Post Pregnancy Care for Mothers outlines what Chinese mothers do during the confinement period to recover from childbirth. These procedures also apply to women who have had a miscarriage or surgery to the womb.
Chinese believe that during the first 40 days after childbirth, a women's body has lost a lot of blood and is receptive to many herbs that would be considered 'heaty' if taken any other time.
During this 'confinement period', there are some practices that might prove too much for the modern woman like cleaning yourself with rice wine instead of bathing. There is a belief that 'wind' will enter the body and cause future aches and pains. Even washing your hair is frowned upon, but how can you not wash your hair in humid Singapore? I compromised by washing every alternate day. Some women I have heard of did not wash their hair for 30 days!
Personally, I found that after giving birth, my body was not the same as it was before. I had never experienced any backaches or pains prior to having my first child. It seemed as if an alien body had taken the place of my fit and pain-free body.
If you are able to, I recommend getting a confinement nanny. They are mostly from Malaysia now-a-days. She will cook confinement food for you and look after your baby in the night, allowing you to rest better. If you choose to breastfeed, she will wake you when the baby is hungry. However, this is not a cheap option. It cost about S$1,800 to S$2,000 per month (based on 28 days) during my confinements 4-11 years ago. I heard it has increased to $2,500-2,600. I recommend at least the first 40 days. These confinement nannies also know what kind of Chinese herbs to buy and the soups to prepare for the mother.
Book your Confinement nanny as soon as possible after you discover your pregnancy, the good ones are snapped up very quickly and you will be left scrambling if you wait till the last minute. My confinement nanny was excellent, she had experience with premature babies and she really looked after me well. She even prepared the special bathing water for after childbirth. (If you are in need of a confinement nanny in Singapore or Malaysia, you can give her a call on either of these mobile numbers to check her availability, but she only speaks mandarin. Malaysia mobile: +60 2064433028 / +60 129784568 or SG mobile: +65 97796195 / +65 93640611)
It is made from some special herbs that can be bought pre-packaged. The water is extremely hot and it is pretty weird bathing with it. But like with everything I do that may be slightly (or very) unpleasant, I tell myself, "It's good for you, so suck it up!"
Rice wine, sesame seed oil, old ginger, black vinegar, Dom Benedictine tonic are the most common condiments added to confinement food. Sesame Seed Oil and oil ginger are used to provide more 'heat' to the body, rice wine and black vinegar are used to help shrink the womb. Dom Benedictine tonic is added to soups to help the post pregnancy body recuperate. The alcohol evaporates in the cooking, but drinking the Dom Benedictine tonic neat increases its efficacy. Jews Ear mushrooms (those black floppy mushrooms) are good for removing blood clots in the womb.
I only drank the soups with Dom Benedictine tonic added during my first confinement period. I don't think that was enough. During my second and third confinements, I polished off more than 3 bottles of Dom Benedictine tonic during each of the 40 day confinement periods. Half was used in my soups, half I drank neat during my evening 'bouts of drinking'.
If you are not getting a Confinement nanny, don't worry. You can also buy pre-packaged herbs from Eu Yan Sang and prepare the soups for yourself. It's easy, just add the pork bone or chicken with the herbs. The soups are pretty foul tasting, but just drink it up, it's good for you!
Further to your confinement diet, you should also be doing the following :
I did not drink any Dom Benedictine tonic during my first confinement because I couldn't stand the taste, but it really made a world of difference after I dutifully drank it for my second confinement. I didn't feel cold any more. I am still drinking Yomeishu now, believe me with 3 kids and about 5 to 6 hours of interrupted sleep every night, I really need the energy to get through the day.
You can try drinking Dom Benedictine tonic after the first 40 days from childbirth, but it may become too 'heaty' for you. I developed a sore throat when I continued to drink it on the 41st day, so there is some truth to the '40 day' thing.
You are going to be a very tired lady while looking after your child, so take good care of yourself. Sustain your stamina, you are in this for the long haul. There is no turning back.
Find a visual guide on how to Lose Weight after Pregnancy here.
Can you drink Dom Benedictine or Yomeishu tonic when you are breastfeeding?
Of course you can, but you have to time when you drink it. I would take the tonic after the last feed at night and the baby has really gone to sleep. Just take your ration (about 3 to 5 tablespoons with an equal amount of water) and go to sleep. Sweet dreams...
I don't think there are any ill side effects for the baby because my 2nd and 3rd kids are fine so far. In fact, they are healthier than my eldest child, Shen. Shen however fell sick way less often than her friends in school. I think breastfeeding had a great role to play in the overall health of a child.
Note : For your first child, you will be very particular about everything and worry that you might accidentally harm your child. From your second child onwards, you will notice that you are more flexible and casual about most things now, so enjoy motherhood maternity :-)
Watch this Ted.com video by Dean Ornish: Your genes are not your fate. He shares new research that shows how adopting healthy lifestyle habits can affect a person at a genetic level. For instance, he says, when you live healthier, eat better, exercise, and love more, your brain cells actually increase.
It you have suffered a miscarriage, I know it is a very sad time for you. Chinese believe that a miscarriage should be treated as if it was a childbirth, that is you still have to recuperate and build up your body. If you want to try getting pregnant after miscarriage, do so after at least 6 months to give your body time to recover from this traumatizing event.
The same procedure as I have described above should be followed. Within the first 40 days after your miscarriage, take the Chinese soups meant for after childbirth and drink your Dom Benedictine tonic. My confinement nanny told me that the magic 40 days is really the only time you can rebuild your body, so even if you were very weak before that, you have a chance now to prepare your body for your next child.
Stock up on all the essentials needed for your motherhood maternity needs and new baby at Mother & Baby Fairs which happen every month or so. You can also find lots of educational materials located all in one venue for convenience.
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