Confinement Diet: The Do’s & Don’ts
A mother has learned that she can breastfeed after consuming alcohol, as long as she waited for about 3 hours. It would not affect her newborn in any way. She thought if alcohol would be THAT safe, coffee could affect her baby even lesser. She starts taking coffee regularly (like how she did previously) and her baby starts being fussy, cries non stop, and does not want to sleep. Little did she know, the fussiness and refusal to sleep stem from the coffee she herself had taken to keep herself awake and fresh.
Like a lot of things, there are many guidelines in the general new mom’s diet that are not one-size-fits-all. You might think you are no longer ‘eating for two’, but you pretty much still are if you breastfeed your newborn. Still, are all the major taboos really bad for you? Let’s go over this list of what you should do in having the right confinement diet during your confinement period. This list may contain several things that break certain traditional confinement ‘rules’ you have heard before, but it is all for a good reason and not entirely bad!
- Reduce caffeine & alcohol intake
- Eat more chicken
- Reduce seafood
- Reduce salt and sugar intake
- Avoid eating cold foods
- Eat less to lose weight
- Take hot or spicy food
- Consume as many herbs as you can
- Consume too much of one thing
- Limit water intake
Reduce Caffeine & Alcohol Intake
Consider your newborn. This is an important aspect to always keep in mind even after childbirth. Although you may not feel like you are eating for two anymore, that is hardly the case, especially if you are breastfeeding. What you read above is based on a true event and one that has happened to a lot of mothers. It is normal for us who learn that consuming a little bit of alcohol would not affect the baby to think that the same theory would also apply to drinking coffee. Thus, we keep on consuming coffee regularly. Unfortunately, many only learn its consequences the hard way. It can cause insomnia and while that is technically what the mom is striving for (to stay awake during the day), it may have negative impacts on the baby’s sleeping pattern. A baby’s lack of sleep, in turn, can affect their growth. As caffeine can cause elevated heartbeat, the baby could also be extra fussy due to this.
Eat More Chicken
Yes, this even goes for mothers who have undergone C-section. Many decided to not consume chicken due to traditional Chinese confinement belief that it can cause wound infection or inflammation, but there is very little to no evidence supporting it. In fact, chicken is an excellent source of protein that will help with post-surgery healing. Being a part of the white meat group, chicken is much better compared to red meat. White meat like poultry and fish contains fewer calories, less fat, and less saturated fat. Make sure your chicken is well-cooked and prepared, then you would have nothing to worry about!
…if you can’t be bothered to find which one would be good for you! Unlike chicken, duck, or pork, seafood comprises various different kinds of fish and shellfish. A lot of them are generally nutritious and can assist in healing surgery incisions and wounds due to their high content of proteins and omega-3 fatty acid. However, certain seafood like king mackerels and tuna can contain high levels of mercury, which can lead to various health issues, from causing gastric problems to brain damage. Larger fish that prey and feed on smaller fish also might get certain amounts of mercury from them. If you are not careful enough, you may eat some of them without realizing it. Although very unlikely to happen, this is one of the times you should be holding on to the wisdom of ‘better safe than sorry’. If you know your seafood and are 100% certain of the safety of what you eat and where they come, then sure, feast away!
Reduce Intake of Salt and Sugar
Believe it or not, water retention is hardly caused by water. Instead, what you should be focusing on are the other elements that DO cause fluids to be retained in your body, causing puffiness. Among them are the salt and sugar content in meals! Overindulgence of sugar is never good, but particularly after delivery, it can overproduce the hormone insulin. What insulin does is retain sodium. Sodium, on the other hand, is what retains water in the body. Hence, by lowering the intake of sugar, you are reducing the retention of sodium which, as a result, diminishes water retention.
Avoid Eating Cold Foods
What is meant by cold foods here are not ones chilled or frozen in the refrigerator, although those like ice cream and iced drinks should be taboo as well. Similar to the notion of ginger carrying heaty/warm properties, there are foods with cold properties. Among them are cucumber and cheese. It is believed that consuming these (especially regularly during the postpartum period) can complicate your childbirth recovery and create an imbalance in your body, affecting the immune system. There are theories claiming that cold foods can ensure proper and smooth discharge of toxic fluids and lochia. Mothers are said to have lost their blood and ‘qi’ (energy) during birth. To replenish both of these, you should increase your intake of foods with warm properties. Furthermore, heaty foods have the ability to make your stomach feel more relieved compared to having cold ones.
Eat Less to Lose Weight
Up to 60% of your pregnancy and post-pregnancy weight gain is caused by the fluid retained in your body and not because of your eating habits. This weight, commonly known as water weight, will gradually go away on its own and will not contribute to long-term fat gain. The only diet you need to think of is the right one that will give enough nutrients for your body and your newborn if you breastfeed them. There will come a time for you to follow a diet that is designed with the aim of weight loss (if it is something you want to do), but your confinement period is not the best time for it.
Take Hot and Spicy Food
For the spices lover with extra adventurous tongue, not having spicy foods for a period of time can be a nightmare. Your taste buds are never satisfied with those ‘tame’ foods that do not induce sweat. However, there is a solid reason why you need to take a break from it. Eating spicy food can cause constipation. Your gastrointestinal functioning is also weakened after childbirth, and it can even lead to bloating and abdominal pains. Remember, the main reason you would want to prevent constipation is for you to avoid putting a strain on your body. Constipation will put undue pressure on your wounds. But no worries, you can happily have your extra hot tabasco sauce again after you have completely healed!
Consume as many herbs as you can
Before you say anything, we know herbs are good for you. As a matter of fact, we LOVE herbs. Unfortunately, the main reason why we advise you to not generalize herbs and traditional medicines is simply that every woman’s body is different. You do not go through the exact same thing as your mother did, at least not 100% similar all the way. The simple truth is that not all herbs work wonders – for you, that is. This might come as a shock, but they may not work well BECAUSE too many are taken at once. It all comes down to what you experience and what would you like to heal. Just as how taking a spoonful of cough syrup cannot possibly treat diarrhea, not all herbs will work in aiding your childbirth recovery. In fact, some may counteract with each other and cancels each other’s benefits out. Whether the herbs are safe to be taken with your medications (if you have any) is another story. Herbs may interact a certain way with certain drug treatments as well, so it is best to let your doctor know before consuming simply everything. In some cases, taking herbs and supplements may complicate a new mother’s condition even further.
Consume too much of one thing
Ingredients like ginger and garlic are believed to have warm properties that will help expel ‘wind’ in body and further prevent it from entering the body. However, too much of anything is never good and that goes even for herbal remedies and those highly-recommended teas like red dates and ginger tea. While ginger can help tremendously in childbirth recovery, consuming too much of it, ironically, can cause dry throat and frequent thirst – which is the last thing you would need if you are breastfeeding.
Limit water intake
A rather popular notion, but one that can be extremely harmful. This particular don’t is heavily-linked to one part mentioned in the previous point. Through breastfeeding, a mother drains out a huge amount of fluids. Hence, if you breastfeed, you should drink more water as you are more likely to become thirsty and it can prevent constipation. Your kidneys particularly produce more urine for a few weeks after birth to remove excess fluids that accumulate from pregnancy, and water is lost during breastfeeding. The belief about drinking plain water contributing to water retention is imposed on many mothers and you have probably come across it too. Not only there are no scientific studies to support it, but there are also studies that show that it is the other elements that make the body to hold up fluid (refer to the fourth point in the Do’s). If you would like to remain cautious and abide by traditional confinement practices, you may simply stick to warm water. If you are a fan of ginger tea, you ought to know that drinking too much of that can cause dehydration and thirst. You would need to drink even more water to compensate for it.
Confinement period should be a time of relaxation, so you should not feel more restricted with more rules to follow than ever. Our list of confinement dos and donts have hopefully helped you see that the key is to take everything moderation. Again, nothing extreme will be good for anyone under any circumstances. Just look forward to all the good stuff you can have instead! Diet during the confinement period does not only have to revolve around traditional foods. In fact, there are many fusion dishes you can opt for that do not compromise on both the nutrients and taste. Do not worry too much and enjoy your confinement period!