fish soups can help boost low milk supply. Read more about traditional confinement foods.

It is believed that “cooling” foods such as cold drinks, cucumber, cabbage and pineapple should be avoided. Also, “windy” foods such as onions and jackfruit are off-limits as they may cause colic in your baby.

To take the hassle out of cooking these confinement dishes, which can be laborious to prepare, some companies now offer catering services for Chinese confinement foods.

Malay confinement diet
You will be encouraged to eat fresh fish, avoiding dried and salted fishes. Fresh fish, such as snakehead fish (ikan haruan), promotes internal healing. On the other hand, certain fishes such as mackerel (ikan kembong), shellfish, prawns, and cockles must be avoided as they are believed to cause allergies and itchiness.

Similar to the Chinese, the Malays believe “cooling” elements found in foods such as cucumber, young coconut, water spinach (kangkung) and sugarcane should be avoided. “Cooling” foods may cause rheumatism, arthritis and weak joints in a mother’s body.

Indian confinement diet
Certain gourd vegetables such as lauki and tori are believed to increase milk supply. Betel leaves help with lactation as well. Here are some recipes for traditional Indian confinement dishes.
New mums refrain from bathing during the confinement period to prevent migraine and catching a cold. However, body sweating during delivery may spread bacteria, and it is crucial to maintain body hygiene at all times. Warm sponge baths can help you keep your body clean and hygienic while regaining your strength.

TYT Confinement Herbal Bath is specially prepared according to a traditional formula. It contains selected herbs which have the properties to improve blood circulations, removing body “winds”, improve metabolism and strengthen the body. It can also relieve mild swelling and ease the pain.

With Ginger in the mix, it will be even more effective for ladies in confinement as ginger can also dispel body cold and improve blood circulation. TYT Confinement Herbal Bath +Ginger makes the healing even more obvious and effective, so it is a good recommendation. 🙂