Confinement Period – First Hand Experiences from Malaysian Parents

Who Handled your Confinement?

I recently held a poll on a Facebook group (of Malaysian Parents) I’m a member of, to find out how families in Malaysia got through their confinement. If you aren’t sure what confinement practices are, check this post out.

Here’s a very simple pie chart I made with my awesome Excel skillz.

Malaysian Parents - Who Handled Their Confinement
Unbelievably awesome Excel skills were used in the making of this chart

Asian Moms can be Annoying, but they Rock

Basically, it shows that we are heavily dependent on our mothers for help during our confinement periods. Isn’t that such a lovely thing to hear? Being able to depend on our moms definitely takes a load off having to worry about trusting someone we do not know.

Let’s just hope your mum/mum-in-law doesn’t drive you up the wall with her strict can and cannot dos. It can get very tiring being chastised every single time you walk around your home wearing shorts, or god forbid, without socks on!

Shit Asian Moms Say - Confinement Month
[Image Source: Shit Asian Moms Say]
Personally, my mom was so excited when my baby girl was born (her first grandchild), she couldn’t wait to help out and just be there. She was planning her trip from the time we told her of the pregnancy, ordering rice wine and specially grown ginger to bring over, asking every day once I reached 35 weeks if I was going into labour yet. Unfortunately due to circumstances concerning my dad, she couldn’t be there longer than a week. I was really happy to have her around to help though, short as it was, and being able to request for my favourite dishes was just icing on the cake.

Confinement Aunties Rock (As Long as your Home has no Stairs)

Hiring a Confinement Aunty is the second most popular method, according to the poll. It was chosen by about a quarter of parents.

Parents recall their experience and love for Confinement Aunties who are absolute pros. These ladies are booked way in advance, a year ahead for some, and are even flown all the way to Australia or the UK for the whole month.

These are the ones that come highly recommended, by word of mouth. They have no need for microsites or Facebook Pages to self-promote their services.

They’re described as baby whisperers. Legends are told that some can make your baby sleep through the night within a month. These come with a shitload of experience, and whip up awesome confinement meals that make your mouth water just thinking about them. They know what every cry means, and are experts when it comes to burping the baby. They do your laundry, better than anyone else has ever done it. Basically, once the month is up, you consider asking her to stay on for longer.

Then there are the nightmarish ones.

Asian Aunty - Confinement Horror
No caption needed

These are the ones that start off on the wrong foot, complaining constantly about the stairs in your home, or refusing to wash your husband’s clothes as well, or make it a point to tell you that babies need to be left crying to grow strong lungs. Some lack experience. Some collect their deposit, and fail to show up (and disappear) come D-day. I’ve heard of one that failed to mention that she was sick, and passed it on to the newborn, which made things terrifying because the baby then had to be admitted into the hospital for a viral infection.

Most of these bad eggs don’t stay longer than a week. OK lah, some last 2 weeks, if parents are horribly desperate.

Sendiri Settle (or Confinement Sdn. Bhd)

Surprisingly (to me anyway), quite a lot of parents (a good one-fifth, in fact) went ahead and sendiri settled, or sorted things out themselves. Some moms whose husbands had to return to work more or less immediately, handled everything on their own, putting the care of the baby above all else, even forgoing showers for days on end. Some ignored their hunger pangs, drinking only water because they were so flustered with taking care of a newborn and had no chance to do aught else.

(sniff) The things moms go through… Seriously, if you can, go give your mom a call or a hug and thank her for being there for you.

Thank you, mom. GIF
Thank you, mom. *Peace* 😀

By the way, did you know that breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories, which is equivalent to an hour on a treadmill!

Skip HIIT, breastfeed instead.

This is also where you see men step up, being the ones to handle stuff like boiling bath water for their ladies, cleaning the house, or even cooking. Most become runners, running off constantly to get diapers, nipple cream, herbs to cure jaundice, to the markets to stock up on ginger, and so on.

Dad changing diaper comic
[Source: Snapshots]
This is where it’s evident (and pretty awesome, if you ask me) that the man’s role in a home is ever changing, and for the better. 40 years ago, a man wouldn’t even be present at the hospital for the birth of their child. They would await a phone call from the hospital, and arrive with flowers after work. Having a man handle the household chores would be unheard of, and it would be considered craven for a man to be as involved as he is today in the caring of his baby.

My father had never changed a dirty diaper before until about a year ago, when we made him change his grandchild’s.

There is change happening, though. Calls for dads to be given additional paternity leave are growing worldwide. Scandinavian countries are leading the pack. New parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay with each parent having an exclusive right to 90 of those days.

This should be one of the things for the new government to work on – establishing guidelines for companies to move in the same direction.

My husband falls under the category of a modern dad – he does our groceries (with shopping lists I provide) and marketing, walks my kid to daycare (sometimes with my newborn in the carrier just to give me an extra half an hour alone), actively participates in bedtime, naptime, and meals. I know I must have done something right in my past life to deserve him.

But I digress.

In the cases of parents who decided to sendiri settle, many ended up getting confinement meals delivered to their home. While this is a convenience we appreciate in an urban setting, nothing beats home cooked food, cooked by our very own mums (or aunties, or other family members). Delivery also doesn’t ensure that the food is delivered while still warm, which is a big complaint among mothers, as heating food up in the microwave is something some avoid especially so soon after having a baby.

Another reason why parents chose this method is due to the cost of hiring a confinement aunty or heading to a confinement centre. Why not save your RM5,000 (or up to RM10,000) by ‘suffering’ for a month, and keep the money aside for the kid’s future?

Some also preferred to do things on their own, so that they didn’t have to deal with mothers, or confinement aunties and their way of doing things, as some can be quite insistent, preventing you from doing all sorts of things, and end up driving you slightly crazy.

Mums in this category were less strict when it came to following the rules of confinement. Some made conscious effort for 1 or 2 weeks, and then just went back to their normal routines. Many mums mentioned that they were up and about from the day they were discharged, heading to shops and supermarkets to do their grocery shopping, sending their kids off to school, or bringing their babies to the hospitals for checkups – basically forgoing the absolute rule of not leaving the house during confinement period.

Many just don’t have a choice – after all, who else is going to do it?

Confinement Centres a.k.a The Luxury Option

Staying in a confinement centre was next on the list, selected by 8% of parents. Some mums swore by it, likening the stay to a month long spa holiday, with everything being taken care of – including new sheets daily, massage ladies for maximum pampering, helpers coming to you at a touch of a button (Yes, Madam?), round the clock care for your baby, trained nurses on site. Doesn’t this sound absolutely lovely? So lovely that you are considering getting pregnant again ASAP in order to go through this.

Too bad it costs ‘the price of an organ’, with charges ranging from RM7,000 to as high as RM13,000.

Best Month Confinement Centre
Ees this hotel? No, ees better. Ees confinement centre. [Source: Best Month Confinement Centre]
Confinement centres also come with their bad points. Having to concentrate on 20 different set of mums and babies isn’t an easy task, especially when it concerns preparation of meals, and ensuring the right bag of pumped breastmilk goes to the right baby.

Soups meant for mums who are 1 week postpartum end up in the tummies of mums who are in their third week postpartum, and while this isn’t that big of an issue, you’d want to get your money’s worth, and recover faster. Drinking soups meant for detoxification when your body is in rejuvenation mode just doesn’t aid recovery much, and when you’re paying RM13,000 for a 28-day stay, you want them to get something like this right.

In addition to that, imagine your effort pumping milk for your newborn (because we all know what an effort it can be) only to have it given to another baby. That is just… wrong.

Confused Little Girl Meme

Most centres also require husbands to leave by 10 pm, unless they pay (a lot) more for a bigger room so that husband can stay over. My husband doesn’t really do much at night when it comes to caring for the baby, but he’ll be damned if he couldn’t stay with his wife and newborn baby for a whole month.

Confinement centres are great, and if you can afford it, why not? Just make sure to do your research. Do they have a proper system in place? Is there a trained nurse on site? Do they encourage breastfeeding (if you plan to do so)? Are you getting a bang for your ringgit?

My Thoughts on Confinement Practices

So I’m ending this post with a few thoughts and questions of my own, not to bash, but to voice some hesitation about confinement practices in my world.

What is the bare minimal that we should do if we cannot afford hired help, or have other priorities, like kids to care for?

How about the diet? Some nurses and doctors in government hospitals advising against consumption of ginger if your baby has jaundice, and some say the opposite, that ginger does not play a part in jaundice at all. Who’s right? Who should we listen to and how do we fit this into our confinement meals?

How safe are the herbs mothers consume for the breastfed baby?

Asians seem to have a lower rate of rheumatoid arthritis compared to the rest of the world. Could confinement practices have had a hand in this, or is it genetics?

Is the migraine that I’ve been suffering from recently due to the fact that I washed my hair before my 30 days was up?

I love the idea of giving the mom rest for a whole month, having been through 2 births. But to be honest, with things to be done around the house, family priorities, and financial struggles, how do we fit confinement practices into our lives for one whole month?

And for the grand finale, here’s a comic that perfectly illustrates our life these days.

Life with baby comic
[Source: Alison Wong]

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