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CONFINEMENT - Should we practice?

 I did not confine myself through the traditional 30 days (for Chinese). In fact, I went out to do some groceries 12 days post natal, wearing only T-shirt and short. And I showered my hair 3 days post natal. Actually this is not a proud thing to do because I experienced severe migraine which I have never experienced before. I have to take ponstan (pain killer) and MIL claimed that my head "masuk angin" because of the shower. And now, I can't wear high heel because both of my calves would feel very "sour".

Of course, I have heard of so many of my friends who have never practised the traditional confinement and yet they are so sihat and kuat!! Guess each individual would react differently, huh?!

What I am thinking now is I should have strictly followed the confinement "rules & regulations". Better to "suffer" now than to be sorry later in life.

Yek Nee.

I showered my hair 10 days post natal My Indian neighbour was asking me: how lah you tahan Vivi, not smelly ar? And that was after a major bargain with my mom, then she gave in to me. After my MIL got to know about this, she asked my confinement nanny to keep a strict eye on me. And the next time I washed my hair was a day before the full moon

I did not drink any plain water for 3 weeks, only red dates water and any other hot drinks. I did not eat any single leafy vegetables for one whole month, only meat. I confined myself in the room upstairs, as I was not allowed to walk down the staircase, worried that my uterus will drop. Can you girls imagine this?

For my next confinement, I've told myself that I will follow every rules moderately. I will bath 10 days post natal, drink warm plain water after 3 days maybe, and will eat certain vegetables that will not cause wind, and I won't confine myself in the room upstairs anymore. Hehe...


Thanks for bringing this up. A big issue for everyone of us Malaysians. First, Eirian, a Scottish midwife (a MNM member from Penang) told me that it is good that we have our one month/40 days confinement practice. She had spent many years helping our local mothers, especially from the rural areas with their post-natal recovery including breastfeeding. She said it is good that we have the chance to get a full rest, full recovery and being pampered. Unlike the Western ladies, they had to return home and cope alone just like another day. So, must be thankful we got a whole month to 'enjoy' our confinement.

As for me, I follow the no drinking plain water, eat special foods and alcohol, lie as much as I can afford. But I also curi-curi wash my hair alternate days and started driving less than 2 weeks post c-sec. And for me, my mother was my spy. Each day when I want to bath (when I had my first 2 sons), I will ask her to watch out that my mil did not pop in unannounced. Once mil pop in and my mother actually lied to her that I am in the toilet doing big business in the loudest voice so that I can come out with the same lie!

The traditional practice can be a real nuisance though. My eldest sil who took care of me when I had Matthew forbid me to even touch my computer. She said nanti all my fingers will be painful in old age.

As for joint pains, I do get them now and wonder if I had been naughty and bath in my aircond hospital room, including washing hair, at 8 am, 4 days after c-sec. But then, my two elders sisters who followed every one of the pantang larang without rebelling also got the pains.

And yeah, Topaz once pointed out that the Mat Salleh ladies have more arthritis problem than us do.

My opinion is to follow as much as a person can endure.
Lilian (co-owner, moderator and mom of 5)

Lilian, you mentioned that your SIL who followed the rules and regulations of confinement also have joint pains? Aiyah.... then what for we follow so strictly? I had knee pain a few months ago, and I was convinced that its because of me showering (wash hair everyday since Day 1!) and sleeping in the aircond room every night postpartum. But it went away after one month. No more pain now (touch wood). Could it be that all women postpartum will suffer some temporary joint aches? Probably due to the changes in the body after delivering?

Another rule which I failed to observe during confinement month is to wear longs and socks. I mean this is Malaysia for goodness sake! I perspire like crazy even with a T-shirt and shorts. After having a meal of chicken cooked with wine and ginger, I will be totally soaked, so wet and sticky, how to bf? You know, already feel very hot tempered, plus the heat, feel like exploding!

I guess Lil, you offer very good advise: "to follow as much as a person can endure". If I plan to have baby #3, I will do just that!
Moommy to two little ladies (3yrs & 13mths).

What I do during confinement... I bathed everyday in Chinese herb water, the water so hot that I sweat the moment I stepped out from the bathroom. I washed my hair 14 days after delivery. Before that, I tried the dry shampoo but's messy and would not use it again. The 2nd time I washed my hair is a week after the first one. Both time also I used very hot water that I think my scalp would come off anytime.

On the diet wise, I finished up all the food cooked by my confinement helper...oh, she's a fantastic cook, that's why I have hired her service again this time. But this time, I think I will ask her to cook smaller portion ... don't want to put on too much weight like the last time. I didn't drink plain water for the whole 30 days period. I had vege. occasionally but can't remember what type already.

I live in a double-storey, so I cannot avoid using the staircase everyday and I cannot stay upstair the whole day because the TV and hi-fi are downstair. I also 'tak biasa' having someone to serve me food in bed everyday... like a queen. When my mom came over, she would insist that I watch less TV...not good for the eyes and asked me to lie down. I got a recliner chair at the living room, so I lowered the chair and still watched TV.

My mom said I'm lucky to have someone to help around during confinement and I should make good use of more, otherwise like her, now always got back pain and knee pain. My ta-yi (mom's elder sister) rested well during her confinement and until today, never complain of any backache and knee-ache. Very healthy...
Mama to Jiann Yang (07/07/2002) and Jia Ee (15/04/2004) .

My family very believe in Chinese medicine healing, so from young I've been educate to practice Chinese medicine, after all it been practice for 2000 years, but I also live in modern world, so now I have my own judgement on when to use Chinese medicine and when I need to see doctor.
I follow most of the confinement practise by after consult a 'shin se", I bath and wash my hair with herbs, took a lot boiling plain water, red date water, ginger water, eat a lot ginger, and Appeton C18, B complex, and strictly no carry heavy stuff and not walk too much ( for the womb not to drop, yes, I believe that).
I believe all this really help me on my health, at least after my confinement I have very good complexion, even though I'm tired and run down by the girls.
the "shin se' said even though if you don't take a lot red date or ginger those thing, as long you rest well, and take a lot vitamins supplement, you'll still doing well.
I have to said Malaysian is very lucky, we have all sort of healing, supplement for us to choose, Chinese, Malay, Indian, Western, sometime even though we already mix those method but we don't realise it, like urut during confinement, how many mat saleh know about this? so, I'll just follow it, and like my mom said because Chinese mom had confinement, that's why we don't age so fast like westerners, my mom no scientist, she can't prove that, but being a good girl, I always listen to what my mom said .
Maria (mother of twin girls--Isabelle & Annabelle, born 25th Nov 2002)

I find this topic very interesting. Cause I really wants to know should we or should we not. I read up a lot on this issue but in the end still cannot find the answer.
For my confinement, I was not allow to wash hair for 30 days. No vege. for 30 days. Cannot eat anything cold , no plain water and the list goes on. I was "confined" to my house for 2 months! I drank a lot kunyit water. So, you can imagine how I look. My hair looked a mess, I smell like a salt fish and my teeth has a yellowish stains! As I cope in the house the whole day alone with BB and MIL , I gone a bit "crazy".
When the elderly make us go thru confinement practise, it is actually because they love us and wants the what they believed the best for us. However, this sometimes makes life a bit susah-loh. So, for my future confinement, I think I'll will follow moderately. Take bath and wash hair but only with warm water, drink plenty of red dates water, take plenty of rest, go out if I need to. In short, we just have to make our own judgement, what to follow and what not.


A lot of the confinement practice (I'm talking about Chinese confinement practice lah) is probably brought from China where it is cold and during times when there was no running water and water heater. Also, the 30 days after childbirth was the only time a woman gets to be pampered and given nutritious food. Dulu dulu, the men get all the good food and the women get leftovers ma. That practice wasn't so long ago, especially with the "pendatang baru" (new immigrants from China) in the 1920's. In modern times, I believe the confinement practice is to get new moms to rest and not be gallivanting about town 'coz they're feeling lighter and has a sudden burst of energy!

I like the idea of getting help in the first month. However, we live in the tropics and there is running hot water, so why cannot shower? Cannot eat vege. for a month! Get constipated? I think that's even more unhealthy than being afraid of getting "wind"! I believe in moderation and working with the baby's rhythm. Shower and wash hair with warm water, eat lots of veg and drink lots of water and everything else. I liked drinking the date drink 'coz I thought it helped with my milk supply.

I had a confinement lady after I delivered Laura. Very quickly I made her understand that I was the boss and laid out what I expected and the way I wanted things done. I was to breastfeed my daughter (as it turned out it was EBM in the first month) and that she would be with me 24-7. However, when Laura pooped, I handed to her lor I wore T-shirt and sarong around the house and wore slippers. I was living in a double-storey house then, so showered every day and washed my hair too. My confinement lady boiled some herbal stuff for me to bathe every few days. As if she didn't know I showered lah. She didn't dare say anything. DH was in a theatre production soon after I delivered, so when Laura was jaundiced and had to see a doc when 4 days old, I drove my confinement lady to the hospital. I stayed with Laura in the hospital so I can express for her. The CL couldn't bring food to me, so I had to eat hospital food isn't it? Survive ok lah....

When with Adam, I decided not to hire a CL 'coz I got fed up with CLs when the first one got drunk at Laura's full moon party. I got the chinese sinseh to put together some stuff to balance out the Yin and Yang in my body and taught me maid what to do. Instructed my maid to cook with rice wine, ginger and sesame oil. Taught her to boil the dates drink every day for a month. Cooked veg as per normal and to double boil herbs for me once a week 2 weeks after delivery. Made a conscience effort to rest when the baby rest but was out of the house before 30th day. Coincidentally, DH was again involved in a theatre production soon after Adam was born, so I did the marketing with my maid.


I heard from someone before, the reasons why women in confinement were asked not to shower, and to wear few layers of clothes, etc. and it was exactly the same as what Min has explaining, i.e. they were practiced in China in the old times, and probably passed down to our grandmas, and mas, and now, us.

Anyway, Min, I did the same exact thing with my second child. I didn't hire a CL because the first one stressed me out! Was not a supporter of BF either, curi curi give my elder daughter formula! This time, I just taught my maid how to cook the chicken with the wine. Black Chicken with herbs. And to boil red date water everyday. Veges, I still consume as per normal, and papayas everyday to avoid constipation and to boost milk supply. And two weeks postnatal, after feeding the baby, I went to 1 Utama with my elder child and have a nice 2 hours there, sipping hot chocolate and window shopping.
Moommy to two little ladies (3yrs & 13mths).

I think confinement is a good time for mums to rest, but without all the pantang larang. Would have love to have someone do all the work for me and just breastfeed the baby and sleep with them, but all the CLs that I talked to wasn't supportive of breastfeeding, so I decided to go solo.

I didn't follow any of the pantang larang, bcos my mum didn't, and her mum didn't either Seriously, I can’t find a good reason to, and not bathing is definitely something I can't do. After having Leonard, it was heat wave season, and after bathing with warm water, it was still so warm that I bathed with cold water after that. Took too much chocolate after having #3 and had bad constipation

My mum helped me with Leonard for 1 week, and after that I went home bcos her house is sooooo hot, and I couldn't take it anymore.
So with all 3, I basically stayed home with the baby myself, and sometimes DH will bring food back, sometimes I cook myself. Do other things also like laundry, watch tv, surf the net, bathe the baby, ironing clothes and go shopping. Have to climb staircase also cos I live on the 4th floor with no lift, and carry the baby myself.

So far so good, no aches in my body that did not come from something I overdid or strained myself.

I think taking the heaty stuff that makes us sweat is for the body to produce more milk, since the breast glands are modified sweat glands. I did take some Chinese tea during a dinner during the confinement month, and I could see it reduce my breast milk. Took nasi briyani and boomed the supply shot up again. Must be all the herbs in the rice.

My MIL followed all the pantang larang diligently for all her 13 kids, but still got arthritis and all sorts of aches in her legs and hands. So IMHO, we can rest all we want, but if we still have to wash clothes, mop the floor, cook and iron and do everything else for the next 40-50 years of our lives after and while having the kids, we're bound to ache.
Mom to Leonard (17/05/00), Lucas (28/11/01) and Laurenz (21/06/03).