My DIY Confinement #1: Traditional Confinement Practices (and why not all should be followed)

I’m almost in the middle of my DIY confinement. I went against the advice of my friends and relatives and did it without the help of a confinement lady as I strongly believed that three full grown adults would definitely be able to take care of a newborn. 


Besides, I didn’t want my husband and father to feel uncomfortable with another female presence. Combined with horror stories of some confinement ladies, I was only more determined not to follow the advice. 

I am only too glad now I don’t have a confinement nanny. Nobody has time to do marketing for her in my household, and I don’t want to pay somebody to spend 2 or 3 hours cooking each meal (that’s 6 hours for lunch and dinner combined!). It’s not easy to live with a stranger 24/7 without feeling slightly uncomfortable. I know I would if a stranger took over my kitchen. NOBODY MESSES UP MY KITCHEN! 

If you want to follow the traditional confinement, then it would be better to hire a confinement lady who is recommended by a family or friends with first hand experience.

Here are some of traditional confinement practices that women “have” to follow. I’ll be focusing on the Chinese practices as I am Chinese.

Credit: Healthxchange

Some of them seem logical whilst others are outright superstitious and seem to have had been decided by some evil empress in some ancient dynasty or some China woman living high up in a rural mountain. I have broken all the “rules” except for the last few. 


1. Not washing the body and hair during the month; especially avoiding contact with cold water
I delivered my daughter on Tuesday night, and showered with warm water in the hospital the morning after. Hygiene is of utmost importance, especially when it comes to handling your newborn. You wouldn’t eat off a dirty plate, so my baby is definitely not going to latch on a smelly breast dripping with sweat and dirt. There are confinement herbs specially meant for showering during confinement, and a lot of women have since turned to using this, myself included. 


It makes you perspire a little bit after showering,but it does beat not having a shower at all. I wash my hair with the water as well every single day and wrap it up in a towel just like how I did before I got pregnant.

My extended relative who came over to visit was shocked that I took so many showers in a day and that I washed my hair (oh the horror). I told her it was fine because the bath water was hot. She continued to advise against it and I just made a face and went to bathe. 


I’m probably stubborn and very defiant but to me, I’d rather follow my own instincts and make my own mistakes than to follow anybody blindly just because they said so. I suppose when my bones start to ache in my 50’s, they’ll say “I told you not to bathe and marinate in your own perspiration when you had E, didn’t I?” -_-|||


2. Not eating raw or or “cooling” foods cooked the previous day

I can’t think of anybody who would do that, regardless of whether they had a baby or not, unless you are talking about oysters and sashimi…

3. Eat chicken, especially chicken cooked in sesame oil; pork liver and kidney; eat five or six meals daily and rinse the rice bowl with scalding water

Chicken is protein and does aid in boosting milk supply. My confinement food delivery includes generous portions of chicken, fish and pork in a 2 dishes, 1 soup format. I requested not to have offal and frog legs because EEW? My rice comes delivered in a paper container, so I would not rinse it with scalding water. Seriously…

4. Avoid all wind, fans and air-conditioning

This is one of the few rules that seem to make a tiny bit of sense. Apparently, the Chinese believe that wind and cold weaken the woman’s body, which has already been weakened from childbirth. It is not really possible to survive without at least a fan in our sunny little island.


5. Avoid walking or moving about; the ideal is to lie on the back in bed 

Medical professionals recommend early ambulation for quicker recovery. I walked around the ward and did not take any painkillers throughout my stay. When I rejected the painkillers upon discharge, the nurses were shocked. The stitches were uncomfortable, but I was not searing with pain and could definitely cope without the drugs.
It is also not in my personality to lie in bed and while my time away when I could be easily doing something more productive. In these 10 days, I have been to ICA to register her birth, to the polyclinic twice for her check-ups and twice to the mall just to escape from baby jail. I love my baby and she is a relatively easy baby to handle but even then, mommy and daddy need a breather. 

6. Do not go into another person’s house

It is fine if both parties are not superstitious. 
This rule was probably made to keep the women at home so they could recover properly and “lie on their back in bed”. 

With friends and family over almost everyday, mommy and baby don’t exactly get to rest well since I have to entertain guests and make small talk. If we refer to Rule #5, then guests shouldn’t be coming over for the mother and child to get optimum rest. 

For me however, I am fine with the occasional visit and am more than happy that my friends and family make accommodations to make the pilgrimage to far flung Woodlands just to see the both of us. I like talking and social interaction. 

7. Do not get sick

I didn’t know that we could control when our bodies get sick… Teach me master. 

8. Do not read or cry

Women are a huge mess after delivery and we do get frustrated and angry easily due to the lack of sleep and having to adapt to the schedule of our newborn (newborns should not be trained to follow schedules. Adults should feed and respond to the demands of the newborn to prevent insecurity). Some women, feeling stressed out by their family members and milk supply, require an outlet to vent. Crying is a perfectly normal way to relieve stress. 


Who the hell made the rule about no reading?  

9. Do not have sex


This rule was probably made a long time ago to prevent eager husbands who had to abstain from sex from hurting their wives as soon as they gave birth. I would presume that in that era, medical technology wasn’t advanced enough and women had to heal from their tears without stitches or pain relief. 

There is no fixed time to resume sex according to the hospital. Sex can be resumed once mommy and daddy feel physically and emotionally comfortable.

Strangely, this rule seems to be the easiest to follow. It is not easy to handle a newborn even more difficult to cultivate a romantic mood in the midst of poopy diapers and baby spit-up. So sexy. 

I do feel more emotionally connected to my husband as he was beside me throughout the birth and has been actively playing his part in looking after the baby and attentive to my needs. Sex is a private matter and no confinement rule should precede the needs of the parents. 

10. Do not eat with family members

Yes, it does wonders to the recovering new mother to be isolated from her loved ones as she eats alone away from everybody.
11. Do not burn incense or visit a temple or altar

This doesn’t apply to me as I am a free thinker. 

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