Among the Asian, many ethnic groups have their own after birth dietary care. This is based on the belief that the health of the mother is significantly weakened during the childbearing period and the labour process where lots of blood is lost.
For the Ethnic Chinese, the first 30 days after child birth is called the ‘confinement period’. It is also the most crucial ‘window period’ where the mother’s body is able to absorb the required nutrients in it’s maximum capacity. During the confinement period, the new mother is to stay at home and avoid going out so as to minimise the exposure to wind (adverse weather condition) and crowd.
A live-in confinement lady is usually employed to do the cooking and caring of the mother and the new born.
There are variations in the type of food and the cooking among the different dialect groups (or different provinces in China). However, the main ingredients used are essentially the same.
In Chinese confinement tea , the main ingredients and herbs used are Ginger, wine and black vinegar.
Ginger is thought to possess warm and heaty properties which is needed to ‘drive away the winds’ in the body. The pores of the skins are believed to have opened up and the joints loosen to prepare for
labour and remain in a loose state for a short period after delivery. This is when the ‘winds’ from the climate will enter the body if one is exposed to a windy environment. The ginger would counter the coolness and the wind effect on the body.
Black vinegar is used to cleanse the womb of residual blood clot. It is commonly cooked with Ginger and Pig trotters and simmer for several hours until the trotters are tender and tasty. This dish is cooked in large pot and eaten over several days.
Wine especially tonic wine is helpful in warming and nourishing the body. It is also believed to help in the blood production and circulatory process. Therefore, food or soup are cooked with lot of wine and ginger for this reason.
Confinement mothers are also encouraged to drink tonic wine. If she is breastfeeding, timing of wine consumption will have to be carefully planned out.
Another common dish for breastfeeding mum is fish soup cooked with ginger and raw papaya. It is extremely effective in inducing milk production by the milk glands.
The Chinese believe that failure to drink these confinement tea during the confinement period will result in the woman aging faster, experience joint pain and other health problem in later part of their lives.