The best money I have spent during the first month and a half of parenthood was getting a confinement nanny. She is basically the real-life Mary Poppins. Having her to help out with the baby has been a god sent, not only is she a walking baby bible who can guide you every step of the way, but she is essential for a speedy recovery for the mother as well.
After birth, the mother needs her rest more than anything else. Without rest, she cannot produce milk, nor the energy to take care of the baby. A lot of people neglect the mother after the baby is born, which is one of the biggest mistake people can make. Not only is she exhausted from sleep deprivation, but she is still recovering from giving birth - both physically and mentally.
What is Confinement 坐月?
In traditional Chinese culture, after birth, the mother and the baby is in confinement for a month, where we don't leave the house unless it is a necessity, such as seeing the doctors. I know to the Western culture, this might seems bizarre, but in Asia, this is a very common practice.
The Chinese believe the first month (some even say the first 100 days) after birth is crucial for the mother's well being and recovery for the rest of her life. Hence why the mother should be in confinement and rest. The mother is supposed to eat well and sleep well so that she can produce more milk for the baby.
Traditional Confinement VS Modern Confinement
Traditional Confinement is hardcore, and most confinement nannies have now adapted to a more modern way of confinement. However, there are still some who are very old school.
Here is the list of some traditional No-Nos:
No direct contact with the wind
No going out
No salt (cutting out salt helps with water retention)
No wearing sandals
No exposing of the heels
No leaving empty space between the waist and back of a chair (cushion required)
No hair washing
Always wear a hat
Keep your hands and feet covered at all times
Cover up while breastfeeding
Eat Pork knuckles with ginger and vinegar (after the 12th day)
Drink a lot of fried rice tea
Eat a lot of ginger fried rice
I am sure if you google, you will find more. For those who are seeing this list for the first time will probably think the Chinese are insane - especially the no baths and washing hair part, here is the reason behind this rule.
In traditional Chinese Medicine, it is believed that all your joints are more 'open' postnatal, so it is easy to trap 'wind' in your body. What is 'trap wind' (入風) you may ask? Chinese doctors believe that once you get wet and don't dry yourself off right away, your joints will 'trap wind' postnatal, resulting in headaches and arthritis in your old age. It might seem silly or nonsensical to some, but I have heard from other mother's personal experience that they regretted not following this tradition, as they have found that their joints hurt more after giving birth.
The good news is, the above list is the traditional way, modern-day confinement is much more comfortable. Here is an updated list of what you do during confinement:
No direct contact with the wind.
You are allowed to go out if you wish, provided that you don't catch a cold. So make sure you cover your neck and other joints if possible if you go out.
Cut down your salt intake if you have water retention.
Don't walk around barefoot on a cold floor as you have lots of acupuncture points at the bottom of your feet. You will trap wind otherwise.
You are allowed to bathe or shower in ginger or lemongrass water. (There are other alternatives as well, but these are the two I have tried.)
You are allowed to wash your hair in ginger or lemongrass water, provided that you blow dry your hair straight away. (Much to my husband relief)
During the summer, you do not have to wear a hat, just make sure your head is not wet when contacting the wind.
You are allowed air conditions and fans, provided that they are not blowing directly at you.
Eat, sleep, and rest as much as possible so you can produce milk.
Drink a lot of fried rice tea
No sex until the doctor gives you the green light.
Much more doable right?
What is a Confinement Nanny 陪月?
During the month of confinement, some people have their parents around to help take care of the baby and the new mother. Alternatively, some people will hire a confinement nanny. I opt for the later - why? For one, my mother is not a housewife. She doesn't enjoy cooking nor have she looked after a baby since...well, me. It will literally be the blind leading the blind.
In short, the Confinement nanny duties are taking care of the mother and the baby. Here is a list of her duties:
Buy fresh groceries and cook for the mother.
Boil Ginger water/lemongrass water for the mother to bathe.
Help massage the mother's boobs if she has blocked ducts.
Everything to do with the baby, such as feed, change, and bathe the baby.
Advise the mother on how to take care of the baby.
Adjust the mother's diet according to her needs. Such as help her produce more milk or help reduce water retention.
Most people think the confinement nanny is more for the baby, but from my personal experience, I think she is more for the mother's wellbeing and sanity. One of the most significant change for a newbie mum is that all of sudden you no longer have any time for yourself. You are now a milk making machine, and all you ever do is, eat, sleep, pump, feed, and repeat.
Having the confinement nanny around allows the mother the rest, and not worry about daily chores and have a bit more time for herself. Usually, you can hire a confinement lady for 8 hours or 24 hours, although I know some who will work for 10 hours.
What to expect and what to look out for
Have a Face to Face Interview
After your phone interview, always arrange a meet up in person - I know this seems to be common sense, but I think this is very important. Even if the confinement nanny comes highly recommended, always remember first to have a telephone interview, then a face to face meeting, to see if you guys are the right fit. Your instinct will tell you if she is the right confinement nanny for you or not. I knew immediately after my meeting with mine that I wanted to hire her.
Before I hired mine, I had telephone interviews with a few other confinement nannies. Some of them, I knew instantly that it was not going to work. I remember one of the nanny I interviewed insisted that my husband and I had to have dinner together every night, even after I told her my husband would not eat the things she cooks, as he is a picky eater. Her answer was simple, "Then your husband has to learn." I knew then and there it was never going to work.
Bye Bye Kitchen
Say goodbye to your kitchen (temporarily) - When you hire a confinement nanny be prepare to lose your kitchen and fridge during her contract, as that would be her domain for the duration of her stay. Each nanny is different, but from my friends and personal experience, they pretty much take over your fridge to prepare food for you. As one of her primary duties is to cook and prepare bathing water for the mum, so she is in the kitchen most of the time.
If you can and have time before giving birth, it is worth clearing out some space in your fridge for the month/months ahead.
Last Minute Shopping
Be prepared to do some last minute shopping - Everyone knows if you are parents for the first time, there will be lots of things that you will need to buy. However, when the confinement nanny comes for her visit before she starts to check if you have got everything, be prepared to do a bit of last minute shopping. This is actually a good thing, as they can tell you which products are the best to use and worth buying. So far, everything my confinement nanny told me to buy has been very useful.
You Will Never Go Hungry
You will be fed VERY WELL - the one thing you don't have to worry about during the contract of your confinement nanny is that you will never go hungry. I don't think I have ever been so well fed in my life. If anything sometimes I have to tell her to cook less as I cannot finish all the food she is cooking.
8 Hours or 24 Hours
Discuss with your husband whether you want to hire her for 8 hours or 24 hours - personally they both have their pros and cons. The best thing about 24 hours is that both you and your partner can get some rest and it frees you up to do other things such as popping down to the shops or going out to lunch with friends. The confinement lady also has more time to do her duties, so she is less rushed. The con side of 24 hours is that it is more expensive and less bonding time with your baby.
The good thing about 8 hours is that you have more time to bond with your baby, as after the confinement nanny leaves, it is all down to you to do the work. It is more tiring, and you probably will get hardly any sleep during the night, but I do enjoy the times when I am feeding and cuddle time with Joshua, even when it is 4 a.m. in the morning.
I think if you have a full-time helper, 8 hours is a good option. As your helper can help you with cooking and daily chores, but even with just a part-time, it is doable. It just means you are trading in sleep time for more bonding time.
Duration of Contract
Discuss with your partner how long you would like to have the confinement nanny for. It is essential to let the confinement nanny know when you book them, as good ones get booked up really fast. So even if you want to extend your contract, you might not be able to.
I only booked mine for a month and a half, but if I can turn back time, I would probably book her for 3 months.
My Personal Experience
My husband and I struck gold with our confinement nanny. I know some of my friends have mixed experience with theirs. Some even had to fire their's midway, so I know we have been extremely fortunate with ours.
I am lucky as I get on very well with my confinement nanny, and we enjoy each other's company. I like that she is honest, flexible, and extremely helpful. She will listen to our wants and needs, and tailor a schedule and method that will work best both for our baby and us.
My friends and family are amazed that we managed to get into a schedule with a 2-week old baby. This was all thanks to my confinement nanny. Right from the get-go, she asked us if we wanted to feed on demand or be on a schedule, we chose the latter as we wanted to get into a routine as quickly as possible. This was also helped as we started Joshua on formula as my breast milk didn't kick in until day 4. As he was on formula, we were feeding him every 4-hours. The good thing about formula is that the baby is fuller for longer, this was very helpful, especially at the beginning as I didn't have enough or any breastmilk to feed Joshua.
Now that we are more than a month in, he is on a regular 4-hour feed schedule and has started to sleep through the night, making our lives much easier. I am so glad we chose to put Joshua on a schedule right from the start, as my husband and I found it so much easier to manage. Even though it has still been exhausting, but at least we get a bit of rest in between. If I were feeding on demand, it would be every 2 -3 hours, which will leave me with no time to do anything else.
Personally, I find it is super important to have a couple of hours of me time after you become a mother for the sake of your sanity. Even though being a mum is the best job in the world, and I have wanted it for so long, it doesn't mean that I want my identity to be just a mum. I still want to be able to write my blog and watch a TV program if I want to wind down. Having the confinement nanny here really help me achieve this. She cooks for me and helps me out with the baby during the day when she is here, which gives me time to rest and relax during the day, so I have more energy to take care of Joshua at night.
Not having to cook has also been a massive time saver. It also gives me peace of mind as everything the confinement nanny cooks is nutritious and without MSG. She will also adjust the menu according to your needs. After my surgery, I was seriously constipated, which is also a side effect of the half body anesthesia. So she was cooking food to help with my digestive system. Once that was sorted, she started to make food for me that will help me produce more breastmilk. It worked really well that Joshua was fulling on breastmilk after the first week she has started. By the second week, she started working, I was able to start freezing my breastmilk. Obviously how much breastmilk you can produce have something to do with your genetics and body as well, but having healthy and nutritious food prepared and cooked for you each day, definitely helped.
Even though hiring a confinement nanny is not cheap, I do think she is worth every penny. Having her here has been super helpful, as new parents, you don't know what to expect. When your child has an eye infection or crying for no reason, and you have no idea how to sooth them, she can guide you through every step of the way. When it is 3 am in the morning, and your child is crying bloody murder, and someone can tell you what to do to stop it - priceless!
I have learnt so much from her, and honestly, I was very sad when she left. If I can afford her long term, I never want her to go. If anyone is looking for a confinement nanny, I will highly recommend mine, but you better plan ahead, as good confinement nanny gets booked up really quickly. I will say once you have hit the 3 months safe mark, book one as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can go through a confinement nanny agencies who can help you find one, so they are also worth a look at as well.
After reading this blog post, would you consider hiring a confinement nanny? What are your thoughts about this Chinese tradition, do you think it is worth?
Sending you love & positive thoughts,