Most women who become pregnant would inevitably undergo some type of ‘confinement’ process after delivery, and one of the top most concerns many mothers-to-be would be the expectations of their mother/mother-in-law and/or confinement nanny. These concerns can vary from that of food to personal hygiene or even the superstitious, depending on what folklore or practices had been followed through the generations. Here, we will take a look at five interesting and very practical issues that can surface during the consumption of confinement food.
1. Longan Red Date Tea
This very nutritious and yummy drink offered to mothers from Day 1 is a favourite. However, the natural sweetness of the drink can cause a build up of sugar in an individual’s body and contribute towards a yeast infection (not to be confused with urinary tract infection). Pregnant mothers who have a very sweet tooth during the pregnancy are also at risk of having yeast infections. It is therefore important to drink plain water as well, during the confinement month, as your body will be losing a lot of water from breastfeeding, body heat and post natal recovery. Some mothers follow the practice of not consuming any water at all during the confinement month. This is fine, as each mother’s body is different and is able to cope with the intake of Chinese herbs differently. If you are aware that your body is very ‘heaty’ to begin with, it would do you good not to avoid water due to the ‘heatiness’ of this tea.
This very common spice used in almost all confinement foods has a little effect on the mother’s breastmilk! Taking in ginger will affects the bilirubin levels in your newborn. Doctors will differ in their opinions about this, but for mothers who have had to struggle with fluctuating and high levels of jaundice in their babies, they will be able to testify that avoiding ginger being cooked with their food for a few days helped to reduce their newborns’ bilirubin levels significantly. Should you meet with such a challenge, there is little harm in giving this a try as the ginger can be reintroduced to your diet once your baby has received the all-clear from the doctor for jaundice.
3. Cod Fish
This fatty but so delicious fish is packed full of flavour and nutrition. However, eating excessive amounts of it can cause the breastmilk to become too fatty and result in clogging the milk ducts, especially if the mother is blessed with a natural abundance of breastmilk. In fact, for mothers with a large supply of breastmilk, it would be good to limit your intake of fish to 2-3 times a week so as to avoid fatty milk and breast issues for yourself. If you are wondering what ‘excessive’ intake is, every meal for the confinement month is excessive. *wink*
While not exclusive to being a ‘confinement food’, broccoli is often featured in confinement dishes due to the high levels of Vitamin C and iron, which are beneficial for mother and child. This vegetable is however, difficult to break down for some babies due to their developing guts, which are not mature enough to digest the broccoli efficiently enough. This can cause discomfort in them due to a build-up of gas in their bodies, leading to (potentially painful) flatulence, bloating and a lot of crying. Should you suspect this to be the case for your child, avoid eating broccoli for a few weeks to months, and try consuming it again when your baby is older. By 6-7 months, your child’s stomach would have matured, so feel free to allow him/her to sample broccoli and look out for any similar signs of discomfort.
5. Confinement Food? Ugh.
Most mothers would begin to tire of the similar tasting fair by the third week of confinement. Be it char kway teow, chendol or fast food, it is likely that you would have a craving of different sorts post delivery. This is completely normal, as the heavy flavours of confinement food can be too much of a good thing for most palates.
If you are under strict confinement practices, hang in there! If you are able to ‘cheat’ on your confinement meals, feel free to indulge in a treat or two. Besides, the hardworking mama deserves some pampering after all.
By Ruth Mak