Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Recovery After Pregnancy: the Chinese way = Confinement

For westerners, life after giving birth means immediately getting busy with baby stuff. It means getting up everyday to feed the baby, do household chores, and go about their daily lives. For Chinese people in many parts of the world -- whether they come from Manila or Malaysia, they believe in the recovery period needed for every mom... and that means 1 month of "confinement".


To my western friends, this concept is very foreign and they are very much surprised when I share some of the steps involved in confinement. I guess in other parts of the world, this confinement thing is unheard of, or even simply impossible to do. Imagine Europeans who could not afford household help -- how can they even have 1 month of confinement if they are alone at home? They have to get up the next day, feed the baby, do the household chores, cook for themselves, etc. What makes me wonder is that despite these westerners not doing their proper confinement after childbirth, well, they still survive and live a long & healthy life. I'm saying this because most of the stories I hear from elders is that if one does not do a proper confinement, one will get different aches or ailments at his/her old age. I don't know if there are proper statistics nor research findings to show that women who had confinement are really better off than those who didn't. Or simply, western women will have more ailments/aches vs women from the east?

Back to confinement, though I am not armed with proof, I do not want to turn my back from my culture. And at some point I am thinking "better safe than sorry"... which is probably what a lot of younger generation Chinese women are thinking when they go through confinement in this modern day.

Be in Philippines or Malaysia, the Chinese people living there believe in this very important 1 month of recovery for new mothers. Though to compare, the Malaysians seem to have stricter guidelines & a longer list of what to do, eat, etc. Maybe the Chinese in the Philippines have somewhat adopted to the local culture which meant dropping some of the early practices of confinement. It was only living here in Kuala Lumpur did I discover that there is such a thing as "Confinement lady". This is usually an elderly who comes to stay at your house to take care of the mom (full time) & cook all the nutritious food to help speed up recovery. Imagine, it's a full time job over here! And the good ones seem to be in demand -- they even require you to book in advance.

What's amazing to me is the instant access to these confinement stuff : confinement lady, confinement herbs, etc. Last weekend, hubby and I went to 1 Utama shopping mall. We visited this huge Chinese herb shop which is located at the basement floor. They had gazillions of herb and other stuff, which even to me was shocking. We didn't have such a thing back in Manila. Most of the Chinese herb shops were small stalls operating at Chinatown. Not something this huge at a shopping mall! Hubby and I were amazed at what we saw: they were selling deer horns and deer tails... and dried sea horses! There were so many weird stuff around and they cost a lot of money! Yikes...


They had a ready brochure of Chinese confinement herbs. It was a back-to-back brochure which had English and Chinese versions. This is a very easy guide to what you should be eating and drinking in the 30 days of your confinement. I know, it sounds like they have commercialized it. But for someone like me, a 3rd generation Chinese who have lost the ability to read Chinese characters and have no easy access to elderlies, at least I have this brochure as a guide. Thankfully they also had a salesman who was speaking some English. He attended to our needs and my questions. In the end, hubby and I walked away spending RM800+ on all the Chinese stuff. I only get pregnant a few times in my life, I better try to recover the best way I know which is the Chinese way. It's going to be tough, but might as well do it than be sorry. Mind you, I don't plan to follow everything strictly. I think I will mix up the 2 Chinese traditions from Manila and KL... and will try to stick by what I can. After all, the westerners are doing fine despite not knowing confinement stuff at all!

In case you want to read more about confinement stories, you can refer to these links:
http://www.mymomsbest.com/tips/tip_confinement.htm
http://www.babycenter.com.sg/pregnancy/asian-postnatal-practices/confinement-confessions/
http://babynme2008.blogspot.com/2008/10/chinese-herbs-for-confinement.html
http://www.babycenter.com.my/pregnancy/asian-postnatal-practices/confinement-practices/

In case anyone else out there is as clueless as me in terms of chinese herbs, and yet would like to buy some and try to do your own confinement at home, you can visit the shop and they have a ready brochure and easy to understand list. All you need to do is buy the set and add it to the soup... and eat your way to a good recovery after your baby delivery.

You can visit EFFECTIVE HERBS & MEDICINE SHOP
Lower Ground floor, One Utama
Tel 03-77271681

The post-natal soup herbs are packed into 28 different sets. This means you will use 1 pack a day to add to some pork or chicken soup (which you need to use double boil or slow cook method). The total for the 28 herb-pack is RM350.00

Good luck!
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