There is a common belief that a mother cannot shower, or at least not be able to wash her hair during her post-natal confinement. This belief came from very traditional Chinese practices where new mothers could not touch cold water, and thus not be able to shower during confinement. This was apparent in the winter months, and without proper heating in ancient China, it makes sense. But does it still apply?
“But I feel so hot and sticky!”
The heat and humidity in Singapore can make anyone uncomfortable if they are not allowed to shower. Personal hygiene is very important during the post-natal period. If a mother has had an episiotomy or a Caesarian section, good hygiene practices will encourage the wounds to heal quickly. You are also advised to clean the wound a couple of times a day, so you will definitely need to be in contact with water.
“My mother-in-law says that I am not allowed to shower”
Some of us who have our confinements managed by the elders such as our mothers, aunts or mothers-in-law, may look like we are turning a deaf ear against the advice of not showering. How can we avoid offending them but still have our showers?
My mother strongly believed that I was not allowed to shower, and thankfully when I engaged a confinement nanny she did not share the same sentiments. The only condition was that my bath had to be infused in traditional Chinese herbs. It was a good compromise as I did not want to shower in cold water anyway! Plus any shower is better than no shower!
“How can I convince my mother-in-law to let me shower?”
I believe that confinement nannies these days have also improved their knowledge in this area. If you find it hard to explain to your relatives that showering during the post-natal confinement period is perfectly fine, you can always bring them along to your next pregnancy follow-up with your obstetrician.
Discuss some questions about what you can or cannot do during your confinement period, and raise this question. Hearing from a professional may be more effective and convincing to your elders.
“Okay, she’s convinced. But now she won’t let me wash my hair”
The belief that you should not wash your hair during your post-natal confinement period is quite similar to the restriction of showers. The Chinese believe that you will allow “wind” to enter your body, and if you do not heed this advice, you will regret it because you are bound to suffer from ailments, particularly rheumatism when you get older.
There is some truth in this if you believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you really wish to wash your hair you can do so with lukewarm water.
Another alternative is to use dry shampoo which you sprinkle on your hair, wait a few minutes, then comb it off along with excess oils and dirt.
If you are advised against too much contact with water for the same reason, it will be a good time to engage the help of your husband. He can help with chores such as doing the dishes, washing the laundry, or even to help bath your newborn.
It is alright to shower during your post-natal confinement period. Whether you use traditional Chinese herbs in your bath or not is a personal choice, as long as you maintain personal hygiene. This is also very important if you intend to breastfeed your baby and need to maintain cleanliness during skin to skin contact.