What is Confinement?

July 22, 2016

A bit of history

The word “confinement” in the context of the period after child birth is also known as “postpartum confinement”, “Sitting the month”: 坐月子 “Zuo Yuezi” in Putonghua, 坐月 “chor yuet” in Cantonese. It is a Chinese custom practised by many women in East Asia including Korea and Japan. This tradition dates back 2000 years to the Han Dynasty where the first recorded Chinese post-natal confinement is mentioned. Although many traditions of the past have been abandoned and forgotten, this particular custom has stood the test of time and continues to be very popular with modern day mums.

Here in Singapore it still continues to be widely practised and the Indian and Malay communities also have their own version of confinement.


What does it entail

Giving birth, regardless of how (natural, caesarean, water birth), is traumatic and the post-natal care and recovery period immediately after birth is critical for the well-being of both the mother and new-born. A search of the internet will return a swathe of rules and restrictions that mothers need to abide by. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Avoiding the cold or wind
  • Abstain from chores and housework
  • Try not to shower or wash your hair
  • Refraining from sex and any activity that requires physical exertion

Many of the traditional rules have been lost (or ignored!) over time and nowadays the most important reason for observing the confinement and hiring a confinement nanny is for the mother to get enough rest and relaxation as possible, to help with her recovery.


Confinement food

Eating the right types of food is another important aspect of confinement. Typically, Chinese confinement food contains ginger, wine and sesame oil. Chicken in sesame oil, fish soup, pork knuckle with ginger and vinegar are some common dishes that most confinement nannies are able to make.


What you should look for in a confinement nanny

This is really down to personal preference and the type of confinement help needed. Some mums prefer a very strict nanny who will make sure they follow the rules whilst others will seek a more relaxed nanny. Based on our experience and feedback from mothers, below are the top 5 (by priority) things they look for in a confinement nanny.

  1. Age and experience (more than 10 years’ experience)
  2. Cleanliness
  3. Handling of the baby
  4. Language (different dialects)
  5. Confinement cooking

Just a reminder that many confinement nannies are in their twilight years and may have physical limitations, such as being unable to carry the baby for long periods of time, rigorous house cleaning activities, babysitting older children etc. Be sure to discuss these things with the nanny up-front so as to manage expectations of both parties.

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