After Erni Lee gave birth to her first baby in Sydney she was told by her mother not to wash and to stay in the house for a month with her new baby.
“It’s 30 days, no washing, especially no washing your hair, you can shower but with hot water and your not allowed to go out – at all,” said Mrs Lee.
The new mum left hospital with an underweight baby and moved in with her husband’s family.
Like many South-East Asian women, the 37-year-old was expected to follow the rules of confinement.
“Staying inside the home is meant to protect yourself from ‘bad wind’ or ‘evil spirits’,” she said.
Erni and Vincent on holiday. Image supplied.
"It's believed after you have given birth and you are bleeding, the evil spirits can smell you. When you are at home, you are much safer because when you go out bad spirits may approach you."
Erni Lee doesn't believe in evil spirits or superstition but she respects her family's wishes.
"My mum asked me to do it [confinement] and I was happy do it - to give it a try.
"I stayed at home for 30 days straight. I didn’t break that rule but I did break the rule with washing my hair – I just couldn’t stand it.
"I used dry shampoo at two weeks, I lasted two weeks."
"I said to my mum –Western people have never heard of it and they give birth in the morning and go and take a shower straight away - they wash their hair – they survive."
However, the 30 day commitment gave Mrs Lee a chance to "focus" on her new baby Vincent. She wasn't lonely or desperate to go out - she was determined.
"It’s been passed down. My sister did it, my mum did it, so I felt like I should be following the tradition. I don’t believe in the evil spirits but I believe in tradition."
"It’s nice to recognise where you are from and to follow what people have been doing for hundreds of years."