I am a non-traditional Malay. Thus the thought of going for traditional Malay confinement practice seems alien to me (since I have absolutely no knowledge of how these things are done) so I thought of asking my grandma and mother in law on the confinement practice back in their day.
Post interview, this is what I came up with (I would like to make it known that this schedule is based on their experience, I'll share later in this post on what I'm practicing):
Some terms like Param might seem foreign to you (indeed they are foreign to me too when I first heard them) but I've come to accept them as it is. The Malay confinement period is roughly about 45 days and from what I've heard, the confinement practice in Sarawak and in Semenanjung also differ slightly (but that is another matter altogether and we will not dwell on that here).
Since I had to undergo an emergency caesarian, I wasn't able to be discharged immediately. I only went back home on the third day and my confinement started the following day which is the fourth day. I'm very fortunate because there are two ladies caring for me, Kak Selina and Asmah (if you're looking for a confinement lady, I can recommend them to you), they're at my place from 8.30 am until 1 pm minding both me and the baby.
So, this is my confinement experience.
Upon arriving at the house, they will first prepare the baby's bath (I'll share on the baby's bath and grooming in another post, otherwise this post will be too long for you to read). After the baby is bathed and groomed, then they will prepare mine. First, I have a body scrub (I don't exactly know the contents of the scrub, only that it's a whitish substance mixed with seven different types of flowers that have been dried and ground).
Then, I have to wash my face using water than has been soaked with betel leaves (or also known as daun sirih). To prepare this (in case you're interested), tear several betel leaves into a bowl and pour boiling water into the bowl. The boiling water will release whatever healing properties from the betel leaves into the water. Usually they'll leave the bowl of water to rest for a few minutes to cool before telling me to wash my face with it. I have to do this daily and the confinement lady recommends (if possible) for me to do this every morning after dawn.
Next they'll pour boiling water into a mixture of leaves and herbs, this is called Mandi Rempah or Herbal bath. Refer to the confinement schedule for a list of what is in the mixture in the herbal bath. I was advised not to bathe with soap so I did the next best thing possible, use a facial towel to rub myself clean. I'd dip the facial towel in the herbal bath and then rub my dead skins away.
After the herbal bath, they would then massage my body to alleviate wind from my body. Before massaging, my body (the crown of my head, back, hands and feet) would be rubbed with oil (consisting of a mixture of Minyak But But, coconut oil or what we Sarawakians call Minyak Lalak and Minyak Meroyan). On the 7th, 14th, 21st and 45th day I'd get a different type of massage, which they call it Memulang Urat (it's like a massage to rejuvenate and align your veins or something).
After body massage, they would then proceed with something they call Bertungku, a practice of heating stones (in my case it's a cloth thingy) and transferring the heat from the cloth to the body. This actually feels nice and refreshing.
Only after the massage and tungku, then I'll be using Bengkung or what we Sarawakians call Tapal or a Malay traditional corset. Underneath the tapal is a special mixture of herbs (Sarawakians call them Param), designed to provide heat to the tummy and the back. Considering that I still have my caesarian scar to look after, I only started using tapal on Day 9 and by Day 12 the tapal was already too big for me. Maybe Malay confinement methods do work in trimming our body, I had lost about 6 kilos by the 7th day of confinement (I had only gained 8 kilos during pregnancy) so by now (today is the 14th day) I think I may have lost all of my pregnancy weight. During my grandma's time, they had to use the tapal day and night but in my case, I'd only be wearing them from 10 am until 5 pm (then I'd be showering off the remnants of the herbs from my body). I haven't been using any tapal since yesterday (Day 13), and I think my confinement lady will be bringing a new and smaller corset for me to wear soon.
These are some of the items from my confinement lady (some of them I bought myself). There's the box containing the Bengkung and Tungku. The plastic bag at the back contains the tapal herbs for Bengkung. Other than that I also have pills (some prefer jamu, it's up to your own personal preference) called Hirup Sirih and Hirup Rempah and also majum. I also use bedak sejuk (my confinement lady advised me to use bedak sejuk only once every other day) on my face before I go to bed, and krim halia from Cosway on my tummy, back, the back of my neck and feet after my afternoon shower. I know we're not supposed to shower but I'd rather be clean rather than smelly and dirty so I'd take off the tapal and shower off the remnants of the massage oil and Param. Post shower, I'll rub some Minyak Meroyan on the crown of my head, hands and feet and this is followed by the Cosway Krim Halia.
Here's the pills, hirup sirih and hirup rempah and the name and contact number of the person making it if you're interested =).
Other than that, if you're wondering whether I cover my head and wear socks (and kain batik as per usual Malay confinement practice), I do cover my head with a head scarf (most of the time I even wear them to bed), in regards to socks, I wear them occasionally if my feet are cold and as of now, I've been wearing kain batik for the past 14 days.
So this is my experience undergoing Malay confinement practice post caesarian birth. Hope my post will help first time mommies out there decide on which practice they'd like to opt for (as you can see, my confinement activity has been altered to suit my own comfort i.e. I take hot showers daily, my jamu has been converted to pills, I keep the air-cond running although at 27 degrees and I wash my hair every other day and use the hair dryer to keep my hair dry afterwards). If you'd like to contact the confinement lady just let me know, I can share their contact number with you. If you're wondering about the cost, they're charging me RM1,700 for their services (which also includes cooking confinement appropriate meals) with an additional surcharge of 10% for transportation (because they have to go pass the Zecon toll to get to my place). Considering how pampered and well I feel so far, I'd say the cost is completely worth it =).
xoxo Mrs Fashionista