Introduction: The Temiar who ethnically belong to Senoi, one of the major groups of Orang Asli (indigenous people) in Peninsular Malaysia, have their own distinctive food taboos and avoidances during the postpartum period. These traditions are deeply rooted in their culture, customs, values and beliefs system.
Methods: A qualitative research method involving five focus group discussions were conducted to compare and contrast four different locations: the communities of Pos Tohoi, Pos Simpor, Rancangan Pengumpulan Semula Orang Asli (RPSOA) in Kelantan and the community at Batu 12 in Gombak, Selangor, representing different lifestyle experiences and food practices of Orang Asli Temiar in Peninsular Malaysia. All the transcripts were coded and categorised and then ‘thematised’ using the software package for handling qualitative data, NVivo 8.
Results: Despite variations in locations, there were five agreed prohibited food items during the postpartum period: cooking oil, salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, and meat from game or domesticated animals. Dietary restrictions begin immediately after childbirth and varied from seven, eight, and fourteen days to one month. Besides food restrictions, there were other prescribed avoidances for mothers after delivering a baby.
Conclusion: Prohibitions placed upon women during the postpartum period are intended to protect the new mother, the newborn baby and also the community. It appears that regardless of whether they live in the most traditional or the least traditional locations, the Temiar lineage and societal norms in the form of taboos during the female reproductive cycle are handed down to the new generation by their elders.