17 Nov No shower, stay indoors and eat tons of rice – my 30-day confinement period postpartum
You may have heard of something called “confinement period” – a 30-day postpartum recovery time that many women in my country follow as they believe that the practice really helps with their recovery and return to pre-pregnancy shape (nevertheless, I haven’t lived in Vietnam for 16 years, I am not sure if many still strictly adhere to this tradition).
Me on my last outing – a few days before giving birth! I gained around 14-15kg
Me first time freely getting out of the house, 5-week postpartum (I got out once before for baby first check up but my mom made me wear thick coat and cover my head/ear in the middle of the summer!)
This blog will describe my own “confinement period” following the birth of our second son. Some aspects of the practice are not very scientific (to avoid the word “bizarre”) but the key idea is to give new mothers total rest, to the extent possible, and, despite my moaning, I actually found it wonderful. Having seen how some of my friends strive with limited help following the birth of their children, while I had both my mother and aunt with me 24/7 to prepare nutritious food and do all the house chores, leaving me with only the main task of taking care of the newborn, I think the practice makes a lot of senses. But at the same time, not always can you have the same level of help as new parents, and I have been very fortunate.
For my firstborn, the confinement period was 100 days… and it is supposed to be easier with the second one – 30 days “ONLY”! Hallelujah! Thank god Dino, my first son, was born in the winter because the second time around, even it lasted 1/3 of the length, it was right in the middle of the heatwave… and I can tell you now, it was TOUGH! Read on and you will know what I mean.
So…. drum roll… what are the RULES, according to my mother?
*Oh one more thing, I sort of didn’t follow everything through to the last instruction… Please do not let her know (Sorry mum!)
I. NO CONTACT WITH WATER
- No shower
- No tooth brushing
- No drinking water (yes what did I drink you must wonder)
Anyone with a newborn would tell you that they do not have time to shower, so the rule would actually take the pressure off right? Wrong!!!
But, seriously, my mother did not even allow me to shower after delivering! Right after delivering Tigo, the nurse wanted to give me a shower and my mother jumped in right away and said she would do it to keep the nurse outside. (So, only wiping allowed if you really wanted to know the details).
The nurse at Portland Hospital somehow wanted to bring me a fresh towel and she was shocked at the scene “Why aren’t you showering?”. She must think we came from Mars.
Below are photos of me after 5, 10, 15 days without shower. However you do need to do hygienic cleaning with a cloth and some solution made by my mother.
I stick to not showering for 15 days and it was okay only until the most important part of “Confinement Period” – STEAM/ SAUNA (this deserve a section of its own below). I sweated so much that it became unbearable so I had to beg my own mother to wash my hair with herbal water after 5 days steaming. With steaming, at least I felt the body being detoxified, whether it’s true or not, I’m not sure.
No tooth brushing
Basically, you brush your teeth with diluted salt water and a muslin cloth. Nothing else!
My teeth actually got really bad after the first confinement period (but to be fair, I eat chocolate and sweets all the time so that’s probably the main reason) so this time I told my hubby to sneak in a toothbrush (I repeat – please DO NOT tell my mother!) since I was confined on a top floor and literally could not go anywhere.
Shown below, from left to right, were White Wine (to be mixed with ginger and turmeric for body massage solution), salt water to replace toothpaste, some… liquid to clean your body with and two bottles of herbal oil to apply on body of baby and me to protect us from the cold (… during the heatwave….)
No contact with water
I did not drink water, instead, my mother brought me tea powder ground from dry leaves (called Lá Vằng in Vietnamese, and I do not know the English equivalence). I drank about 2.5l of this hot tea everyday! If you want my honest opinion, I think water is fine but my mother said apparently this tea helps with milk production. If you really want to try, I have several packages left! By the way, this Thermos flask is incredible (sorry to go off track)!
II. LIMITED CHOICES OF FOOD
- No Fruit
- No Sweet
- Spicy Food Allowed
- Food cooked with turmeric, lots and lots of turmeric. I actually took lots of homemade tablets made from turmeric and honey daily. I find those helps with my skin immensely.
- CARBS – I ate rice, so much rice that I cried eating them thinking I would never return to my pre-pregnancy weight during the first confinement period
- Lots of pork hock soup (I refused to eat this!)
Below are a few examples, I can guarantee that all the meat dish were soaked in turmeric!!
I did not touch any sweet nor fruit during the first 30 days (100 days with my first baby). I ate like a horse with my first baby and maybe that’s why I could pump an extra litre per day in addition to Dino’s usual feed. As it was tough to lose the last few kilos because of so much white rice, the second time around I begged my mother to replace it with brown rice, at least it would be healthier (supposedly?).
III. ONLY BONDING/FEEDING YOUR BABY + EAT + REST ALLOWED
- No climbing chairs = I was stuck on the top floor of my house for 30 days
- No going outdoors
- No TV, Books, Phone (yes you read it right, NO PHONE – Did you think I follow through…?!)
- No visitors
To be honest, I think it was tougher for my mother and my aunt during the confinement period because they had to do EVERYTHING: cooking, taking care of my toddler, doing no-name house chores. It may sound boring to not be allowed to do anything, but following the major experience of giving birth, it would be paradise to have someone there to take care of you so you can focus all your energy on your newborn.
And last but not least…
IV. STEAM + … PLAY WITH FIRE + TUMMY MASSAGE
Around 10-15 days after delivering, you can start the Sauna! I really loved it the first time I went through it as Dino was born in winter and whats better than sauna during the winter right? But it was hell with the heat the second time! I had 30-minute steam/sauna sessions, twice a day for 10 days straight when it was nearing 40 degree outside and boiling inside my house! You didn’t forget the “no water, no wind, no going outdoors” part I mentioned earlier right?
Ingredients for the Solution to steam with:
Sea Salt, LOTS and LOTS of sea salts! Viet and I cleared out one shelf of the supermarket one evening!
Some dried bark my mother brought from Vietnam (I honestly don’t know what these are. She bought it from the mountain areas)
Things to note:
During the steaming process, you must not speak, you have to cover your hair (“otherwise your hair would fall out” – mother said!). I couldn’t talk anyways because my mom made me hold diluted salt water in my mouth the whole time. Also, you need to attach two pieces of lime slices under my armpits. My mother explained that for some women certain areas of their body got affected by pigmentation badly and the lime is for that. I had bad pigmentation around the belly area instead which is still in the slow process of fading.
As I follow Gina Ford’s baby schedule very strictly from the start, I managed to do the sauna twice a day for 10 days at exact same same times while Tigo had his naps. Not only did I have to do the steaming, I also had keep a hot water bottle on my belly every time I went to bed. (did I mention the heatwave?)
At the end of the10-day steaming, I sat in the tent… okay, this can be crazy.. to light up fire, real FIRE! for 30′ if I remember correctly. I was like “Mother, this is scary”. It was supposed to make your body sweat more, in order to release all the toxins. It’s true that at the end of the steaming process, I felt like blood was running through my body at a much better rate so it also helped with circulation I suppose.
I took this picture to document how silly it was, sitting in a closed tent with a bottle of alcohol to feed the fire… it couldn’t get any crazier than that!
Every evening, my mother and my aunt would give me a massage with a solution made from white wine, turmeric and ginger and that is not the end of it! I had to sit in front of the heater (again, during the heatwave may I remind you) for the solution to be absorbed into my skin!
And… that was IT! I really hope I covered it all as I received so much questions from my friends about this process. They were really intrigued by the practice so this blog is for them. I hope you found this post to be somewhat amusing!
I have to admit that I don’t believe 100% in every aspect of this practice, however, seeing how my mother really worked herself so much doing what she thought was best for my health, I just followed all of her instructions and I’m sure it benefited me one way or another. My grandmother had 9 kids (meaning she went through this crazy ordeal 9 times!!!) and she’s the strongest lady I have ever seen in my life, 86 years old and still cycling long distances everyday. Sometimes, you have to trust the wisdom from years of experience, don’t you agree?