CONFINEMENT AROUND THE WORLD
Latin America: “La cuarentena” is a 40-day period during which new moms give the body time to heal. According to a Slate.com article by Rebecca Tuhus-dubrow, “Sex is a no-no. Rest is mandated and traditionally facilitated by female relatives who take over errands and chores. Foods are divided into the approved (carrots, chicken soup) and the forbidden (spicy and heavy fare). The new mother’s body is considered vulnerable or open, and to protect herself, she must cover her head and neck with garments and wrap her abdomen in a cloth called a ‘faja’. She might also avoid washing her hair. Many women believe proper observance leads to good health in old age, while lapses incur all sorts of problems, from headaches now to illness later in life.”
China: Traditionally new moms are not allowed to go outside, cannot take a shower or drink cold water for an entire month. The 30-day confinement period is called “sitting the month” or zuo yuezi, a period to recover from childbirth. The new mom is not allowed to eat raw fruit or vegetables, drink coffee, cold drinks or even cold water, which can only be drunk tepid or hot.
Vietnam and South-east Asia: In the first month after childbirth, the new mom leaves her hair unwashed for two weeks and wears warm clothes and socks, even on warmer days. She has to cover her whole body in yellow saffron extract and stay in a quiet room. Walking around is not permitted nor is speaking loudly. Television, the internet, books and phone calls are a no-no. Nourishment during the first month comes from pigs’ feet porridge, rice with boiled vegetables and salty pork.
India: Different communities and regions have different traditions but generally, the new mother is supposed to do a minimum of housework and rest as much as possible. A mother can only indulge in her confinement period if she has help from family members.
New mothers are given a full body massage or ‘maalish’ once a day, while the mothers give their babies a daily massage as part of their daily bath routine. It is believed the confinement time and recovery of the mother are very closely linked to what she eats. Each region has its own confinement foods. It is generally believed that after birth a mother’s body loses “balance” and enters a “cold stage” due to the loss of blood. Confinement food is therefore usually made with ingredients that are believed to be warming.