A doctor revealed how she she didn’t shower for 30 days after giving birth to help her bond with her baby.
Terry Loong, 40, of Harrow, west London, practised ‘postpartum confinement’ -where a new mother does not leave the house, have visitors or, in some cases, bathe for a month after the delivery – following the birth of son Matthew in April 2016.
The practice is common in some Asian cultures as it is believed to foster bonding, protect the baby’s immune system and give the mother time to heal following childbirth.
Mrs Loong, who is of Malaysian heritage, only went outside once in the month after Matthew’s birth and even kept the windows closed to decrease the risk of the baby being exposed to any outside infection.
Uninterrupted time: Terry Loong, 40, of Harrow, west London, practised ‘postpartum confinement’, where a new mother does not leave the house, have visitors or, in some cases, bathe for a month following delivery. Pictured, Terry with Matthew at two days old
Family bonding: Terry with husband Kurt at home with Matthew 10 days after birth
Scrubbed up: Terry, Kurt and Matthew, now two. Mrs Loong said she would practise postnatal confinement again if she was to have another child
She also gave up ‘cold’ foods like cucumber and salad in favour of warming broths and soups.
Mrs Loong said: ‘I remember my mum having a period of confinement when I was little. I’m the oldest of five so I saw it a lot.
‘It is common in Asian culture. Some of my Chinese friends here in London have done it too, but adapted it to what works for them, picking different parts of it.
‘I don’t know many people that did it fully, like me. The biggest thing is that people couldn’t believe I hadn’t showered. It wasn’t pretty, but it was important. If I had another baby, I would definitely do it again.’
Expecting: Mrs Loong, who is of Malaysian heritage, only went outside once in the month after Matthew’s birth and even kept the windows closed to decrease the risk of the baby being exposed to any outside infection. Pictured, Mr and Mrs Loong before Matthew’s birth
Lifestyle change: Mrs Loong, pictured at eight months pregnant, also gave up ‘cold’ foods like cucumber and salad in favour of warming broths and soups
Mrs Loong, an aesthetic doctor, and her business consultant husband Kurt, 37, welcomed Matthew in April 2016.
Although it was a straightforward labour, Mrs Long felt like she had been ‘hit by a bus’ and wanted to use the confinement period as a time to heal.
What is postnatal confinement?
Postnatal confinement is a practice where new mothers do not leave the house, have visitors or shower for a month after giving birth.
The practice is common among some Asian cultures.
It is said to protect the baby at a time when it is immune system is vulnerable and give the mother time to heal mentally and physically following the birth.
The confinement period is also said to help the mother and baby bond as they have uninterrupted time together.
However some medical professionals warn that this period of confinement can lead to mothers becoming isolated and finding it difficult to cope alone.
‘It takes an enormous amount of energy to make, carry and deliver a baby,’ she said.
‘The sheer exhaustion I felt was a shock to my body. I knew I needed to rest, so decided to try confinement as I thought it would give me a chance to heal properly and mentally rest so I could be the best mother possible.’
Mrs Loong described how she was ‘covered in sweat’ and had ‘blood down below’ following labour but still went home without showering.
‘My hair was really greasy to start with and I did smell of bodily fluids, but I didn’t care – it was the most natural thing in the world,’ she said.
Because she had sutures in following the birth, Terry ensured she maintained a level of hygiene by washing her intimate areas with a witch hazel solution.
She also sprinkled baking powder into her hair to absorb the grease as it got dirtier.
She said: ‘I almost got used to it by the end, but I could tell I was smelly. I was committed to completing it though.
Committed: Mrs Loong described how she was ‘covered in sweat’ and had ‘blood down below’ following labour but still went home without showering. Pictured, at home with Matthew
‘By the end of it, Kurt joked, “Thank god you’re allowed to shower now”. So much dead skin came away in that first shower – it was almost like I had cocooned myself.
‘We did wash the baby though as we wanted to keep him clean.’
The new parents invited Mr Loong’s family to visit in the weeks after the birth but had no friends over until the end of the confinement.
‘One of the main things is to keep warm at all times, as getting a chill could spark an illness or infection,’ Mrs Loong continued.
‘It was sunny but cool outside, and Matthew’s immune system was still so low because he hadn’t been exposed to the outside environment, so we wanted to make sure he was healthy too.
‘I broke the confinement slightly as I went out for around an hour at the two-week mark to the park as it was a sunny day.
‘We walked around the park a little bit and took in the sunshine with a picnic, but we didn’t talk to anyone there.’
Involved: Mrs Loong insists she never got bored, saying looking after a baby is a full-time job. Pictured, with Matthew at eight weeks old, after she started showering again
Mrs Loong insists she never got bored, saying looking after a baby is a full-time job.
‘I became a hermit, but time flew by quickly. Even though I gave up all my social media, I was never bored,’ she explained.
‘My husband was there all the time, as he works from home, and we actually really enjoyed the confinement.’
The new mother also changed her diet to focus on healing foods. She said: ‘I stuck to things that were easy to digest, and full of nutrients.’
Mrs Loong is speaking out to highlight the benefits of confinement to help ease the transition into motherhood. She also believes it helped her avoid any post-birth complications such as difficulties feeding, back ache and hair loss as well as post-natal depression.
‘I know not everyone follows it as strictly as I did, but, like with anything mother-related, it’s all about what’s right for you and your baby,’ she said.
‘I personally feel it helped us bond and become a family without distractions, and I came out of it feeling mentally stronger and ready to start my new life.
‘There was plenty of uninterrupted time where Matthew and I could be a mother and son alone, while I also managed to make sure I was resting and taking time for me.
‘I would definitely do it again if I had another baby.’