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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts on Confinement #1: What is it good for?

Postnatal confinement is a practice rather common in this part of the world. For the first month after childbirth, the new mother will 'zuo yuezi', that is 'sit the month' at home, recuperating with her baby.

During this confinement month, a number of restrictions are placed on the activities of the mother - including what she eats and wears. Some families will even employ a 'confinement nanny', whose sole purpose is to care for the mother and baby during this period.

The goal of confinement is to promote quick healing and restore the mother's body after the ordeal of pregnancy and childbirth as well as encourage the production of breastmilk.

Perhaps the origin of the practice stemmed from the fear of perinatal mortality of the infant, or from the observations of the postnatal depression and psychosis in a new mother. Perhaps it comes from the desire of families to hasten womb-healing so that more heirs can be produced. The enforcement of this practice was ensured through the creation of superstitious tales of baby-snatchers, changelings and milk-thieves which drove young mothers indoors where safety and security awaited them.

As for myself, I was initially skeptical of the practice of confinement...but after experiencing the total physical exhaustion of a long labour and the sudden emotional changes in myself, I began to see the benefits of being able to concentrate solely on adjusting to my new role in life and learning to care for my baby.


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