a chinese woman carrying her newborn baby

Congratulations on bringing your bundle of joy into the world! It’s now time to take a well-deserved break.

Confinement is a period for your body to recuperate and recover from childbirth. In the past when infant and maternal mortality rates were high, confinement kept baby and mummy indoors, protecting them from ill health.

Here are some common Chinese confinement practices.

Confinement period: 30 days

Related: Baby's Here: What to Expect Now"

Diet Practices

Aim: To purge "wind" from the body after delivery, promote "blood circulation", strengthen the joints, and promote milk supply. New mums are encouraged to avoid "cooling" foods.

Traditionally, the Chinese use a lot of ginger, wines and sesame oils in their diet. Common confinement dishes include:

  • pigs trotters cooked with ginger and vinegar
  • fish soup boiled in papaya – believed to be good for milk production
  • chicken cooked in sesame oil
  • a traditional tonic brewed from 10 herbs
  • pork liver and kidney

Some may also:

  • eat five or six meals daily and rinse the rice bowl with scalding water.
  • avoid drinking water during confinement to reduce water retention, and instead choose a specially prepared drink made from herbs and preserved dates.
  • avoid eating raw or "cooling" foods, or foods cooked the previous day.

Related: Top 4 Myths About the Confinement Period

Daily Practices

Aim: Protect the new mother from future ill health, restore her strength, and to protect the family from "ritual pollution".

The Chinese believe in staying indoors throughout confinement to avoid outdoor pollution, and avoiding strenuous physical activities to prevent "muscle weakening".

Some also hire a confinement nanny to help with the housework and caring for the baby.

Other practices:

  • No washing of the body or hair, especially avoiding contact with cold water.
  • Avoid wind, fans and air conditioning.
  • Avoid walking or moving about; the ideal is lying on the back in bed.
  • Do not go into another person’s home.
  • Do not get sick.
  • Do not read or cry.
  • Do not have sex.
  • Do not eat with family members.
  • Do not burn incense or visit a temple or altar.

By now you’ve heard many "old wives’ tales" about confinement, and you may or may not agree with them all. In fact, some of them don’t have any scientific basis at all!

Next, let’s check out — and bust — some common confinement myths. Read Common Confinement Myths to learn more.

Read about confinement practices from other cultures:


Acknowledgment

Source: Dr TAN Thiam Chye, Dr TAN Kim Teng, Dr TAN Heng Hao, Dr TEE Chee Seng John, The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth, World Scientific 2008.