Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Confinement Period

When I was pregnant, I dreaded the forthcoming Chinese confinement period that I would have to go through once I gave birth to my baby. Back then, I discussed my Mother-in-Law many times that I didn't want to observe strict Chinese confinement practices but she seemed to be so adamant about the whole traditional post-natal confinement concept, commonly practised by Chinese women in Malaysia. Hence, I was so stressed out thinking about how I'd survive my confinement period long before I had to do it and my husband needed to bring this topic up to my Gynae during one of my antenatal visits.

I was lucky that my Gynae gave my husband and I clear understanding that a new mother doesn't have to go through strict traditional confinement practices that she is not comfortable practising. She emphasized that it is  paramount important to stay mentally and physically well after labour by eating healthily as per normal, maintaining a hygienic lifestyle as usual and having enough rest. In addition, my Gynae explained that not practising strict traditional confinement rules, in medical logic, would not result in mother's health problems when she gets older nor issues in conceiving another baby. However, in order to avoid clashes with the confinement nanny, which in this case is usually the Mother-in-Law, the husband has to take more active role in bridging any differences between his wife and Mom so both ladies are happy during the confinement period. In principle, the new mother has to enjoy her confinement period while recuperating from childbirth.

The next day after I gave birth to my baby, my parents from Indonesia came to see us. My mother acted as my main confinement nanny for 10 days until she left Malaysia. When she was around, I ate home cooked Indonesian food that my Mom prepared. She did not allow me eating shrimps and anchovies as she worried that my episiotomy wound would be itchy if I ate those food. This theory is not scientifically proven but I did it anyway.

During my early confinement days, my Mother-in-Law tried to cook some gingery confinement dish for me but every time I had to eat it, it took me almost one hour to eat the food and I had to ask my husband to help me finish it. In the end, I could not finish the food and my Mother-in-Law was not so happy with it. Moving forward, I politely told her that perhaps it's best if I could just eat normal food so I can eat more. I try to plant the idea in her mind that if I eat more, I'd recover from post-natal pains faster and the more food I eat may give me more breast milk. She understood and quit forcing me to eat confinement food.

 Can't imagine eating this plain gingery dish for breakfast for a month!

After my Mom went back to Indonesia, I ate the usual home-cooked food that were also enjoyed by other family members at home for the rest of my confinement period. I barely consumed any 'heaty' traditional Chinese confinement diet which usually is heavy in ginger, Chinese herbs and alcohol simply because I didn't like the taste plus this food may affect my breast milk's content, thus cause jaundice on my baby.

The only thing that I continuously consumed for a month was red dateswolfberries and longan tea that my Mother-in-Law diligently brewed every morning. Other than that, occasionally I also drank some traditional Chinese decoction and herbal chicken soup that my Mother-in-Law cooked for me, as long as I could bear the taste.

Strangely, after being so resistant in eating herbal chicken soup, 
I found this one quite acceptable.

Also, being an Indonesian, my Mom brought post-partum abdominal cloth binder and traditional Indonesian herbal medicine for post-natal care to be put on my tummy to avoid flabby stomach. She applied the medicines and put the binder on my tummy every single day when she was in Malaysia and taught me how to continue applying the medicines and wearing the binder on my tummy myself. However, after she went home, I only managed to continue wearing the binder for few days as I got too tired and busy looking after my newborn during the day.

The traditional Indonesian herbal medicine for my tummy skin 
before diluted with hot water.

During confinement period, pyjamas were my daily uniform 
to wear day and night.

Next, when it comes to other old-fashioned Chinese confinement taboos and restrictions such as no shower, no washing hair, no going out, no air-conditioner or fan in the room and bathing only with water specially infused herbs for a whole month - I gave them all resounding pass. For obvious hygiene reasons, I showered every day and washed my hair once every two days. In fact, the moment I arrived home from hospital, I immediately gave myself a good shower and hair wash. However, when my Mother-in-Law found out, she scolded me while my parents were all cool with what I just did. I also turned the air-conditioner in my room on because Seremban's hot climate was just too unbearable for me. The temperature here is not as hot as in the Gobi desert but it's hot enough to make me sweat like a pig without room air conditioner. Bored being cooped up in the house for way too long, I sneaked out to supermarket and McDonald's with my husband around 3 weeks after I gave birth while my Mother-in-Law looked after my baby for a couple hours. As a matter of choice, since I had my baby, I think I am naturally and automatically confined at home because it's simply hard to leave my newborn at home and not possible to frequently take her out of the house. Thus, lately I mostly stay at home, even on weekends.

New life as a parent: Saturday night at home watching over my baby.

On the bright side, the good thing about confinement period is the feeling of being spoilt by some family members. My husband and Mother-in-Law were so kind in preparing and delivering my meals to my room upstairs every day. On top of that, they took over some of the household chores like washing and drying my clothes, cleaning dirty dishes in the kitchen, and so on for almost a month.

In summary, the way I did my confinement period here may be a bit unorthodox for the Chinese community in Asia and may not work for some people. I did what I personally think best for me because I didn't want to give myself extra 'emotional' burden when I was trying to cope with my new life, especially when I was physically drained recovering from childbirth and taking care of a newborn. For me, adhering to some traditional confinement rules that I didn't entirely believe would make me upset and give me unnecessary stress. My main goal after my labour was preventing post-natal depression so I tried my best to enjoy my new bundle of joy's presence and keep my sanity intact during the first month after I had my baby by not going through too strict confinement period.


  1. Hi Christine,
    Your confinement story in a mixed-nationalities marriage twist put a grin on our face. A few years back, we went through exactly the same what you are experiencing now. I'm Malaysian and my wife from Yogya, she dislike having any ginger in her food. My Malaysian mum believed you need some ginger to purge out "winds" in your body after giving birth or you will suffer Arthritis later in life. But the Javanese culture is all about multiple concoction of jamu. I told my wife some ginger will do her something good to purge the "kepala angin" in her.

    Congratulations on your new born and enjoy the gift from God no matter how difficult the route is. You may consider applying dwi-kewarganegaraan and get 2 passports for her (Malaysian and Indonesian) just in case. The procedure is a bit daunting but at times when you bring her to Indonesian for more than a month, it's worth while. We did the same for both our kids.

    Anyway, we stumbled upon your blog while searching for dinner alternatives in Seremban but we end up visiting the pasar malam. Maklum rasa lidah wong jowo.

  2. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog.

    You are right, Indonesians usually don't really like ginger taste in our food and this habit tends to shock Chinese community in Malaysia. My husband finds it really troublesome and weird because I have no problem having ginger for hot dessert or drink but not in my food.

    About the dual citizenship - I thought we are not able to get it for the kid(s)? The immigration and JPN staff told us that Malaysia doesn't recognize dual citizenship... Did you directly apply at the Indonesian Embassy in KL?

    Thanks a lot for the tips.

  3. Hi Christine,
    Your questions regarding dual citizenship. I don't remember the details since it was like 5 years ago that we applied for the Indonesian citizenship. But it was different procedures for both children. Don't worry about what JPN said, I'm currently holding both Canadian and Malaysian passport for the last 15 years. Unlike Singapore, Indonesian dual citizen procedure do not required one to renounce his/her citizenship.

    For my son after we got him the Malaysian's Birth Certificate, we applied the Akte Kelahiran which took about a week. If I recalled correctly, documents required include both parent's passport, KTP/IC, Marriage Cert (or Buku Nikah Catatan Sipil), Child's Birth Cert. After we secured the Akte Kelahiran, my in-laws in Jog registered his name in the Kartu Keluarga arranged by Bpk RT.

    When applying for his passport in KBRI, you need all of the above documents including certified copy of Kartu Keluarga, M'san Long Term Visa. Remember when making copy of your passport, every single page(stamped and un-stamped) is required. We learned the hard way through making multiple trips. Please contact KBRI for the latest procedures than making unnecessary trips. You probably knows the challenging environment in KBRI.

    Hope this help and good luck.


  4. Hi Allen,

    Thanks so much for sharing this info. Your hints here are really helpful!

    Let me check this with the embassy in KL. I've been trying to call them many times before to inquire about the dual citizenship but nobody picked up the phone. Emailing them didn't work either.



  5. Hi Allen and Christine,

    Children below 18 can have dual citizenship, but not for the adult after 18. If they found out you have 2 passports, they are going to cancel your malaysian citizenship and keep your malaysian IC and passport away. My aunty had malaysian and british passport for more than 40 years, recently they found out when she came back to Malaysia, and forfeited it.
    My husband is british, my son can have dual citizenship till he's 18.

    1. Hi Clemence,

      Thanks for the info. Yes, from my understanding dual citizenship is only for children below 18 and then they'd have to choose one. I have yet to apply the Indonesian citizenship for my daughter just yet but I am so eager to do so.



  6. hey thanks for sharing this.Diet during confinement is of utmost importance for apparent reasons. Your body needs to get back to normal as every organ is exhausted and needs rest. A balanced diet is the need of the body.


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