Facts about the benefits of common confinement foods

After childbirth, a new mum follows a special diet ― learn how these foods boost her recovery and breastmilk supply.

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After childbirth, a new mother’s body is weakened and in need of lots of rest and nourishment. So, confinement is a time for new mothers to restore their strength and good health.

During confinement, which usually occurs in the first month of delivery, the new mum is “confined” at home to rest and recover from giving birth. She also follows a special confinement diet to condition her body for recovery and boost her milk production.

Homemaker Joyce Lim, 40, is no stranger to post-delivery confinement, having gone through it four time with each of her children. “It is a common practice among the Chinese and my mother strongly encouraged me to practise confinement, so that I would be able to build my health back after pregnancy and not suffer any ill-effects like rheumatism, body pains or constant headaches in the future.”

“Throughout my four confinement periods, my skin had a healthy glow and my body recuperated faster due to this healthy diet. I also had a very abundant supply of breastmilk.”

Unlike some of her friends, Lim enjoys eating confinement dishes. “Not only were the confinement dishes delicious, they were good for my body, too. Throughout my four confinement periods, my skin had a healthy glow and my body recuperated faster due to this healthy diet. I also had a very abundant supply of breastmilk.”

Consumption of confinement foods is a personal preference, notes dietitian Janice Chong of Mount Alvernia Hospital. “It is common among Asians and the duration differs according to the ethnic group, ranging from 28 to over 40 days.”

Generally, all ethnic groups encourage new mothers to take “heaty” food and to avoid “cooling” foods.  

Infographic: Rachel Lim 

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Are there any side effects?

Chong notes that, generally, new mothers can take confinement foods as long as their overall diet is well balanced. “However, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), most confinement food is heaty. Hence, if your body constituent is more heaty (eg more vulnerable to sore throats), you would probably need to reduce certain ingredients in cooking such as ginger and sesame oil,” she cautions.

As traditional confinement food is usually prepared with plenty of sesame oil and sometimes fatty meat, taking too much could lead to excessive consumption of calories and hence, weight gain, Chong notes.

“Longan red date is a common drink during confinement. This could also lead to excessive calorie consumption and if new mothers had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), this could cause her blood sugar level to remain high,” she adds.

So, reduce your intake of this drink, or dilute it. And if your body composition is “heaty”,” you might want to avoid it altogether because this tea is heaty, according to TCM, Chong advises.