Postpartum confinement is a tradition practiced by mothers right after childbirth, with the purpose of helping new mothers to recover from pregnancy, labour, and birth. As the name suggests, postpartum confinement focuses on keeping the mother indoors to rest and recover. While the Chinese postpartum confinement is particularly well-known and widely practiced in certain Asian countries including Singapore, did you know that many other cultures in the world have their own version of “sitting the month” too?
Postpartum confinement has different names in different cultures, and its duration varies culturally from one month to two months, and could be even longer in certain cultures. Despite these differences, they all have one common goal—to help mothers heal and regain strength from pregnancy and childbirth. Now let’s find out some of the unique confinement practices around the world!
In Indian culture, the new mother and child practice a confinement period that varies between 40 to 60 days, depending on the region. Daily massages are given to both the mother and newborn using oils such as coconut oil and mustard oil. In terms of confinement food, warming or heating foods are believed to speed up mother’s recovery. In particular, ghee (clarified butter) is believed to help muscle repair and strength restoration. For this reason, ghee is widely used in many traditional Indian confinement food, including “harira”, “gondh ke laddoo”, and “panjiri”.
Malay confinement practices or “pantang” usually lasts for 44 days. Malay confinement practices centres around the belief that a woman’s womb health affects her overall health. During this period, a Malay confinement lady called “bidan” may be hired to perform hot stones massages focused at the abdomen area to cleanse the womb. Furthermore, mothers are encouraged to wear a tummy binder called “bengkung”, which is believed to shrink the uterus, flatten the tummy, and tone the body.
Postpartum tradition in Korea is called “samchili”. Although “samchili” means “21 days”, this period usually lasts around 30 days and could be up to 100 days for some mothers. During “samchili”, family members around the house will take care of the mom and baby to allow the mother to rest properly. Mothers would often be served “miyeokguk” daily, which is a warm and nutritious seaweed soup with meat or anchovies. Miyeokguk is beneficial in helping mothers to restore nutrients, boost blood circulation, and improve milk flow.
In European countries such as Italy and the United Kingdom, confinement practice used to be known as “lying-in”, which required the new mother spending most of her time in bed to recover from childbirth. While “lying-in” is no longer widely practiced in Europe nowadays, it used to be an essential practice during the postnatal period, even for mothers without any medical complications after labour. During the “lying-in” period, new mothers were usually served with a hot, thick, and sweet drink called caudle. Caudle mainly consists of milk and eggs, which is believed to be beneficial for new mothers.
In Latin American countries like Mexico, new mothers go through a 40 day period known as “la cuarentena” which means “quarantine”. In these 40 days, the new mother is encouraged to rest at home and bond with the baby. Meanwhile, other family members will help to take care of house chores such as cooking and cleaning. In terms of diet, heavy or spicy food is not encouraged. Meanwhile, faja or cloth is used to wrap the mother’s belly to keep her warm. In Guatemala, women are often being cared for by traditional midwives called “comadronas” throughout their pregnancy, labour, and postnatal period. Comadronas are often knowledgeable in traditional medicinal herbs and would prepare herbal meals and drinks to help mothers recover.
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How Are You Spending Your Confinement?
The list above only shows a snippet of postpartum confinement practices around the world. However, it is not hard to notice that having proper rest after labour is highly emphasized across different cultures to ensure new mothers’ recovery. Indeed, it is crucial for new mothers to completely relax during confinement in order to regain strength physically and emotionally.
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