Everyone will ask you to eat only 'healthy' food and avoid cold or cooling food as your body is cold after childbirth. This applies to the 3 main races in Malaysia but sometimes, what is considered 'healthy' may be 'cooling' for another which increases our dilemma. The best option is to try out the food as far as your culture and religion advices and learn to substitute the ingredients wherever possible to suit your taste. I am afraid that my culinary expertise is limited to Chinese and Western food so I can only talk about this type of food at this moment in time.
Traditional Chinese confinement food consoles mainly of old ginger, rice wine, sesame oil, black vinegar, some warming alcohol, lots of meat especially kampong chicken and lean pork, white fish such as white pomfret and some vegetables.
Appropriately, you are expected to eat 30 chickens, 12 bottles of rice wine and 15 kilos of old ginger root during this period. Whatever you can achieve this target is up to you but I find that most women nowdays can not manage it. On average, if you do practice what is recommended, the cost could easily be about RM 1000.00 ++ just for the food only.
Food to avoid during the first week only
Ginger – Delays healing of wounds and increase risk of jaundice in baby. Substitute with peppercorn or garlic.
Fish – Causes foul smelling lochia or discharge.
Alcohols which are recommended for consumption during the confinement month are: Brandy, Yomeishu, rice wine and Guinness Malta because they are 'yang'. If you are a non-drinker, this sudden consumption may cause alcohol rash, redness in the face and heart palpitations, so do take it easy. Alcohol does go to the baby through breast milk, so if you want a good night's sleep, drink the alcohol after your dinner. The content of alcohol is reduced during cooking therefore you might consider adding it to your food during cooking instead of drinking it neat. Guinness Malta is non alcoholic and has high iron content there before is suitable if you are anemic. Pulut rice is rich in iron therefore is used to make rice wine for postnatal nursing mothers. The rice is low in fat and free of cholesterol with high dietary fiber to reduce risk of heart attack and diabetes. It is better known as Shaoxing wine.
It is believed that iced or cold drinks may cause severe shock to the system and further weakened the 'cold' body there before it is strongly recommended that boiled warm teas are consumed throughout the day as they are provided to help heat up the womb. For those who do not believe in these teas you may try drinking Chamomile tea which is beneficial for the baby as well, because it helps to reduce wind
Soup is a nutritious replacement for water. You can use any meat for stock. The meat supplies fat that is essential for extraction of fat soluble nutrients. Drinking soup about 1 hour before breastfeeding may help to increase milk flow. Chinese soups are usually clear and easier to drink compared to creamy western soups and it is less fattening.
Below are some food ingredients that you might want to add to your diet during the postnatal 'confinement' month.
Boxthorn fruit or Chinese wolf berry is best known to correct poor eyesight and eye strain. Used in conjunction with other herbs it is effective for improving energy and strength
Chinese angelica root or dong kwai is alleged to nourish the female organs, alleviate menstrual pain and prevent hemorrhage.
Chinese yam (wai san) used in conjuction with meat and other herbs aids digestion, regulate sugar level and control inflammation of the uterus. The dried variety must be soaked for at least 15 minutes before use to remove the powder
Solomon's seal (yok chuk) is used to alleviate many ailments especially those affecting the throat and lungs
Sesame oil, coupled being rich in Vitamin E, Iron & Calcium, helps heal the womb and rid it of "dirty residual blood".
Chestnuts invigorate vital energy. Resolves fatigue depression and irritability. High in phosphorous, selenium and calcium
Black vinegar is made from glutinous rice and lowers ph of food. It leaches calcium from bones cooked with it, therefore it is used to prepare high calcium food especially for breastfeeding feeding mothers and it also relieves a windy abdomen.
Dill has antibacterial and antispasmodic properties. It is a warm herb which aids digestion, gets rid of gas, encourages lactation, freshens the breath and soothes colic. It is the main ingredient in Gripe water.
Almonds and walnuts contain leucine and isoleucine which are amino acids that regulates growth, blood sugar and wound healing.
Malay confinement food is the same as normal but with a lot of jamu which is basically natural herbal remedies used internally and externally for health and beauty. Make sure the products are registered with the Ministry of Health and that they are locally produced
Kani seeds contain antioxidants to promote youthfulness, tight vaginal muscles, advances excessive discharge, odor and itchiness. It firms the breasts and promotes healing of the reproductive system after childbirth.
Gallanggal is a member of the ginger family and it functions as an antibiotic. It warms the body, cleanses the blood, improves appetite, reduces wind and energizes the muscles.
Pegaga leaves increases energy, helps ease sleeping problems, improves blood circulation.
Turmeric functions as an antibiotic and promotes a healthy circulatory system.
Drumstick leaves are rich in proteins, vitamin C and A, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, potassium and other minerals. Because of their nutrients and ability to encourage milk flow, they are a valuable food for survival in impoverished countries.
The most important thing to remember is that you must be comfortable with what you eat. Do not force yourself to eat something that you do not like or will cause problems later. Although you are 'in confinement' you are not a prisoner per se.