In Taiwan, this ancient practice has been given a modern and luxurious spin. For a price, high-end post-birth facilities offer to take the stress out of the first month by pampering new parents while their baby is in the caring hands of professionals.
SBS World News presenter and journalist Janice Petersen with her firstborn daughter Odessa in 2010. Source: Supplied / Janice Petersen
Putting mum’s needs first
The city views from Michael and Maxine’s suite come with a hefty price tag: about $13,000 for their month-long stay. That’s about five times the average monthly income in Taiwan.
At the Gemcare nursery, cameras are installed over each infant’s crib and live stream to designated TV channels so that parents can watch their babies from the comfort of their rooms. Credit: SBS Dateline
One room that catches my eye is the nursery. It’s like a high-tech goldfish bowl. Nurses tap away at computers and CCTV cameras keep a bird’s eye view of the babies.
“The best part is if you want your time alone, you can just have them take care of your baby. So sometimes if you can’t handle it, you can just make a call and they will step in and help you,” says Maxine.
Michael and Maxine Yeh are looking at their baby son Myron before he’s taken to the nursery where he’s cared for while they enjoy their free time. Credit: SBS Dateline
Back in their suites, they can feast on meals cooked by professional chefs. Staff member ‘Sharon’ says the menu is designed to help restore the body.
I remember having brief but informative home visits by a midwife soon after giving birth. There were practical tips on breastfeeding and swaddling but no deep dives into post-natal depression symptoms.
It’s lights out for the Yehs and they’re left to enjoy the rare and enviable gift of sleep.
Doing the confinement the traditional way
Fanny’s mum and dad dart in and out of the kitchen. Other relatives pop in to visit, and baby Eagle gets passed around, unfazed by the blur of activity.
Janice Petersen joins a family dinner with Fanny and Ren Fu. Also at the table are Fanny’s parents and Fanny’s sister with her husband and daughter. They are having traditional meals served to women who’ve just given birth during the confinement period. Credit: SBS Dateline
The village is in full swing, raising a child.
He says home confinement offers benefits money can’t buy,
Ren Fu has become the main caregiver for baby Eagle while his wife Fanny is resting and recovering after childbirth during the traditional confinement period. Credit: SBS Dateline
“Baby care is a sweet burden. I would rather start bonding with the baby from day one,” he says. “He’s just learning to be a human being. All we parents can give him is love and time.”
Having time to recover from the pain and trauma of childbirth makes a lot of sense. From what I’ve seen, the rules of traditional confinement are ever-changing but the focus on mother and baby’s health is an evergreen bounty rewarding generations.