How to Create Your Confinement Month and Confinement Practice (The Postpartum Wellness Show: Ep.10)

by Dr. Kristal Lau  - December 4, 2023

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DISCLAIMER: The content of Dr Kristal Lau’s Postpartum Wellness Show does not replace medical advice from your health providers. Listening to this show does not establish a patient-doctor or client-provider relationship between you and Dr. Kristal Lau. Please see your health provider for any medical concerns or contact your local emergency line for any urgent matters.

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Selamat Datang and Welcome to the Postpartum Wellness Show!

and I’m Dr Kristal Lau, your host and postpartum wellness consultant

In this show, I share insights and knowledge around approaching your postpartum journey through culture, traditions, and modern postpartum care using my combined experiences as a physician with scientific and public health background, an author, a foreign-born US military spouse, and a mom of 2.

Join me in this exploration of motherhood, wellness, and heritage where you will learn how to thrive in your postpartum journey and beyond.

Welcome back to the Postpartum Wellness Show. Today's episode, I'm going to be covering part four of the Modern Confinement series, and we're gonna talk about how to personalize your confinement month.

Now, the method that I'll be introducing to you is the postpartum 30 method, cleverly named after my book, of course, postpartum 30.

I'll be walking through why it's important for us to tailor and personalize this confinement practice, and we'll be referring to a table that's in my book about how to actually personalize your confinement.

Now, this table I'll be sharing with you for free, so go to the link in the podcast show notes or to the YouTube description, and go and download that for yourself so you can reference that table as we go through this episode.

Now, before I dive in, I want you to first bear in mind that whenever you're using a framework, a guideline, or someone else's plan to create a plan for yourself, please remember that your needs, your situation, and your circumstances are all very special and unique to yourself and your family.

So when you use these things, give yourself some space and flexibility to adjust certain things in there so that it works for yourself. Should you find that the postpartum 30 method does not fit with what you need, then feel free to use another method or to use another guide that suits you better and suits your family better. I promise I won't get offended or get really sad about it.

So what I wish for you to take away from today's episode is to have a rough idea on how to approach your confinement month as though it is a recovery program. And when you think about it, really, the confinement practice itself is something our ancestors have done for centuries.

Which back in the days when there was no clear public health department or public health programs, this practice is the recovery program for moms after they give birth. So I like to think of my Postpartum 30 method as another option for moms andtheir families to use and choose as a postpartum recovery program.

So first up, why personalize your confinement month? Firstly, every family has their own confinement tradition. The Cantonese, the Hakka, the Hokkien. When you look at Ng Siong Mui's Cookbook, she's a Singaporean author, and I think she also comes from a family of TCM healers and doctors and herbalists. She actually describes little nuances among families that certain foods that they take during the confinement month differs as well because of the belief of that dialect, that village where the ancestors came from.

So personalizing your confinement month helps you retain a lot of your family's traditions and beliefs as well. It also really allows you and your spouse, husband, or partner to come up with a 30-day plan that makes sense to what you need in your modern life. When I say modern life, it means that both of you are probably working because a lot of modern families now require dual income to even live comfortably, to make ends meet.

Having a very tailored plan is gonna help you set boundaries, manage expectations, and give yourself grace during this time to recover from giving birth. And for your spouse and your partner as well. Understanding where they are within this 30 days, and the role that they want to be playing during this time is gonna help them have a sense of purpose during this time.

Because remember, our non-birthing partners, the fathers, husbands, your spouse and partners who are not pregnant and are not going to go through childbirth like mothers, like you, they do feel very left out during the whole pregnancy and during the birth process.

So the postpartum time as well after you've given birth is a massive transition for mummies, and it's also a massive transition for fathers and husbands. We don't talk about that enough. We don't invite them enough into the journey. What I do with my clients when we approach planning for the confinement month or just in general doing postpartum planning, is I invite the fathers and husbands into the journey.

I invite them along into the planning process. I invite them along into the coaching process because this is not the place for you as the mother, as the wife, to tell your husband what to do. You can. I do that, granted, definitely, but I find that does interrupt the relations a little bit.

Taking the time to personalize the practice and then you plan this together, it feels very much like a teamwork, like a group work. Hey, we're doing this as a couple. It's not like, I'm just gonna tell you what todo. Here's my plan. Follow it. It's we're actually gonna do this together.

So that's why it's important to personalize your confinement month. Bear in mind also I talked about how having a plan that fits your unique needs, that mean shaving a flexible confinement month plan. That is going to help you manage certain setbacks when you're going through the month.

Because, for example, if you choose to do confinement in the traditional way and you say, 'Okay, I'm not gonna wash my hair for 30 days,' but then by day seven, you are just itching your scalp off and you absolutely wanna take that shower.

So having a plan that has strategies for your partner or whoever's gonna help you during this time and even for yourself to guide you and say, 'Hey, if I start to lose it and not want to follow through with washing my hair, despite choosing to do so in the first place, what do I do? Do I give myself grace and say, 'All right, that's fine. I've tried it seven days. I really don't wanna do it. I'm gonna go start washing my hair.'

Or do you want other people to step in and help you through that and say, 'Hey, stick it through. It's just another 23 days, let me try and distract you.' So having a plan that has strategies that work with your personality, with how you respond to stressful environments, to stressful situations, that's gonna give you a very good guide to complete your confinement month the way that you want to complete the month.

So again, for those of you listening on the podcast, go and download the table so you can have a reference as I go through the next part. Those of you watching on YouTube, I'm gonna flash this on the screen so you can see the table. It's important when we go through this table to understand that the steps 1, 2, 3, and 4, it's not set in stone.

It's not like you must do everything in these steps and you have to answer everything. Use what works and what makes sense for your family. So that's how I would like for you to approach my postpartum 30 method as a guide and go through the steps where if you find certain things that don't quite work for you and you wanna change it up, please feel free, because I want you to be comfortable during your confinement month.

If you find you need more help and you wanna reach out to me, there's gonna be links again in the show notes and the description. So book that call and then we'll meet face to face. So now let's dive in.

So step one, we're going to do a big review of your confinement practice. This review sets the tone for how you want to experience your confinement month. Yeah. And that's important because in recovery, after you've given birth, a huge aspect is really how you wanna feel during this time.

We, and we know we wanna feel good, but the reality of postpartum is all the hormones, all the pain, the swelling, all of that intense recovery is not always gonna be comfortable.

So having a big review of your expectations, your confinement goal, and knowing even simple things like what's the weather gonna be like during my confinement month? Especially for those of us living in the west. I grew up in Malaysia, so it's either hot or wet, right? Rainy or dry season.

Temperature year round is pretty standard, so I didn't really have to think about weather that much back in Malaysia, but. Having my babies in Alabama and Germany. Oh, I had to consider like, is it gonna be summertime during my confinement?

My babies were born around the fall time, so I had to deal with the cold and I'm not great at that, so I had to do some extra planning on how to keep warm during the confinement month.

One interesting thing that I included here in my step one review is identifying your love language. Now, this is based on Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages, and I'm gonna put the link as well, so you can go check his stuff out. He's got the general love language for individuals, but there are also love language series that he's got for children, for teenagers, for couples, for military families.

And I think it's so important to understand your love language because during this confinement month, this recovery time, knowing what's gonna win your heart over, knowing what's gonna soothe you when you're feeling all those intense emotions is gonna help you not only with your recovery but just feeling supported and any other things, any other traditional practices if you choose to follow them is gonna help you continue to commit and stick to that.

The other thing with the love language is I also encourage in my book to identify the love language of your spouse and partner. And for those of you who are involving your moms or mother-in-laws or aunts, the elder in your family, if you're involving them in planning for your confinement practice, I also encourage you to explore what their love language is so that we can all speak each other's love language and get to know each other better and come up with a confinement plan that works for everybody. Okay.

The good thing as well is the love language helps you when you're setting your expectations for your confinement month. And that includes setting boundaries on like visitors' things you wanna watch and read. What kind of comments that you will tolerate or downright reject from people during this month.

Now step two, after you've done your big review, is to do a logistics review. This is the practical part, before you even decide, am I gonna do a traditional style confinement or a modern confinement, or a bare necessity confinement?

Bare necessities means that you just do the bare minimum to reap whatever benefit you can get from resting for 30 days. I think it's wise to have a look at your finances. Can you afford to do a full 30 days traditionally? Because you have to do, you know, you have to get all your herbs, you have to cook. If you want to follow specific Chinese diet, the confinement diet. Are you able to cook those meals fresh?

Three times a day at the very least. Are you able to brew the teas fresh every day? There's a lot of work that goes into it, so understanding your logistics is gonna help you then decide, okay, maybe after all doing the traditional 30 days, it's not gonna be practical financially.

So do this logistics review. It is definitely easier to do confinement, whether you wanna do it traditional or modern when you are in places like Singapore or Malaysia, because in East Asia, all those places are set up for these practices. We have confinement agencies, confinement nannies, you have food services, you have Eu Yan Sang with all their herbal packages.

It's such a familiar thing and for those of you who can afford it, you can go and stay at the confinement centers for the 30 days. It's a lot easier to do confinement in Asia, essentially, but for those of us living in the West, we really have to take this extra step to do a logistics review to see if it's feasible or not.

Okay. So once you've done that, and in my table, I've got the questions there, and in that chapter as well, in my book chapter nine, I go a bit more into detail on more questions you can ask yourself as you make a decision while you're planning for your confinement.

Then the third step is pretty simple. Choose your confinement style. What do you wanna do for the month? Do you wanna do it traditionally? And the good thing is in the book before chapter nine, I go into a bit more detail on what the confinement practices are. I

n the kitchen chapter, we talk about food. In the bathroom chapter, we talk about hygiene. So don't wash your hair. Sponge bath, don't bathe. All of those stuff is to help you then decide, is this something I really wanna do? And if I wanna do it, what are some strategies that I can use to try and stick to it?

Okay, so step three is for you to choose which style you wanna do. The final part of this is step four. Once you have figured out what style you want, you are then going to walk through your home and essentially do a stock take, right? Like in the shops, they do a stock take of all the inventory and decide, do we wanna order more of this? Do we need to get rid of that?

This is a great thing to do for mummies when you're feeling like you're in the nesting period. I don't know if I fully felt that. I think I did. My husband said I was, I went crazy with cleaning the house at one point. I didn't have the urge to set up a nursery, but I had an urge to clean the house, I suppose.

So doing step four or rather, working to create your personalized confinement plan is a great activity to do when you're feeling that. I split things up in step four based on the rooms in your house because that's how I did it. I felt it's the most practical way and it felt a little bit less overwhelming to just tackle things room by room rather than activity by activity. That's just how your house is set up.

So that's why in my table I put a big merge cell section with a question on how do I set things up functionally in these areas in my home to meet my recovery and daily needs? The reason is maybe like me, you actually need a nursing basket or a little caddy thing because I can't sit still in one place. I need to move around.

Sometimes I feel like nursing more in the bedroom, other times I feel like going to the living room and sitting outwatching TV while I nurse and even sleeping out there because I had a lot of pain and stuff that I had to recover from. Having a nursing-like space set up in the bedroom was not feasible because then I had to carry all my stuff into the other room when I wanted to sit somewhere else.

So it made more sense for me to have a little basket. It doesn't even have to be something new that you buy. It could be a colander that you're not using anymore in your kitchen. You just put, make sure you got a water bottle in there. You got your snacks, you've got your nipple balm if you use that or little wet wipes for you to clean the nipple before you nurse your baby if you're doing breastfeeding.

Even something like that for you to just carry around, that's portable. 'Cause that's gonna increase your comfort during that confinement month when you're recovering and trying to establish breastfeeding. If you wanna rearrange furniture, get someone to help you.

Of course, if you want to get rid of stuff, it's a good time to do some spring cleaning, some purging, and especially in the kitchen part, it's a perfect time after you do a stock take to start preparing, stocking up the freezers with broths or bases, sauces, pre-marinated meats, all of the good stuff that you need, or even just prepare ingredients in advance like dice up the garlic, dice up the ginger, and then freeze them.

There is a whole preparation section for the kitchen chapter. I encourage you to check them out. My book doesn't really have that many recipes because there are a lot of recipe books out there already for confinement plus your own family recipe.

What was important to me in this book is not to focus just on the food because so much is out there, but on actually how to plan and carryout your confinement month because all these other practical things are not usually covered out there, and it's kind of hard to find all this information from small snippets on social media, YouTube videos, or little blog posts.

So I really hope that you've enjoyed this episode and that it's helped you to get a rough idea on how to plan your confinement month specifically for yourself. Go download the table, look through it. You can make a very rough confinement plan, but if you want more, there's a link you can always contact me or get my book because everything's in there.

The next part, we are going to talk about how to wrap up your confinement month. We're gonna talk about the celebrations, the 30-day full moon and the hundred day, um, celebration usually for babies.

But of course, I have to make a twist and make it more about mummies as well. So I'll see you all in the next episode.

In this blog post, we will be discussing how to create and personalize your confinement month, the fourth part of the Modern Confinement series. This episode is all about tailoring your confinement practice to meet your unique needs and circumstances. 

I'll be referring to the Postpartum 30 method, a play after the title of my book, "Postpartum 30." There's also a free resource for you to download to follow along this blog post and podcast episode! 

P.S. If you're not sure what the confinement practice is, check out Episode 7: What is Confinement? The Chinese Postpartum Recovery Practice of Confinement – Zuo Yue Zi.

Or if you want to know more about why a modern confinement style is important for this time and age, check out Episode 9: Why Modernise The Chinese Postpartum Confinement Practice, Zuo Yue Zi?

Why Personalize Your Confinement Month?

Every family has their own confinement tradition with little nuances that make it special. By personalizing your confinement month, you can retain your family's traditions and beliefs. Personalization also allows you and your partner to create a 30-day plan that makes sense for your modern life.

In today's world, where dual income is often necessary, a tailored plan helps you set boundaries, manage expectations, and give yourself the grace needed to recover from giving birth. It also gives your spouse or partner a sense of purpose and involvement during this transformative time.

Understanding Your Needs

When using a framework or someone else's plan, it is crucial to remember that your needs, situation, and circumstances are unique to you and your family. My Postpartum 30 Method serves as one option among many for postpartum recovery and it also may not suit everyone.

It is essential to be flexible and adjust certain aspects to make the Postpartum 30 Method work for you. If the method does not align with your needs, feel free to explore other options that suit you and your family better. There's no need to worry about offending anyone or feeling sad about making a different choice.

Approaching Confinement as a Recovery Program

To help you adapt your confinement month to our modern times, you can think of it as a recovery program. In the absence of public health departments and programs in ancient times, confinement served as some sort of recovery program for mothers after giving birth. My Postpartum 30 Method offers a structured approach to childbirth and postpartum recovery, taking into account the complexities of childbirth recovery; physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally. 

Let's review my Postpartum 30 Method below:

- Step 1: The Big Review

Start by conducting a big review of yourself and your family. This helps set the tone for how you want to experience your confinement month. Consider your expectations, confinement goals, and external factors such as weather. Understanding your love language, as per Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages, can help you feel supported during this intense emotional period. Identifying your partner's love language and involving other family members in the confinement planning process can create a sense of teamwork and shared commitment.

- Step 2: The Logistics Review

Before deciding on a confinement style, I recommend a logistics review to determine what you and your family can and cannot afford; in time, money, energy, and space. Consider your finances, as traditional confinement practices can be costly in terms of obtaining herbs, cooking specialized meals, and following specific diets. This step can be the main deciding factor for those living in western countries on whether you want to do confinement or not. Because confinement practice services may not be as readily available in the West. By conducting a logistics review, you can make an informed decision about the practicality of different confinement options.

- Step 3: Choose Your Confinement Style

Once you have gone through Step 1 and 2, it's time to choose your preferred confinement style. My book "Postpartum 30" provides detailed information on different styles, including traditional, modern, or bare necessities confinement styles. Tailor your plan to suit your needs, preferences, and family and cultural beliefs. Remember, the steps outlined in the book are not set in stone, so feel free to adapt them to best meet your family's requirements.

- Step 4: Create Your Personalized Confinement Plan

The final step involves walking through your home and taking a stock of what you already have. Assess each room's functionality and see if you have the necessary items for your confinement month in relation to your recovery and daily needs. Consider rearranging furniture, decluttering, and setting up functional spaces that cater to your comfort and convenience. This is also an opportunity to prepare and stock up on ingredients, broths, and other food items needed for your chosen confinement style.

Final Thoughts

Designing and creating a personalized confinement month allows you to honor your family's traditions, adapt the practice to your modern life and needs, and create a childbirth recovery program that works for you. By following the steps outlined in the Postpartum 30 method, you can approach your confinement month with confidence and grace.

Remember to download the accompanying table for reference and reach out for further support if needed! 

We hope you found this helpful in planning your confinement month.

Stay tuned for the next episode, post-confinement celebrations and milestones!

If you need additional guidance or want to learn more, please reach out by booking a free call with me or grab a copy of "Postpartum 30."

Wishing you a fulfilling confinement month and practice!

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How To Enjoy Your End Year Holidays During Your Confinement Month, Zuo Yue Zi (The Postpartum Wellness Show: Ep.12)

Dr. Kristal Lau

Physician and Postpartum Wellness Consultant. Author of 'Postpartum 30'. International Speaker. Mother of 2 girls and U.S. military spouse.

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