6 confinement myths debunked

6 confinement myths debunked

In Chinese culture, the month after the baby is born is viewed as a crucial period of growth and recovery for mother and child, according to Asian-American publication Hyphen Magazine.

That is why during this period, known in Singapore as "confinement", mother and baby are usually not allowed to leave the house. New mummies are pampered by their own mothers or caregivers who prepare food served warm and dishes that are low in sodium.

According to Hyphen Magazine, strict enforcement of these confinement rules would also mean that women who have just given birth are not permitted to watch television programmes, read or use computers as there are beliefs that these activities may strain the eyes.

Besides confinement practices, Chinese families in Singapore also have a high regard for the infant's first month celebrations.

Before the baby turns a month old, the mother is not permitted to wash her hair or take a bath. Only after the celebrations is she allowed to bathe for the first time since giving birth. According to Singapore Infopedia, this is because the Chinese believe that "wind" will infiltrate the body, bringing about joint or bone pain.

But should these beliefs be practised or are they simply old wives' tales?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) company Eu Yan Sang debunks six myths about confinement.

Myth 1: Do not drink plain water

People believe that drinking plain water results in water retention or that the body will "cool down" excessively.

Eu Yan Sang: There is no harm in drinking plain water. Instead, drinking plain water could be beneficial because new mothers sweat heavily due to hormonal changes. As such, in order to prevent dehydration, they need to drink water. However, new mothers are encouraged not to drink cold water. They should hydrate themselves with warm water instead.

Myth 2: It is OK to consume alcohol

Eating dishes that contain alcohol or consuming alcoholic beverages will supposedly boost blood circulation and warm up the body.

Eu Yan Sang: While it is true that alcohol is used in TCM to boost circulation, it is still best that new mothers avoid consuming alcohol as part of their diet during their recovery. Moreover, alcohol would be passed on to their new born during breastfeeding so new mothers should avoid such beverages or food.

Myth 3: No washing of hair or showering is allowed

As mentioned earlier, the Chinese believe that "wind" will infiltrate the body, bringing about joint or bone pain if a new mother takes a bath. This belief could have developed from northern China of the past, according to Eu Yan Sang.

Eu Yan Sang: It is perfectly fine to continue one's bathing habits. Besides hygienic reasons, bathing also prevents skin and wound infections. A piece of advice from Eu Yan Sang would be for the new mother not to bathe with cold water. She should also immediately dry her body after bathing so as to avoid being exposed to cold air.

Myth 4: Consume herbal supplements

After a woman gives birth, she is drained of "Qi", which means energy. Therefore, it is best that she consumes specific herbal soups and dishes to get Qi back and boost blood circulation.

Eu Yan Sang: Different women have different health levels and standards. One woman may be receptive to certain remedies while it may be otherwise for other women. It is best for all women to consult a qualified TCM physician for treatment customised to their individual needs.

However, one dietary recommendation is applicable to all new mothers: Avoid "cooling" foods such as crabs, bananas and oysters during confinement. This will reduce the risk of causing harm to the spleen and stomach, which can then speed up recovery.

Myth 5: Don't read or cry

Childbirth supposedly weakens the liver, which is connected to the eyes. As such, women should not stress the eyes further by reading or crying during confinement. If not, eye problems might develop in future.

Eu Yan Sang: No substantial evidence can support that reading or crying leads to eye problems. However, TCM experts say that blood loss during childbirth could weaken the eyes. This is because blood is linked to the liver that is connected to the eyes. Consuming more foods which protects the liver, like Chinese Wolfberries, can help to maintain eye health.

Myth 6: Do not use fans and air-conditioning and wear warm clothing

Just as bathing is prohibited, the belief is that exposure to cool air causes "wind" to enter the body which leads to health problems in future.

Eu Yan Sang: Moderation is advised. Firstly, the new mother should feel comfortable. In hot weather, fans and air-conditioners are crucial to prevent the development of heat rash. The new mother should, however, ensure that she is not directly under a fan or air-conditioner.

stephluo@sph.com.sg

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