Princess and The Rock

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Monday, 19 October 2015

The thing about confinement

It starts all over again... the sleepless nights, the non-stop breastfeeding, the ten minute meals and 2 minute showers.

This is also my third confinement. Although I can't say I have a wealth of experience in this department, I think I've enough knowledge about what works for me and in general, mothers who prefer knowledge-based confinement practices. (In other words, if it makes sense to me, I will do it.)

So here are my five "rules" of confinement:

  1. Personal hygiene is important.

  2. The traditional Chinese confinement practice discourages bathing or washing of hair, especially with cold water throughout the confinement period, i.e. 30-40 days. I don't know if anyone in this hot and humid Singapore strictly adheres to this rule but I certainly do not think this is a wise thing to do at all. Daily effective cleaning prevents wound infection and provides a clean vessel for your newborn to drink from; I'm not a fan of food mixed with buckets of perspiration so I'm not about to offer my baby that kind of sweet-salty flavour too!

  3. A well-balanced and healthy diet helps with postpartum recovery and provides the necessary nutrients and energy for the breast-feeding mum (and baby).

  4. A Chinese confinement diet typically consists of dishes with a lot of ginger, sesame oil and wine. I have no issues with the confinement diet, in fact, I like confinement food and I enjoy the flavours of the above-mentioned ingredients but with the caveat that the alcohol must be cooked for a sufficient period of time for the alcohol to evaporate. As I'm breastfeeding exclusively I do not want to risk having alcohol passed to my baby through breastmilk. 

    While some types of food are deemed beneficial for a new mum, some are "forbidden". Many types of raw fruits and vegetables are taboo hence I got flak from some viewers when I posted a photo of my usual morning green smoothie since it's a bowl full of *gasp* raw and chilled fruits and vegetables. Will I stop having smoothies for breakfast? No, because I'm convinced of the benefits of consuming a good amount of fresh fruits and vegetables. (My family has not seen the doctor for close to two years since we included a lot of raw fruits and vegetables in our diet. Coincidence? I don't think so.) It's also important for me to have a diet with enough fibre to prevent hemorrhoids, which I suffered from prior to the delivery of my third-born. My point here is not to encourage "rebellion" but rather to know what works for you and your body and listen to it.

  5. Rest as much as possible.

    This is what this whole house arrest confinement is all about, isn't it? In Chinese, the confinement practice is called 坐月子, it literally means sitting the month or resting/sitting for the whole month without doing anything strenuous; it's a period for rest and recovery.

    I learnt that I may not be able to keep to my regular sleeping cycle, i.e. awake in the day and sleep at night, at least not for the initial period. My newborn baby was sleeping a lot more in the day than at night and I ended up not having much rest for 24 hours because I was waking up every hour at night to feed her. I recognise that this was her sleep cycle when she was in my womb as I felt the most amount of movement at night. So before she's "trained" to sleep like us, I need to rest when she sleeps so that I at least get some shut-eye.

    While the confinement lady or helper/mother/mother-in-law is around to help out with the housework and even caring of your newborn baby, it's the best time to catch up on lost sleep during pregnancy and sleep you are going to lose once your helper leaves!

  6. Well-meaning advice would be aplenty, listen but listen more to your own values and common sense.

  7. It is interesting how a newborn makes many into childcare and parenting experts. An aunt whom you've not met in 5 years knows exactly what to do when your baby refuses to sleep at night. Another friend of your mum's who has seven grown up children tells you your breastmilk is not enough for your baby, that's why she's crying so much and you need to supplement the feeds with formula milk and water. Most of the advice is well-intentioned but what works for one child child or one parent may not work for another, and the magic formula that was effective ten years ago may not work again now. What's more "amazing" is when queried about the reason or rationale for a "solution" they've suggested, the reply is a complacent, "That's how people have always done it and it ALWAYS works!"

    The one that upset my husband and I most was "You have to pinch the nose like this everyday after bathing baby so that it will become sharper." Isn't it funny how some people assume things like how I prefer my children to look? I do not prefer them any other way other than their God-given looks; I think they are perfectly formed, just like how God intended them to be! If they choose to change the way they look in the future, it's their personal choice, but for now I love them just the way they are.

    I used to feel uncomfortable when I hear unsolicited comments or advice like this from people who come visit during confinement, but after having my second child,  I've gotten pretty good at filtering the gems from the rest. What I find important is to know your own values and practise the "one ear in, the other ear out" if what you hear is against your own values or philosophy. Of course, common sense helps most of the time too. It's really hard to find scientific evidence to back up the notion of "Your child would be hyperactive if you eat crabs during pregnancy" or "You need to tie a coin securely on top of your baby's belly button to ensure it'll become an innie instead of an outie." 

  8. Bond with your newborn (and your family).

    Spend this period of confinement bonding with your newborn and the rest of your children (if any) and spouse. For some, this is the only little time they have before they go back to work. To me, other duties like household chores can be delegated to others who have offered to help but the privilege of bonding and caring for my newborn, I prefer to enjoy myself.

    The other family members can be roped in as well; siblings can help with fetching the diaper, reading or singing to the baby and daddy can help to bathe the baby, especially during the initial period whereby the mother's wound is still healing and might be painful. My oldest love it when I ask her to watch over the baby. As the baby's cot is beside my bed, she would grab her book, make herself comfortable on my bed and read away while keeping an eye on the baby at the same time. Rock is happy to help put on baby's mittens for her and entertain her with songs and jokes when she fusses. My hands-on husband, as usual, is lovely to have around as he's capable of everything except breastfeeding. And for all three confinements, my mum, the Master Chef, took care of my whole family's dietary needs, as well as, the housework. My husband is so thrilled that for a full month he need not answer one of the most difficult questions in life, i.e. "What shall we have for lunch/dinner?"

    Having a newborn may not be all sugar and spice, as there are postpartum hormones to deal with, more laundry to wash, more noises and less sleep. But it's good to take some time amidst the chaos just to smell your baby or watch her stomach rise and fall when she breathes deeply in her sleep, after all she won't remain so little for long but all your laundry would still be there and the noises would only get louder! Trust me. :P

Did u enjoy your confinement? Or do you have confinement woes to tell or tips to share? Let us know in the comments!

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