Sunday, February 28, 2016

Confinement 101: Taking time to heal

It's been 3 weeks since the birth of Baby J, and I've been trying to follow some confinement practices as much as possible (more about those practices in another post!). I've always seen the benefits of having a confinement period, though many non-Asian cultures do not practice it (sometimes due to the lack of available or affordable help). I think the main point of confinement is to ensure that the mother can get as much support and rest post-delivery, so that she can recuperate from the physical stresses and strains of pregnancy and labour. After giving birth to four children, I've seen the need for rest in the month after giving birth. These days, total rest isn't possible since there are the kids to care for. However, having extra hands to help around the home, and getting nutritious food really helps in the recovery process.

While I've followed some confinement practices, and we opted not to hire a confinement nanny for all my confinements, each of my confinements turned out to be different. For my first, my mum helped with my confinement, cooking my meals and helping to care for the baby in the day, while my in-laws came down to stay and help too. However, I found recovery was slow and painful, since I had a difficult labour, and I had many issues learning how to breastfeed since this was my first baby. Junior J was born one day before CNY, and we had a steady stream of visitors so I hardly got any rest. I really struggled during that first month, and I actually vowed never to have kids again!

Thankfully though, the subsequent deliveries turned out to be faster and easier, and my physical recovery was naturally quicker. My mum helped me with my confinement for two weeks after delivering Lil J, after which I stopped confinement practices due to various circumstances. I had to fend for myself with two kids after those two weeks. For Small J, we catered confinement food for two weeks, so that my mum didn't need to stress over cooking for me, and the in-laws were available to help with the older two during the confinement period. 

My mum insisted on cooking for me again for this confinement, as she felt having home-cooked meals would be best. My MIL came down to stay with us the day I went in to deliver, and she's been helping a lot with the chores and cooking for the rest of the family. Thus far recovery has been quick this round, though I've been plagued with certain aches and pains. Physical complaints aside, I think I've bounced back the fastest during this pregnancy, even though I had expected recovery to be slower since I'm now older! This is probably due to a few factors, like being a lot stronger and fitter during this pregnancy due to pilates, as well as the nutrition that I've been getting during this confinement period. 

Since the active labour stage was rather short this round, I found that I was not as exhausted compared to previous deliveries, even though I was actually up the whole night with contractions. As I didn't get an epidural, I didn't feel as wobbly on my feet, and I was up and about later in the day that I popped. (A side point: I used to think that the epidural caused the shivering after delivery, but I was wrong. I was shivering so hard this round, I had to wait awhile before I dared to carry baby!) I think all those pilates sessions really helped in my physical recovery.

I've also been getting a whole lot more nutritious food this round, compared to my previous three confinements. My mum has been cooking my meals, which consist of a lot of iron-rich food, as well as fish and other sources of protein (My favorite would be the pig trotters cooked in black vinegar. Seriously, I could eat that everyday!) 

Main meals aside, my mum has also been helping to prepare herbal soups for me to drink every day during lunch and dinner. I have not consumed any of these herbal soups in my past confinements, and I find that these have been helpful in the healing process. In fact, I found that the lochia (the discharge that happens post-delivery) has cleared up the fastest this round, and my gynae remarked with surprise that everything was all clear during the ultrasound, which was done two and half weeks after delivery. The soups have also been helpful in expelling wind and reducing bloated-ness, an issue I've always had post-delivery. I used to be quite skeptical about whether these traditional Chinese herbs are of any use. However, after these few weeks, I think they have been helpful in aiding recovery. 

These herbal soups were from Mummamia, which aims to make confinement easier by providing various pre-prepared traditional products used during confinement. The herbs for the soups are vacuumed packed for freshness, with one packet of herbs to be used each day. There are five kinds of herbal combinations, which are prescribed by a TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) physician, and these focus on the five stages of recovery: Expel, Remove, Rejuvenate, Recuperate, Tonify. 

The herbs were all pre-packed, which made it easy for my mum to prepare the soups, since she just needed to rinse the herbs and cook them in the morning each day. The packs are numbered based on the stages, so all you have to do is to use them in the numbered order, and then repeat the cycle again. These packs really make it doable for mums to DIY their own confinement (especially if you are overseas!), since you can just pop the herbs into the slow cooker/pot in the mornings, or get a relative to help prepare the soups. It's very fuss-free, and the instructions for preparing the soups are clearly listed on each packet.

I've had people sharing that they sometimes find that the pre-packed herbs from various TCM halls are not sufficient enough to give a concentrated soup, but this wasn't the case with the herbs from Mummamia. The soups were pretty concentrated, and tasty, and each pack was enough to yield two servings of soup, so I had the soup during both lunch and dinnertime. 

Initially, I was concerned about the safety of consuming these herbs, since TCM products do not go through testing procedures unlike pharmaceutical drugs. In Singapore, licensing is not required for the sale and import of traditional medicinal materials, such as these raw herbs, and it is the responsibility of the dealer to ensure that the heavy metal content of the materials do not exceed safety limits. I've read reports about TCM materials with high levels of heavy metals, and it was worrying especially since I would be breastfeeding! I had many questions about this issue, and Willis, the representative from Mummamia, patiently answered all my queries, and it was clear that she knew her stuff. Willis clarified that Mummamia is selective for their sources of herbs, to ensure safety, and they advise that the herbs are washed before use. It was reassuring to know that the products from Mummamia are actually sold in various shops in hospitals, as well as in Mount Alvernia's pharmacy, and all the ingredients in the packs are clearly listed. Some mums have shared that they buy their herbs across the causeway as the exchange rate makes the herbs much cheaper, however, I think I would be willing to pay slightly more for some peace of mind. 

Willis shared that the herbs used in these packs are from various parts of the world, but are processed and packed in Singapore to ensure quality control. She also mentioned that one issue is the use of sulphur to preserve the herbs. However, Mummamia ensures that they select herbs with minimal sulphur content, and they preserve the freshness of the herbs by vacuum-packing as well as using desiccants (each pack comes with a small sachet of silica gel) instead. Due to minimal preservatives being used, it is recommended that the herbs are kept in the refrigerator to ensure freshness.  

Another common feature of the confinement period is the drinking of red date tea to prevent the mother from getting "cold". While some advocate that the mother can only drink red date tea and should avoid drinking water, I've never been able to do so, since I find that I am extremely thirsty after breastfeeding! However, I do love drinking the red date tea because of it's sweetness, so I do manage to finish the amount that my mum prepares for me.

Mummamia also provides pre-packed packets for brewing the red date tea. All you have to do is to add water and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours. Again, this makes for fuss-free preparation, since you don't need to measure out the amounts of each ingredient to use each day.

All in all, I think the pre-packed herbs and red date tea packs from Mummamia do help to make things easier during confinement, and the soups might be helpful for boosting recovery. I'm quite glad I got to try the soups for this confinement! For more information, do visit their website and FB page

Finally, Mummamia is offering a promotion for readers of this blog, where you will receive 1 free box of nursing herbal soup (worth $43) with every 30 days worth of confinement herbs purchased (ie. 3 sets, since each set has 10 packets). Just use the code MKGMUM0216 at checkout!   


Mummamia is kindly sponsoring a set of pre-packed confinement herbs (one set of five different packs) for one reader of this blog! To take part in this giveaway, please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below. Do note that you have to like and comment on this FB post to enter!

(Psst! We'll be doing another giveaway of confinement products soon, so like the Mummamia FB page, as well as our blog FB page to be kept updated!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We received Mummamia products for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own. This giveaway is not sponsored, endorsed or associated with Facebook.


  1. I appreciate your blog and the photos here. This is your time to take a lot of rest to regain your strength. And you just actually let me recalled my confinement days too after giving birth last year and on the same month, February. Hoping to feel better soon! :)

    1. Michelle: Thanks for sharing! Yes, I'm trying to rest when I can. Enjoy your toddler! ;)



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