DIY Confinement

Category: Birth & Beyond

Planning to handle the confinement on your own? This useful guide will fill you in on all you need to know.


Instead of agonising over finding a reliable confinement nanny, why not handle confinement on your own? With a bit of planning and support from your family, you can have a good confinement experience.

All about Confinement
Following childbirth, new mothers often stay at home for a period known as confinement. It typically lasts for 28 to 30 days. During this time of recuperation, mothers are expected to get plenty of rest, adhere to a strict diet and refrain from doing certain things that are deemed detrimental to the mother’s recovery. A new mother should check with her doctor to determine if she is well enough to resume her pre-pregnancy lifestyle – especially in areas of work and exercise.  
At the heart of what confinement is about are its goals. Pregnancy and childbirth are very physically demanding processes that put a lot of strain on a woman’s body. The main aim of confinement is thus physical restoration. Willis Jap of Mummamia Confinement says it will take six to eight weeks for the womb, endometrium and abdominal wall to recover. Pregnancy may also result in uterine prolapse (a situation in which the uterus falls so far down that some tissue rests outside the vagina) and abdominal separation. If a woman does not take care of herself adequately post-pregnancy, these conditions are likely to persist. Tan Ooh Chye, a TCM practitioner at Ga’tem TCM Enterprise, explains that the opening of pores during childbirth also makes a woman more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.

What confinement does is to allow the body to repair itself by protecting it and providing it with adequate nourishment. It also eases a woman into her new role as a mother as she spends more time with her baby and learns how to care for him. The care and attention given to the new mother would also provide her with emotional support to cope with the new responsibilities and physical changes.   

Three Key Things for a Successful Confinement
Yvonne Phua, confinement nanny trainer at PEM Confinement Nanny Agency and Jap, both emphasise the importance of upkeeping personal hygiene post-pregnancy. You may have heard about how bathing or washing your hair in the first few days post-birth should be avoided lest “wind” enters your body. However, Jap says that as women tend to have more discharge (sweat, vaginal discharge and breast milk) then, the risk of bacterial infection is high if you do not clean yourself regularly. However, avoid prolonged contact with water to reduce the risk of rheumatism in later life.

To do:
Bathe or wipe yourself regularly
Avoid entering an air-conditioned room or use a fan immediately after a bath

To restore health and to prepare for breastfeeding, it is crucial for new mothers to have nutritional meals. Tan says that the post-birth period is ideal for nourishment as the body, in a weakened state after birth, will absorb nutrients more readily. He adds that as it is good to keep one’s body warm from the TCM perspective, post-partum women are often advised to take food warm in nature like ginger, sesame and dates in the form of drinks or dishes. They should also avoid cold drinks and food that are “cold” in nature like cucumber, crab and watermelon. Tan says new mothers should moderate their intake of spices like chilli, garlic, cinnamon and pepper. They can be absorbed into breast milk and a baby’s digestive system may be too weak to reprocess them.
According to Jap, some herbs help speed up recovery, support breastfeeding and build overall wellness and immunity. One of them is hawthorn (Shan Zha), which dissipates stasis and promotes digestion. Cortex Eucommiae (Du Zhong) helps to strengthen bones and muscles as well as tonify the liver and the kidney. Herbs like red dates, wolfberry, Radix Codonopsis (Dang Shen) and Radix Astralagi (Bei Qi) are commonly used to boost “energy” (Qi) and promote blood circulation. Taking too much of these herbs can be harmful, though.

Mothers also need to drink at least two to four litres of fluid daily to support breastfeeding and eliminate water retention. “It is common that new mothers experience heavy water retention due to weak kidneys and taking red and black bean help,” Jap says.

To do:

  • Have light and easily digestible food like soup or porridge for your first meal after deliver    
  • Adopt a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables    
  • Make everyday drinks by steeping ginger, red dates and hawthorn in hot water
  • Enquire with Chinese medical halls for recommended herb combinations and methods of preparation    
  • Pick up cookbooks on confinement food for tried-and-tested recipes     
  • Abstain from drinking alcohol unless it is boiled to dissipate the alcohol content    
  • Use electrical appliances with quick-cooking functions to cut food preparation time    
  • Get a food and drink warmer for convenience

Rest and relax
Getting sufficient rest is paramount for the body to heal itself after childbirth. “Lack of sleep not only causes stress, anxiety, mood swings and poor appetite but also affects milk quality and quantity,” Jap says. To prevent stress, Phua advises new mothers not to be too hard on themselves.

To do:

  • Take leave from work or make plans to work from home    
  • Plan with your family how they can support you during confinement    
  • Take turns with your husband to do night feeds    
  • Take short naps whenever possible    
  • Start exercising after your doctor has ascertained your body has recovered well    
  • Get someone to help with washing    
  • Give yourself gentle massages to reduce water retention and soothe body tension    
  • Try to get a relative or friend to be at home with you at all times
  • If you have an older child, ensure he is well-taken care off
  • Store all important phone numbers in your handphone in case of an emergency

When planning for confinement, put your body’s needs first in order to restore it to its pre-pregnancy confinement.

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