My Confinement Story

by | Nov 2, 2010 | Confinement Soups, Featured Articles | 15 comments

You may have noticed that over the past few months we have been posting many pregnancy and confinement soup recipes to this site.  As this blog closely follows the soups we are making for ourselves and for our families, you’ve probably already guessed that we have had a pregnancy in the family.  Actually, we’ve had TWO!

On September 1, our sister Carol delivered a healthy baby boy and exactly one month later, on October 1, I (Tracy) welcomed my second daughter into the world.  Carol and I and our babies both enjoyed very normal delivery experiences.  Besides feeling only slightly weaker, after my daughter was born, I felt happy and healthy and ready to begin my month of post-pregnancy “confinement”.

There was so much to learn and celebrate as we experienced our Chinese culture.  This was definitely our growth story!

Before I begin, you should know that my sisters and I are not into “extreme confinement”.  That is, we do not strictly confine ourselves to our home, we shower regularly (and wash our hair, but do blow dry right away) and we even turn on the air conditioner (can’t survive +35C in Hong Kong)! That said, we do, however, take our confinement food (especially our soups, of course!) seriously.

Now that my confinement is done, here is a brief summary of my personal confinement story from a soupy perspective.

The Constants

There were several soups I was required to drink throughout the entire confinement period.   Every day, I drank three to five BIG bowls of soup.   Each bowl was the equivalent of five or six smaller bowls (similar to the soup sizes served in Chinese restaurants) and it gave me a pleasant and warm feeling of being warm and full for most of the day.   My confinement lady (a.k.a. our wonderful mother who is a true Chinese soup lady) cooked at least three different soups every day made from ingredients purchased fresh each day from the nearby wet markets in Hong Kong.  The constant soups I drank throughout the day were:

Papaya Fish Soup

This soup is delicious and healthy and is used to help with milk production. When I was engorged (too much milk!) I continued to drink fish soup without the green papaya; instead, we substituted healthy vegetables such as sweet corn and tomatoes.

Chicken Herbal Soup

Everyday, a large pot of chicken soup was made with TWO fresh chickens (black silkie chickens were preferred).  Using two chickens made for a very dense and nutritious soup. Drinking “heaty” soups is essential during confinement and so staple herbs included dried longans and fish stomach (pronounced as “fa gao” in Cantonese).  Wolfberries and red dates for sweetness were also staples in the soup. Whenever I felt too heaty, we would not include any fish stomach or longans in the soup.

Here is another variation of this soup.


Pig’s Feet with Ginger in Black Vinegar

Another “constant” in the second half of my confinement period (after the 13th day) was the traditional ginger and vinegar “soup”. Almost every day, I would eat a small bowl of some pork meat and a boiled chicken egg which had been sitting and marinating in the tangy and delicious stew for days… yum!

The Uniques

Occasionally, my mom also made other drinks and soups for me to drink based on my specific needs.  This would vary depending on how far along the confinement you’re at and how you’re feeling.  And when I say unique, some of these are truly unique and new for me!  The amazing thing about this experience is seeing the difference between Western and Eastern, and blending it so it’s really customized for me.  For example, crocodile meat and soft-shelled turtle are common staple meats available in supermarkets in Hong Kong.  

Black Bean, Rice and Ginger Water

While I was still at the hospital (the day of delivery), I started to drink an almost tasteless concoction made of water with boiled black beans, rice and ginger.  This drink is said to help reduce “wind” in the body and “warm” it up to help with the healing process after giving birth.  Instead of drinking water, whenever I felt thirsty, I was encouraged to drink this for the first week after delivery.  After my milk came in, we stopped drinking this and focused on fish and chicken soups instead.

Soft-shelled turtles are a “healing” meat and are often consumed even outside of confinement / pregnancy.  I drank this soup for only two days half-way through my confinement period to continue to help with the healing process.  This should be consumed only if you are not sick as it is believed to “feed” your sickness as well.

DEer Antler with Korean Ginseng Soup

My sister drank this during her confinement as it is also considered a “healing” drink and popular among Chinese as a confinement soup.  However, when it came time for me to drink this soup, I was already feeling too “heaty” and so we did not make this for me.  Similar to turtle soup, this should be avoided if you are ill or have a fever.

Foods to avoid

All “cooling” foods and soups should be avoided during confinement.   I occasionally craved the cooling foods, but was a “good girl” and resisted until after my confinement month was done.   Even now, I am still only nibbling at “cool” foods and soups and will continue to do so until after the third month.   Foods I avoided include:


I also avoided foods which are believed to be slightly “poisonous”:

  • Beef
  • Duck
  • Crab and other shellfish

Although I’m sure there are many other cooling and poisonous foods which should be avoided, these are the foods which stood out for me because I eat or drink them on a regular basis and had to consciously avoid them.

And here ends my confinement story.  I’m happy to say the month is now done and I feel more free to do and eat what I please.  If you have other tips or foods to eat or avoid during confinement, please share with us and our readers by posting to our comments.


A selection of confinement Chinese Soups

What is confinement and confinement stories

Baby 5 & 6 Confinement story

Some confinement foods for your tummy!

The DO's and DON'T's of confinement


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Your guide to COOLING and WARMING ingredients in Chinese Soups

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