Which of these beliefs about confinement foods is worth following? Young Parents gets the low-down from Vivian Lee – one of several physicians from Pulse TCM Clinic with double degrees in biomedical sciences and Chinese medicine – on common Chinese confinement myths.
MYTH Avoid plain water during confinement.
FACT The belief probably stems from concerns about water retention. However, sufficient water consumption is essential during confinement. Your kidneys produce more urine after birth to remove excess fluids from pregnancy, and water is also lost during breastfeeding.
The key is to avoid cold water – which depletes qi (life force), something new mums are already low on – and sip on warm/hot water. You can also drink red date and longan tea, which nourishes the blood and qi, and also improves sleep.
MYTH New mums need to eat plenty of liver and meat.
FACT According to TCM, the liver is an important organ for the storage and regulation of blood. Going by the “like nourishes like” principle, consuming liver and meat – which are rich in iron and protein – helps with blood formation and oxygen transportation, and also prevents anaemia in breastfeeding mums.
However, because heavy metals are more likely to accumulate in cattle, it’s healthier to eat liver from chicken and other sources, and from grass-fed animals whenever possible.
MYTH New mums need to consume plenty of ginger and sesame oil.
FACT Because the stomach and intestines are compressed during pregnancy and tend to swell up with air and fluids post-labour, ginger is commonly recommended to expel “wind”, reduce bloating, and improve digestion. Sesame oil, considered “heaty”, helps to suppress “wind”, too, and is rich in vitamin E, iron and calcium.
However, too much ginger and sesame oil can cause “heatiness”, so take these in moderation and be aware of symptoms of overindulgence – a dry throat, frequent thirst, sweating and pimples.
MYTH Mothers who have undergone a C-section should avoid chicken and eggs.
FACT While some of the older generation believe that chicken and eggs are “toxic” and counter-effective for wound healing, there is not much supporting evidence.
Both confinement foods are rich in protein, which help with post-surgery recovery; iron- and Vitamin C-rich sources are also recommended. However, avoid shellfish, such as clams and oysters, to avoid wound inflammation.