Traditional confinement practices are postnatal practices common to Singaporeans, Malaysians, Chinese and Indian women. These practices are designed to help a mother recover from the stress of pregnancy, labour and birth. The mother and child are effectively confined to their home about one month. In this time, only close relatives are allowed to see them. Traditionally, the mother or mother-in-law helps the new mother, but sometimes due to work, illness or other issues, this may not be possible. In such cases, a confinement nanny or pui yuet (Cantonese; meaning companion for a month) is hired either via direct referral from relatives and friends, or via an agency.
Though steeped in tradition, confinement nannies are readily hired by first time mothers and/or career moms. Confinement nannies differ from regular nannies in that they help out in the postnatal period after birth. They are usually older women who have developed the requisite skill set in taking care of new-born babies; this involves bottle-feeding them, bathing and changing them, and soothing them when they cry. Apart from this primary duty, confinement nannies also cook nutritious meals for the mother and her husband (if the family is a small unit), and wash the clothes of the new mother and baby. They are there to help ease the transition from a pregnant woman to a new mother; and allow you to heal from all the recent rigours you’ve been through.
Confinement nannies go a long way in easing the burden but there are certain mistakes you must avoid when hiring such a nanny otherwise you’ll end up with more frustration than you bargained for.
Inability to make a decision
· Ask yourself if you truly need a confinement nanny. If you are alone, with no help and your husband is hardly available, or if you are having a difficult pregnancy and you know that your mother or mother-in-law is going to be unavoidably absent, then you definitely need some help.
· Once you decide that you need a confinement nanny don’t wait till the last week of your pregnancy to begin researching on your potential nanny.
· A confinement nanny needs to be booked while you are still pregnant.
· The more experienced a nanny, the more she will be in demand, sometimes such nannies are pre-booked by women who are in their first trimester.
Lack of research
- Fund Research
· You may need to discuss with your partner about the financial implications of hiring a confinement nanny.
· It costs about $2,400 – $4,500 to hire a confinement nanny for a month. So you need to set aside money for the nanny.
· Factor in your due date, prices tend to be higher during the end of year holidays and Chinese New Year Period, so you may need to raise your budget if this is when you expect your baby.
- Nanny and Agency Research
· When hiring your nanny, don’t be afraid to ask the agency or referring relative questions. Be bold and don’t be shy.
· If you are using an agency, ask for testimonials or referrals from past mothers. This can help you decide based on their experience and feedback.
· Be meticulous. Read the fine print of any agreement. Make sure you know the terms and agreement of your confinement nanny deal. What will happen if you don’t like your nanny? Will the agency provide a replacement nanny? How long will the replacement nanny take to arrive? Are there any cancellation fees? Any refund policies?
· Be thorough and be sure to ask any necessary questions, your child’s health may depend on it.
Not Interviewing the Prospective Nanny
· First things first, can you communicate with your nanny? Are there any language barriers? Usually agencies may speak on the nanny’s behalf and you may not need to speak directly to her. But remember that when it comes down to it, it will be just the three of you in the house and you may want to give her an instruction but be constrained by this language barrier. It is always better to be able to understand each other.
· Try to interview your prospective nanny, it is better to do this in her house –an environment she is comfortable in- this allows you to see her true character.
· Carefully delineate your expectations and align your goals. This is the time to discuss the minutiae of added tasks. Do you want her to cook meals for your husband as well? Do you have any dietary or cooking restrictions? Do you want her to go grocery shopping on your behalf? To what extent should she help with household cleaning chores?
· It is always better to iron out the majority of her responsibilities to prevent future misunderstanding.
· This is also the time to look out for your nanny’s attentiveness and her sensitivity to your needs. A dismissive nanny at the interview level, will also be dismissive of your needs at home.
Lack of Security
· Sometimes, relatives recommend a pui yuet, while this may be tempting, it is important to remember that such a nanny may not be licensed to work in that position.
· Always look for agencies that are licensed by the Ministry of Manpower. This rules out the dangers of illegal stays and helps insure you, should there be a fallout.
· Request a thorough medical check-up and up-to-date immunizations for your nanny, most agencies will already have invested in this. But you need to be sure as your nanny will be spending most of her time with your baby.
Lack of Foresight
· You need to think ahead, if you will need your confinement nanny to stay on as a regular nanny. Find out if this is possible with the agency and if there are any added costs.
· As your confinement nanny works with you, watch and see if you want her to stay on. If you want another nanny, then you need to plan early to get one as soon as your confinement nanny leaves.
· You also need to discuss with the nanny and see if she is willing to continue beyond the confinement period so that you’re not left in the lurch.
Finding a suitable confinement nanny takes patience and time, start early, ask questions and be realistic.