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Confinement as brainwashing?

Just a rapid thought, between nappies and other reproductive tasks :-)

The practice of postpartum (i.e. after the birth) confinement is common in Malaysia, and basically means that after the birth the mother is confined to the home, or a room, and has to eat certain foods, follow certain practices (such as not bathing), and so on. For more information on the Chinese version try: "Zuo Yue", Chinese Postpartum Confinement?, and ‘Doing the month’: Ancient tradition meets modern motherhood.

Anyway, the principle seems fine: the mother is able to rest and recuperate, concentrate on getting breastfeeding going and learning how to deal with the baby. Some traditions may have made sense once upon a time: e.g. no bathing for a month - imagine in a rural setting, water can be dirty, it has to be fetched, and someone suggested to us that it was also a suitable 'contraceptive' to keep the lusty husband at bay!

But others - such as a diet very low on vegetables and fruit, high on meat, ginger (thought to exacerbate jaundice in newborns) and herbs - does not make sense. Especially the no fruit and veg for the first ten days (or something like that).

Also: being confined. Literally sometimes. A friend of a friend had to stay in one room for thirty days! Not allowed out. Now that's a good way to induce postpartum depression if you ask me!

Anyway, back to the title. Being confined to a room for a month is a form of sensory deprivation. Coupled with the high stress of dealing with a newborn, the lack of sleep, and a different diet, it could actually be said to resemble a 'brainwashing' programme. Maybe, that is one function of confinement - a liminal period that realigns the mother as an extension of the child, enforcing her subsidiary role as reproductive organ rather than autonomous individual.

Just a thought...


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