Confinement is an important post-natal practice in Malaysia. A lot of women choose to go through it after giving birth as a way of respecting their traditions. Typically, confinement periods last between 28 to 40 days. The goal is to support the mother as she heals and bonds with her little one while adjusting to motherhood.
Because of its nature, there are a lot of things about confinement that are often misunderstood. To outsiders or people who have limited experience with it, it can even seem like a very strange practice. This has led to many myths that often end up doing more harm than good.
In this guide, we’ll break down all the popular confinement myths. We’ll also highlight what is true about them. In the end, we hope that you will be better informed about confinement practices, enough to decide whether or not it is the right fit for you.
Confinement myth: You will lapse into depression once your baby is born if you do not go into confinement
Fact: A lot of women indeed experience a sad or depressed mood after giving birth. Sometimes, this state can continue for several days. This is called “baby blues” and is associated with the hormonal changes that occur after delivery. Baby blues usually go away on their own within about two weeks. When they persist for longer than this, they can turn into a form of depression called postpartum depression, or PPD. PPD is often accompanied by thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby. In such cases, professional intervention is necessary. Fortunately, only a tiny portion of women will experience PPD.
Confinement myth: You should not touch water or bathe to prevent “wind” from entering your body, which can cause chronic diseases like arthritis and headaches later in life.
Fact: There is no basis for this myth. Bathing regularly is good for personal hygiene and comfort, especially after giving birth. It will also reduce the risk of skin disease and your wound getting infected. Plus, everyone else will find being around you more bearable when you do not have body odor.
Confinement myth: You should only wash your hair with water in which ginger has been boiled.
Fact: While using ginger in your hair has some benefits and has been shown to help promote hair growth in some women, there is no reason to use it exclusively. You can wash your hair however you like as long as the soap, shampoo, conditioner, and cleansing products you use do not contain harmful chemicals.
Confinement myth: You must drink lots of wine, sesame oil, and traditional herbs to drive out the “wind.”
Fact: There is no medical or scientific reasoning behind this claim. While consuming these substances will not harm you if done in moderation, excessive amounts may harm you and your baby. Alcohol in the wine will be transferred to your baby through your breast milk, which can adversely affect your little one’s development. As for the traditional herbs, some of them contain substances that have not been studied widely by modern science, so you should be wary of them.
Confinement myth: Drinking plain water during confinement is harmful.
Fact: As a breastfeeding mother, you need to drink a lot of water to replenish the fluids your body uses to produce breast milk. There is nothing wrong with drinking plenty of water at any point in your pregnancy journey or after giving birth.
Confinement myth: Mothers in confinement should not drink plain water. However, they should drink lots of alcohol. Alcoholic drinks like rice wine are recommended. They should also eat food cooked with alcohol. This will boost their blood circulation and help warm them up.
Fact: Alcohol does have some circulation-boosting and body-warming properties. However, it is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. It should be avoided as much as possible. Alcohol easily transfers from the mother’s body to the baby. Babies with alcohol in their bodies may have impaired growth and development.
A lot of new mothers often feel pressured to go into confinement. Sometimes, they end up having a difficult time adhering to the often restricting and rigorous confinement practices. However, at the end of the day, the decision of whether or not to go into it is a deeply personal one that only you can make. There is nothing wrong with doing it, and choosing not to does not make you less of a mother. We hope that by dispelling the myths surrounding this practice we have put you in a better position to make this decision yourself. If you do choose to go into confinement, do it in a way that feels comfortable and natural without putting yourself or your little one at risk. Good luck!