#1 I cannot wash my hair or shower during confinement for fear of “wind” entering the body. I will be plagued by headaches and rheumatism for the rest of my life.
The traditional belief is that by bathing, the mother may have “wind” and “cold” enter the body, resulting in body aches and rheumatism.
In the past, there was no easy access to clean water, heater, hair dryer or a sheltered conducive environment to wash hair or shower. However, the standard of living today is much better compared to the past. It is fine to shower daily to ensure good personal hygiene and comfort. It also reduces the incidences of skin or wound infections.
However, do take note of the following points when bathing.
- Do not bathe in cold water. Use warm water (around 35 to 37 degrees Celsius) to shower.
- Take short showers (around 5 to 10 minutes).
- Those who feel cold easily after giving birth may consider using special confinement herbs to bathe.
- Makes sure to dry your skin immediately and be fully clothed before exiting the bathroom.
- No direct wind or aircon blowing at you after bathing. New mothers have weaker immune systems and body constitutions.
- For mothers with wounds like caesarean, you may want to delay showering until the wound area is healed. You can use a damp warm towel to wipe the body.
Note: New mothers with vaginal delivery: Shower 2-5 days after giving birth. Try not to bathe within 24 hours after giving birth.
#2 I cannot drink plain water at all during confinement, only red date and longan tea.
In the past, the traditional belief is that drinking water alone will result in water retention.
Drinking red date and longan tea is a better beverage choice. From a TCM perspective, longan and red date tea has a warming effect and is a good source of iron to replenish the blood supply. This is useful as blood is lost during childbirth, therefore the tea provides nutrients for producing breast milk. It also promotes better quality of sleep.
Hence, although it is okay to drink water, a mother should ensure that she has enough nutrients and stay properly hydrated to ensure sufficient milk supply for breastfeeding. The key is to avoid cold water and drink warm water.
#3 Why must I eat certain foods or take TCM herbs during confinement (e.g. pig trotters, sesame oil or ginger)?
From a TCM perspective, a woman after childbirth loses substantial amount of Qi and Blood. Most of the foods or TCM herbs that women take during confinement helps to replenish the Qi and Blood in the body.
Hence, specific foods are encouraged during confinement, for example:
Ginger is a “warm food” that can help dispel cold from the body, reduce bloating and improve digestion.
Sesame oil helps to expel “wind” from the body and is rich in calcium, iron and Vitamin E.
Fish soup or pig trotters soup helps in boosting production of breastmilk.
#4 I cannot expose myself and my baby to any wind drafts or air-conditioning.
The traditional belief is that air-conditioning or wind draft can cause” wind” to enter the body and cause backache in the future.
There is no harm in switching on the air-conditioner or fan as Singapore is hot and humid. A cooling environment makes the new mother and baby feel comfortable and may help prevent heat rash from developing.
However, the key is to keep the room temperature between 25⁰C to 26 ⁰C. In addition, a new mother should avoid having any direct exposure of wind or air blowing towards the body. Refrain from wearing sleeveless clothing in an air-conditioned room.
#5 I must eat liver and meats only.
In TCM, the liver has an important role to store and regulate blood in the body. A woman after childbirth loses a substantial amount of Qi and Blood. Consuming liver and meat, which are rich in protein and iron, can help with replenishing blood, energy, and also prevents anaemia.
However, it is also important to have a well-balanced diet (such as grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy or protein) rather than specific food types. This helps to build stores for recovery and for breastfeeding.
#6 I cannot read or cry.
The traditional belief is that this causes eye issues later in life. This has no scientific basis.
In TCM, the liver is closely linked to the health of our eyes. A substantial amount of blood is lost during childbirth. A further deficiency in liver blood may lead to higher incidences of eye problems or deterioration like dry eyes or blurred vision.
It is advisable not to read excessively or have too long screen time. In fact, this applies to everyone, not only new mums. Take frequent breaks (every 20 minutes) in between activities like reading, using mobile phones, computers or watching television. Allow your eyes to rest by looking at distant objects.
Article by Physician Kang Ting Tan