For many new mothers in Singapore, the first 1-2 months after giving birth are not a time frolic amongst the flowers with their newborn. That’s because they’re in confinement, which basically means they’re under house arrest, usually under the watchful eye of a confinement nanny.
So who is this confinement nanny, and why does she sound like a prison warden?
Well, confinement nannies in Singapore basically accompany new mothers at home during the first one to three months, doing everything from cooking, cleaning and feeding the baby, and generally assisting in their duties as a mother so those first few months are bearable.
There’s also a traditional element to the job, though. Most of these confinement ladies are Malaysian or Singaporean Chinese women who will prepare TCM herbal soups for you, cook Chinese confinement recipes and might scold you for washing your hair.
While most confinement nannies are hired through word of mouth recommendations from friends or other mothers, it helps to know how this arrangement works and how much it’s likely to cost.
Confinement nanny cost
You can expect to pay anywhere between $2,100 to $5,000 per 28 days for a full-time nanny who basically lives at your home. Most people usually pay about $2,300 to $2,800.
A part-time or daytime confinement nanny usually works office hours, which is enough time for her to cook three meals a day. You can expect to pay about $1,600 to $3,200. As you can see, this is not much of a discount, and will also mean you’ll have to wake up in the middle of the night. That is why many people prefer to go for full-time nannies.
There are various factors that can hike up the price of the nanny, such as the following:
- Is she expected to look after your older children? Nannies will usually pay not attention to your other kids, so be prepared to pay more if you want them to.
- Is she expected to cook for the rest of your family? Most will happily cook for your spouse, but if you have a larger family you might be charged a bit more.
- Is your home very big? If you live in a multi-storey or landed home, you might be asked to pay more.
- Did you just give birth to twins/triplets? You will of course be charged more.
- Is the nanny expected to work over Chinese New Year? CNY often increases costs by up to $1,000.
- Is she hospital-trained? Nannies that have been trained at a local hospital will cost more.
Your nanny will probably insist that you buy certain TCM herbs or special ingredients for your meals, which are of course not included in the price.
Do note that you are also expected to give the confinement nanny an ang bao on the first and last day of the job. If you’re getting your nanny through an agent, ask if the price of the ang bao is included.
Just like at wedding dinners, there is a market rate for these ang baos. Be prepared to fork out between $30 to $200 per ang bao. Most mothers give smaller ang baos on the first day, and bigger ones on the last.
Administrative and insurance costs
Many Singaporeans hire confinement nannies from Malaysia due to the lower cost. But a temporary work permit must be obtained for $30. This is either paid directly by you, or by an agency. If you’re using an agency, make sure you confirm whether the $30 is included in their price.
If your nanny is not Singaporean, you must also pay a $60 monthly levy to the government if you’re a Singapore citizen, and $265 a month if you’re not.
Finally, you will need to buy medical insurance for your nanny offering coverage of at least $15,000. This applies whether she is Singaporean or not.
Some mothers will also want their confinement nanny to go for a medical checkup to ensure they’re in good health, which of course you’ll have to pay for.
How to find a confinement nanny
You have two options: to gather word-of-mouth referrals from other mums, or to use an agency.
The advantage of using an agency is that they can handle all the paperwork, such as applying for a work permit if the nanny is from Malaysia. The obvious drawback is that you’ve got to trust that they’ll assign you to someone you can trust.
How far in advance should you book one?
Your search should begin in your first trimester. It is advisable to book your confinement nanny at least 5 or 6 months before your expected delivery date. Some mothers-to-be will go so far as to book a nanny once they know they’re pregnant.
Booking early makes it less likely your desired nanny will be booked by someone else, and also enables you and her to make the necessary administrative arrangements with time to spare.
Most nannies will require that you pay a deposit to book them.
What you need to prepare before your nanny arrives
Assuming you hire a full-time confinement nanny, she will be living with you for anywhere between 2 and 16 weeks. So you will need to prepare her room or sleeping area. Be aware that some mothers have complained about the confinement nanny blasting the air con all day and wasting electricity.
You’ll also want to prepare to brief your nanny about all the household tasks she’ll be undertaking, which other than baby-related tasks might include laundry, cooking and cleaning. As such, it’s advisable to make sure all supplies like detergent and floorcloths are purchased before the arrival of the nanny.
Finally, don’t forget the ang bao. You wouldn’t want to offend your nanny when your child’s life is in her hands.
What if you don’t want to hire a confinement nanny?
So, a confinement lady sounds like a handy thing to have, but what if you’re not willing to fork out thousands of dollars, or just don’t like the idea of having some random auntie in the house?
Some hospitals, clinics and businesses can deliver confinement food to your doorstep, supposedly prepared in accordance with TCM principles. Examples include Tian Wei Signature and Thomson Medical Centre.
It’s not going to solve the problems of fatigue and lack of sleep, which are actually why most people end up feeling relieved that they hired confinement nannies (no, it’s not really about the herbal soups).
But at least you won’t have to prepare your own meals and, if you’re the kind who wants to do things the Chinese way, you can let someone else worry about the menu.