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Postnatal ‘Confinement’ Food – Part 2
Everyone is asking you to eat only ‘healthy’ food and avoid cold or cold foods because your body is cold after giving birth. This applies to the 3 main races in Malaysia but sometimes, what is considered ‘healthy’ can be ‘cold’ for another which increases our dilemma. The best option is to try the food as far as your culture and religion advise and learn to replace the ingredients wherever possible to suit your taste. I’m afraid that my culinary expertise is limited to Chinese and Western food so I can only talk about this type of food at this point in time.
Traditional Chinese prison food consists mainly of old ginger, rice wine, sesame oil, black vinegar, some heated alcohol, a lot of meat especially kampong chicken and lean pork, white fish such as white pomfret and some vegetables.
Apparently, you are supposed to eat 30 chickens, 12 bottles of rice wine and 15 kilos of old ginger root during this period. Whether you can achieve this goal is up to you but I find that most women today cannot manage it. On average, if you do the recommended practices, the cost could easily be about RM 1000.00 ++ just for the food only.
Foods to avoid during the first week only
Ginger – Delays wound healing and increases the risk of jaundice in infants. Replace with pepper or garlic.
Fish – Causes foul smelling lochia or discharge.
Alcohols that are recommended for consumption during the months in prison are: Brandy, Yomeishu, rice wine and Guinness Malta because they are ‘yang’. If you are a non-drinker, this sudden consumption can cause alcohol rash, facial flushing and heart palpitations, so take it easy. Alcohol goes to the baby through breast milk, so if you want a good sleep, drink the alcohol after your dinner. The alcohol content is reduced during cooking, so you might consider adding it to your food while cooking instead of drinking it straight. Guinness Malta does not contain alcohol and has a high iron content, therefore, it is suitable if you are anemic. Pulut rice is rich in iron, so it is used to make rice wine for nursing mothers after childbirth. Rice is low in fat and cholesterol-free and high in dietary fiber to reduce the risk of heart attack and diabetes. It is better known as Shaoxing wine.
It is believed that iced or cold drinks can cause great shock to the system and further weaken the body ‘cold’ therefore it is strongly recommended that boiling hot teas are consumed throughout the day as they are supposed to help warm the uterus. For those who do not believe in these things, you can try drinking chamomile tea, which is also beneficial for the baby, because it helps reduce wind.
Soup is a nutritious substitute for water. You can use any meat for stock. The meat provides the fat that is essential for the extraction of fat soluble nutrients. Drinking soup about 1 hour before breastfeeding can help increase milk flow. Chinese soups are usually clear and easier to drink compared to western soup cream and is less fattening.
Below are some food ingredients that you might want to add to your diet during the postpartum ‘confinement’ months.
Boxthorn fruit or Chinese wolf berry is best known to correct poor vision and eye strain. Used together with other herbs it is effective to improve energy and strength
Chinese angelica root or dong kwai is supposed to nourish the female organs, relieve menstrual pain and prevent bleeding.
Chinese yam (wai san) used together with meat and other herbs helps digestion, regulates sugar levels and controls inflammation in the uterus. The dry variety must be soaked for at least 15 minutes before use to remove the powder
Solomon’s seal (yok chuk) is used to relieve many diseases, especially those affecting the throat and lungs.
Sesame oil, besides being rich in Vitamin E, Iron & Calcium, helps to heal the uterus and get rid of “residual dirty blood”.
Chestnuts invigorate vital energy. Resolves depression, fatigue and irritability. High in phosphorus, selenium and calcium
Black vinegar is made from glutinous rice and lowers the ph of food. It leaches calcium from the bones cooked with it, so it is used to prepare foods rich in calcium especially for nursing mothers and it also relieves stomach upset.
Dill has antibacterial and antispasmodic properties. It is a warming herb that helps digestion, gets rid of gas, stimulates lactation, freshens the breath and soothes colic. It is the main ingredient in Flu water.
Almonds and walnuts contain leucine and isoleucine which are amino acids that regulate growth, blood sugar and wound healing.
Food in Malay prisons is the same as normal but with a lot of jamu which are basically natural herbal remedies used inside and outside for health and beauty. Make sure the products are registered with the Ministry of Health and that they are produced locally
Kani seeds contain antioxidants to promote fasting, tighten vaginal muscles, prevent excessive discharge, odor and itching. It firms the breasts and promotes healing of the reproductive system after childbirth.
Gallanggal is a member of the ginger family and functions as an antibiotic. It warms the body, cleans the blood, improves appetite, reduces wind and invigorates the muscles.
Pegaga leaves increase energy, help ease sleep problems, improve blood circulation.
Turmeric functions as an antibiotic and promotes a healthy circulatory system.
Drumstick leaves are rich in protein, vitamins C and A, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, potassium and other minerals. Because of their nutrients and ability to stimulate milk flow, they are a valuable survival food in poor countries.
The most important thing to remember is to be comfortable with what you eat. Don’t force yourself to eat something that you don’t like or that will cause problems later. Although you are ‘in prison’ you are not a prisoner per se.
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