A woman’s confinement coincides with the phase known as puerperium, or the period from birth to six weeks in which your body, which underwent massive changes during your pregnancy, recovers gradually and returns to the non-pregnant state.
In those six weeks, your uterus gradually shrinks from about 900g back to its pre-pregnancy size and weight of less than 100g, while the site where the placenta had been attached repairs itself. The volume of blood in the body, which had expanded by one-and-a-half times during pregnancy, also returns to normal.
Hormonal changes occur as well; besides preparing the breasts for breastfeeding, they sometimes gives rise to postpartum blues and hair loss.
During her confinement, the postpartum mum is often waited on hand and foot by traditional-minded mothers, mums-in-law or confinement nannies. You’ll be given special foods to restore your strength and health, but also required to restrict your physical activities and lifestyle. And many will undergo massages — which not only soothe your body but also aim to help your body parts return to their “proper size and position”. These may start three days after a natural delivery, or about one to two weeks after a C-section, depending on your gynae’s consent.
As for food, here are some guidelines that all mums should follow (regardless of tradition).
You may be eager to regain your pre-pregnancy figure, do not try to reduce your food intake when nursing, or your quantity of milk available for your child will drop. To make milk, you’ll need 500 more calories a day — more than what you needed (an extra 300 calories) when you were expecting. You’ll do well with three main meals and two snacks, such as two slices of wholemeal bread with tuna or low-fat cheese, and one vegetarian or meat bao, for instance.
You’ll need 1,200mg of calcium a day if you’re breastfeeding, compared to 1,000mg during pregnancy.
Continue including oily fish in your diet if you’re nursing, such as sardines, tuna, salmon and mackerel (batang), since 75 per cent of your baby’s brain development happens in the womb, with the remaining 25 per cent taking place after your baby’s born.
Eat red meat twice a week to meet your iron requirements.
5. Vitamin C
Consume two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables a day. Vitamin C helps your wound to heal, and allows your body to absorb iron better.
If you’re nursing, make sure to take at least 1½ to 2 litres of water daily.