Nannies for longer

Nannies for longer

When former model and actress Lum May Yee gave birth to her second child five weeks early, she counted herself lucky that Kinley, her premature baby, was healthy.

She was also relieved that her confinement nanny could come on board earlier and for three months instead of the previously agreed two months.

Kinley was put in the intensive care unit when he was born on Oct 11. After a week, he was a relatively hefty "3kg premmie", says Ms Lum, 41, the director of bycanary, a jewellery business. She has an older son, Aiden, aged 3½.

"I had booked my confinement nanny, Mrs Helen Tan, for only two months. When I had to deliver Kinley much earlier, she came more than a month earlier to help," say Ms Lum, adding that she had hired a different confinement nanny for two months when her first child was born.

A confinement nanny, or confinement lady, is an experienced woman who helps a mother care for her newborn during the traditional "confinement" period that ranges between 28 and 44 days.

During this time, the extra pair of hands allows the new mother to recuperate after pregnancy and the rigours of childbirth.

The cost of a confinement nanny can range from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, industry insiders say.

In employing Mrs Tan for longer than the customary one-month confinement period, Ms Lum is part of a growing trend of such mothers, according to companies providing confinement services.

Mr Jason Phua, human resources director at PEM Confinement Nanny Agency, says: "In the past two or three years, more people - about 30 per cent of our clientele - are extending the service period of their confinement nannies." The longest stint he has seen is four months.

Ms Josephine Tan, the founder of which she started more than six years ago, is seeing similar requests.

"About 20 to 30 per cent of our clientele request for an extension, mostly for two months," she says.

"Most of these clients have more than one child. They would look after the older child, for instance, while the nanny focuses on the baby. Other clients are first-time mothers and might not be confident in their new role."

Ms Lum has been through both scenarios.

She says: "For my first child, I hired a confinement nanny for two months because I had talked to other mummies. They advised me that one month was not quite enough and that if you were a first-time mother, it would be tough and tiring, especially if you were breasfeeding and pumping breast milk."

Kinley was originally due in November and she took into account that her older son Aiden would be having his school holidays then.

Without the help of a confinement nanny, she says, she would not have been able to take Aiden out for "playdates, to the park or to his Chinese, swimming and wushu lessons".

"He's very active and needs to go out. My mum used to help me with Aiden but she has been caring for my dad, who has been ill this year," says Ms Lum, who adds that her maid is not trained in preparing traditional Chinese confinement food such as fish and papaya soup.

Her confinement nanny, Mrs Tan, 60, who comes from Malacca, says she has been hired for as long as four months.

"In Singapore, they usually take me for six weeks, three months or four months," says Mrs Tan, who has 22 years of experience and has worked in other countries, including Dubai.

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