Recently there was a conversation about the support of new mothers and I was sharing my experiences of the 30 day confinement after both my children were born. Many mothers with different cultural backgrounds were quite amused with the pampering I and my fellow Malaysian friends experience.
I thought I’d share my experience about the confinement period after both my children were born, which is quite different from the Australian culture.
In Malaysia, we believed that new mothers have to take things very easily immediately after child birth. The rules are very simple: we will be very well taken care of, with wonderful specially cooked warm dishes, three meals a day, and we must avoid being exposed to air conditioning, showers or anything cool to avoid being chilled.
This belief has been in the Malaysian culture for many years, and according to my grandmother:
- When a woman is pregnant, her joints are stretched and spaced, therefore, if during the 30 day confinement period, should the new mother get sick or be chilled from being exposed to the cold, they risk contracting arthritis or future body aches and pains when they age.
- A woman uses a lot of energy during the nine months pregnancy and during child birth. Therefore the food that is cooked during the confinement period is very nutritious and sumptuous, so as to allow the new mother to regain her energy and replenish the nutrients. So that once she is healed and rested, she will be well equipped to look after the children.
The new mother is encouraged to have complete rest, lying down, sleeping and just focus on the new baby. The family will help around the house, cook, and clean, look after the other children or even hire special help during the confinement period.
All meals will be served hot, and believe me, the dishes were delicious.
After the 30 days confinement, there will be a huge celebration. In the olden days, red hard boiled eggs and sweet cakes were presented to relatives and friends to inform them of the new addition to the family.
During my confinement, my mum and mother in law came. They helped with the running of the household, and I was really pampered for the whole thirty days. I still miss the special dishes cooked during the confinement period. However, the food is too rich and “heaty” for normal everyday consumption. After the confinement, we had a small party with all our friends and relatives.
My district nurse – Jean
We were living in Melbourne when I had my children. It is the duty of the local nurse to follow up with the new mums in the area, and our nurse was Jean. She was very lovely lady, supportive, friendly and totally understood our culture. She understood that we (the Malaysian) mothers were not encouraged to leave home during the confinement period, so she would visit our homes to check on us and our babies.
She was most impressed with the amount of help we new mothers from Malaysian received during the confinement, and wished that all mums in Australia would be able to have the same luxury awarded to them as well.
She strongly believed that all new mothers have to first and foremost look after themselves immediately after childbirth. New mothers need to be well supported and be allowed to recover, rather than engaging straight away with the house work and looking after the other children.
On top of that, by having a close relative, such as grandmother to support the new transition, not only does it build the bonding among the three generations, it is also a perfect opportunity to share their experiences together and to support the new mother in her new journey.
I understand that there are still grandmothers, who will travel many hours and some who do not even speak English will still fly to Australia to support the new family and to rejoice with the new addition to the family.
Is confinement after child birth a luxury? Do we have the best of both worlds? From my experience, YES, a good rest and proper support is what all new mothers need!
Let’s share your experience of your confinement!