Confinement practices, part of the Asian culture, feature strongly in many pre-conceived notions of pregnancy and traditions in raising children. The tech-savvy generation of young parents adhere to science-backed theories as opposed to ‘old wives’ tales shared from their parents. For the uninitiated, confinement is a period for mothers to recuperate and recover following childbirth.
In Singapore, different ethnicities have different cultural practices and beliefs. Confinement practices range from the prohibition of certain daily tasks (such as showering) to strict dietary restrictions. All these practices and beliefs stem from the same common purpose – to help mothers heal and rejuvenate after childbirth. So what advice should mothers follow in this time and age?
We speak with Dr Shefaly Shorey, Assistant Professor of Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS), to find out more.
Do confinement practices have actual health benefits and should you follow them?
Many confinement practices that Singaporeans follow are not backed by scientific research. If these practices help to maintain your physical, mental and family harmony, there is nothing wrong in following them. However there are some practices which can affect mother’s emotional health. For example, new mothers are discouraged from having a shower during their confinement period. But it is important that mothers do continue to shower and keep themselves clean as their new-borns will be in constant physical contact with them. With the high humidity in Singapore, it may be impractical to stick to the tradition of not showering for 30 – 44 days.
Some people claim that after childbirth, some mothers may have “post-natal depression”. Are “baby blues” real?
Hormonal changes after childbirth can lead to low moods in mothers which are commonly known as baby blues. Common symptoms include crying or being easily irritated. Majority of mothers experience these low moods within the early days of giving birth, especially after days 5-7 post childbirth. However, having low moods does not mean that you are suffering from depression. If you are experiencing low moods for an extended period of time or you have feelings of self- or baby-harm, then you should seek immediate professional help.
What are some “bad” confinement practices to avoid?
There are no good or bad confinement practices. What is important is to recognise and avoid any confinement practices that cause you more physical and emotional distress than comfort. Most importantly, it is crucial to maintain the family harmony by having open communication with your family to negotiate the confinement practices that work best for you.
What should mothers do when they are made to adhere to confinement traditions?
Have an open conversation with your family members about what makes you feel good and helps you focus on taking care of your newborn better. A mother’s mental health is often forgotten during this period. Let your family members know your thoughts and communicate with them about your mental health. Remember, happy mummy, happy baby and happy family!
Any advice for new parents?
To all the new mummies and daddies, be patient with yourself. This might be your first, third, or fourth child but every child is different. Mummies, allow daddies to get involved with new-born care tasks. Remember, practise makes perfect. Daddies, please be there for the mummies during this period where she is undergoing a lot of emotional and physical changes. Relax, ask for help when needed and enjoy your parenthood!
About #AskFFL with Dr Shefaly: The above Q&A has been adapted from one of Dr Shefaly’s live sessions under the Families for Life (FFL) #AskFFL online video series. This series features experts who share tips and advice on topics relating to juggling work and family life while staying at home. To find out more about #AskFFL online video series, click here.