What is Confinement?
The period of 4 weeks after delivery of a baby is fondly called Confinement Month. According to the Chinese, a woman's body is the weakest and most vulnerable to future ailments after childbirth. Care should be taken to ensure fast recovery and long term health. Traditionally, this is a time when a new mother is pampered to health with plenty of rest and good food.
In modern days, many of the practices in the Confinement Month are considered irrelevant, and demand an explanation. However, many Chinese families, especially those with elders at home, the young mother still obliged, for the benefit of doubt and comfort of the elders.
Nevertheless, there are still guidelines that need to follow in bringing the new mother back to the brink of health after delivery.
1) 1st Week
During child birth the mother has lost a lot of blood and thus cause her body to be 'cold'. First step is to cleanse her womb of any remnants of blood clots and dispel 'wind' from her body
2) 2nd week to 4th week
To replenish the loss of blood and strengthen the function of her body with herbs
The following are 3 commonly used herbs:
1) Old ginger
works wonder, especially during this confinement month. It
a) expels 'wind' and restore body heat, thereby soothes joint aches &
relieves inflammation and pain
b) helps in digestion by neutralizing & stimulating digestive enzymes
c) prevents blood clots
It is used throughout the 4 weeks.
Red dates, Black dates and Nan dates are used to make drink or soup to help in restoring the loss of blood during delivery
3) Black Fungus
cooked with chicken or make soup to remove any remnants of blood left in the womb
Others like Dang Shen, sesame seed oil, peppercorns, longan, dang Gui, and shou wu are also used in soups.
Drinking of plain or cold water is strictly prohibited, as many believe it will bring in 'wind', that will lead to severe body ache and future ailment. However, the body needs to be cleansed and flushed out of impurities & toxin. Ginger tea, rice tea or 3 dates tea have been introduced to take the place of plain water. Of course, some add Dang Shen, wolfberry or longan for a change in taste & their medicinal value. It is quite flexible and can be adjusted to own liking.
When a new mother is advised not to wash her hands in cold running water, she definitely must not shower or wash her hair under running water! A special herb, da feng ai is to be boiled & cooled down for bathing. It helps to dispel 'wind' and 'coolness' from the body, improve blood circulation and ease joint pain. We used to buy big bundles in plastic bags, with leaves and sticks sticking out everywhere. Now, it has been packed neatly into sachets, don't need to be strained after boiling!