Things to prepare for your confinement nanny

It’s a week before your delivery date and its time to get your act together. Assembled the cradle? Bought the diapers? Trucked the second hand baby wear from your best friend’s house?

Now all that’s left is making sure everything is ready before the confinement nanny arrives. Use this list to help you keep track of the tasks needed and good luck!

Click here for a shorter checklist if you’ve only got five minutes.

Things to prep for the nanny

Work permit

paperwork for confinement nanny
Actually not so daunting la. You’ll probably need about half an hour to settle the confinement nanny’s work permit online.

There is a special work permit issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for confinement nannies from Malaysia. These make up the majority of confinement nannies working in the country.

The permit takes only a few days to approve compared to the usual S-pass which could take months. It is valid for 16 weeks starting from the birth of the child and you can apply for the pass four weeks prior to EDD.

There are three criteria for confinement nannies to be eligible to work in Singapore under the aforementioned permit:

  1. She has to be Malaysian
  2. She has to be between 23 to 70 years old at the time of the application.
  3. She has to work at your residence.

There are also three things to note in terms of cost:

  1. Application cost payable to MOM: SGD 30.
  2. Medical insurance for the nanny: ~SGD 107 (from NTUC Income)
  3. Foreign worker levy payable to MOM: SGD 60 (if the employer is a Singaporean) and SGD 265 (if the employer is a foreigner)

The angpaos

Two angpaos for confinement nanny
Some employers choose to give more auspicious numbers, like $88 at the start of service and $288 at the end. It’s all up to you.

In addition to the agreed fee for her service, employers of the confinement nanny are also expected (by tradition) to provide “red packets” known as angpaos (红包) at the start and end of her service.

I’ve been told that the rates differ quite drastically. Freelancers get less (around SGD38 at the start and SGD 88 at the end) because they do not pay any agency fee.

Nannies that are engaged through agencies get more, presumably because they make alot less. Prepare about SGD 88 before she starts work, and another SGD 88 when her term ends. Feel free to give more at the end if you were satisfied with the experience.

Her bedroom

Think of the confinement nanny as a stay-in guest. As most of them should be pretty senior ladies, you should treat them with the respect they deserve.

(Note: whether the nanny is just a glorified domestic worker and should be treated as such, is another debate altogether. I address the expectations for confinement nannies in another post here). 

Be sure to prepare a bed for them, preferably in a separate room with the infant’s crib in a convenient position. She will wake up frequently at night for diaper changes and to feed the baby. If you’ve decided to feed via direct latching, her room should be close to yours so she can bring the baby to you easily.

Prepare her bedside table with the necessary equipment for the baby’s diaper changes.

Bedside table items for confinement nanny's room
Essential items for the bedside table include: a rubber changing mat, anti-bacterial hand gel, diaper rash cream, talcum powder, yu yi oil (如意油), baby moisturiser, diapers, cotton buds, wet wipes, and cotton balls.

Also remember to place a box of newborn clothes and towels in the room. The box should have the following items: newborn onesies, socks, mittens, washcloths, towels, swaddles.

Don’t bother with arranging the clothes nicely in the drawer as you’re unlikely to reuse any of the clothes once the month is up. Babies grow out of their newborn clothes so quickly! Once the nanny leaves, stash the newborn clothes in the same box and keep it in the store room.

“Her kitchen”

Get in touch with the confinement nanny beforehand to ask about what she plans to cook and purchase the necessary condiments. Black vinegar is usually a staple in such cases.

Essential confinement herbs
Some essential herbs for confinement include (from left, clockwise): Dang Gui (当归), American ginseng, dried longans, red dates, black vinegar and Dang Shen (党参).

Make a mental note of where the nearest supermarkets and Chinese medicine halls shops are. She will need to purchase fresh ingredients and herbs for cooking once she arrives. You’re expected to bear the cost of purchasing these items as it is not included in the nanny’s fee.

She will also need a large pot for cooking your herbal bathwater, another pot for soup, and a wok (or frying pan) for stir fries.

Crockery for confinement nanny
A soup pot (left) and a pot for herbal bathwater (right).

Toilet

If the hospital is going to provide a plastic bathtub for use, great. Otherwise simply purchase one from the nearest baby care shop. Other essential toiletries include baby-grade laundry detergent and baby soap.

Bathroom essentials for confinement nanny
Bathtub, together with an anti-slip rubber mat, baby-grade detergent, and baby soap.

Infant food

If you’re planning to breastfeed

Even if you plan to feed by latching, ensure that you have some milk stored in the freezer in case of an emergency. It is also not uncommon for mothers to express milk in advance for the nanny, who will take care of night feeds while she sleeps.

The essential items for breastfeeding are: the pump + accessories, breastmilk storage bags, feeding bottles + newborn teats, brushes to wash the bottles and baby-grade dishwashing liquid.

Breastfeeding essentials
From left: milk storage bags, bottle cap for expressed milk, container for milk, tongs for retrieving sterilised bottles, an electric pump together with accessories in bag, feeding bottle and accessories.
Dishwashing essentials
Use the large brush to scrub the bottles and the small brush for smaller parts such as teats. Remember to use baby-grade cleanser to wash everything.

If you plan to start on formula

Have a can of newborn formula on hand, preferably the same brand that your baby had in the hospital. Some hospitals also give out free samples of formula from various brands. If you can, get samples made from soy or goat’s milk in case the baby is lactose intolerant.

As with breastfeeding, ensure that you have clean, sterilised bottles and teats ready for use, together with baby-grade dishwashing liquid and brushes for washing the bottles.

Soy infant formula
I’ve only had to use soy formula once when my baby fell ill with stomach flu (germs from childcare, another post another time). Infants can become temporarily lactose intolerant after a major stomach upset so keep some soy milk around just in case.

Can mutton trigger epilepsy? | Confinement myths

a sheep
"If you eat mutton when you are pregnant, your baby will have epilepsy. You don't believe later you regret..."
Naggy Chinese auntie
Every Traditional Chinese Auntie

Dealing with superstitious beliefs is an integral part of the Asian pregnancy experience. Some of it is rooted in traditional medical reasoning; some are nonsense. The trick is knowing which is what. Today we’ll deal with one of my favourite pregnancy pantang – mutton and epilepsy.

Origins of the superstition

Epilepsy victims emit a sheep-like cry when they have seizures. Hence the Chinese term for epilepsy – Yang Dian Feng (羊癫疯), which translates to “sheep’s bleat disease”. 

But no Chinese physician ever said that mutton causes epilepsy

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for more than 2,500 years. There is no evidence that Chinese physicians have ever told a pregnant woman to avoid mutton because she might induce epilepsy in her child.[1] 

Believing that mutton causes epilepsy because of how the disorder is named makes no sense at all. It’s as nonsensical as bathing your baby in onions to increase his IQ.

Why? Because the Chinese word for clever is pronounced “Cong Ming” (聪明), which bears vague similarity to the Chinese word for onion (pronounced Cong in Chinese, or 葱).

FUN FACT: Modern perceptions of epilepsy in Hong Kong [2]

  • 17.5% believe that children have a higher chance of contracting epilepsy if their mothers ate mutton while pregnant.
  • 2% think that epilepsy is caused by evil spirits
  • 26.9% think that epilepsy is caused by prolonged computer use. 

“Pathogenic wind” causes epilepsy

Epilepsy is known as Xian Zheng (痫症), a disorder described as a “sudden loss of consciousness, upward staring eyes, drool foaming at the mouth, tonic convulsion, bawl and squall”.[3]

Epilepsy in infants is caused by “pathogenic wind”. One case study [4] describes the cause of epilepsy as such:

“A cold wind invaded the mother’s uterus, and hurt the foetus’s internal organs . When the baby was born, the pathogenic wind remained in the newborn’s abdomen and interfered with the baby’s vital qi. This caused the baby to have a seizure – stretching its body, breathing hard and crying out.”

– Sun Si Miao (AD 619-907)

Lots of other things can cause “pathogenic wind” – enough to warrant a separate post to explain the concept alone. But it is sufficient to know that mutton is not a cause for “pathogenic wind”.

In fact, one classic Chinese recipe for postpartum abdominal pain includes mutton, and helps to get rid of wind. It also cures menstrual cramps and dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Scroll to the bottom for the recipe.

The ancient Islamic view of epilepsy

Chinese physicians never believed that mutton was a cause for epilepsy. But physicians in other cultures did. 

According to Islamic scholar Ibn Qutayba (AD 828-889), fits are usually caused by the waxing and waning of the moon. However, consuming mutton could trigger fits outside the “usual time for a fit”. 

Read the full quote below:

“Mutton is very harmful to those that suffer from fits on account of bile, to the extent that it may cause a fit outside the (usual) time for a fit. The times for fits are the New Moon and the middle of the month. These two periods are the times that the sea rises and water and blood increase. The waxing of the moon, until it becomes full, has its effect on the increase of blood and brain and all (other) humidities.”[5]

Ibn Qutayba

A century later another Islamic scholar Avicenna (AD 980 – 1037) described epilepsy as a neurological disorder. Patients prone to seizures should therefore avoid triggers such as alcohol, indigestion, sleep deprivation and oversleeping. Under the “indigestion” category, foods to be avoided were those that were difficult to digest and those that were easily perishable. These included mutton, beef, fish, milk, onion, garlic, celery, radish, turnip, cauliflower, carrot, broad beans and lentils.[6]

Avicenna listed seven herbal therapies to delay and suppress seizures in epileptic patients. Among the more interesting ones are: truffles, wild boar meat and blood-letting.

FUN FACT: Modern perceptions of epilepsy in the Middle East [7]

Tehran, Iran

    • 39.1% believe that food had no effect on epilepsy.
    • 33.8% believe that vegetables, fruits and dairy products aggravated epilepsy.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

    • 40.3% of teachers and 50.4% of undergraduates polled believe that possession by Jinns (ie. mischievous spirits) is the cause of epilepsy.

    • 67.5% of teachers and 81.6% of undergraduates polled believe that reading from the holy Qur’an by faith healers is a form of treatment.

Your main takeaway?

Lots of things can cause epilepsy, including the moon and different types of food. Mutton is the least of your worries. Here’s your recipe for Dang Gui, Ginger and Mutton soup. 

Dang Gui, Ginger, and Mutton Soup

Ingredients

20g Chinese angelica root (当归)
500g fresh lamb ribs
100g old ginger
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 litre water

Directions

Place the lamb ribs in a sieve for about half an hour to drain the excess blood. This will reduce the gaminess of the meat.

Wash the ribs then blanch them with boiling water.

Scrub the ginger to remove all the dirt. Leave the skin on and cut it into thick slices. Wash the dang gui.  

Place the lamb, ginger and dang gui into a large pot. Fill up with about 1 litre of water and bring everything to a boil. 

Simmer on medium heat for an hour or more until the meat is tender and the soup is flavourful enough. 

Add salt and wine to taste. 

Serves 2.[8]

References:

[1] Epilepsy was first documented in the ancient Chinese medical text, The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di Nei Jing, or 黄帝内经). It was compiled sometime between the late Warring States period (BC 475-221) and the Han dynasty (BC 206 – AD 220). The book said nothing about mutton causing epilepsy.

[2] Fong CG, Hung A (2002), Public Awareness, Attitude, and Understanding of Epilepsy in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China in Epilepsia (vol. 43 no. 3, 2002), pp 311–316.

[3] Quoted directly from a textbook for Chinese physicians in Singapore. Also see Cai, L (2017), Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine for Epilepsy Treatment Should Be Administered According to the Seizure Type and Epileptic Syndrome, in Health (Vol. 9), pp 1211-1222.

[4] From Essential Formulas for Emergencies Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold (Bei Ji Qian Jing Yao Fang, or 備急千金要方) written by Sun Si Miao (孙思邈) during the Tang dynasty (AD 619-907).

[5] Stol, Marten (1993), Epilepsy in Babylonia, pp 124.

[6] Asadi-Pooya AA, Nikseresht AR, Yaghoubi E (2012), Old Remedies for Epilepsy: Avicenna’s Medicine, in Iran Red Crescent Med Journal (Vol. 14, No. 3, March 2012) pp 174–177.

[7] Mohammadi M, Meysamie A, Jahanian A (2010), How Do Parents Think about the Effect of Food and Alternative Medicine on their Epileptic Children? Iranian Journal of Pediatrics (Vol. 20, No. 2, June 2010), pp 193–198.

Obeid T, Abulaban A, Al-Ghatani F, Al-Malki AR, Al-Ghamdi A (2012), Possession by ‘Jinn’ as a cause of epilepsy (Saraa): A study from Saudi Arabia in Seizure (Vol. 21, Issue 4, May 2012), pp 245-249.

[8] Adapted from: Natural Remedies Center. 

Things to prepare for your confinement nanny (checklist)

Work permit

Angpaos

  • $100 to commence work
  • $100 to $300 at the end of service

Bedroom

  • Nanny’s bed: one mattress, pillow, two sets of bedsheets and pillow cases (one for use and one spare).
  • Baby crib: one mattress, two sets of bedsheets (one for use and one spare), rubber mat for diaper changes.
  • Bedside table: diapers, anti-bacterial hand gel, diaper rash cream, yu yi oil (如意油), baby moisturiser, wet wipes, cotton balls, talcum powder.
  • Baby clothes and towels: newborn onesies, socks, mittens, washcloths, towels, swaddles

Kitchen

  • Condiments
  • Fresh ingredients (to purchase upon arrival)
  • Chinese herbs (to purchase upon arrival, or order in advance from any major Chinese medical hall)
  • Pot for herbal bathwater
  • Wok or frying pan for stir fries
  • Pot for soup

Toilet

  • Baby bathtub
  • Baby soap
  • Baby-grade laundry detergent

Infant food

  • Pump + accessories + collection bottles
  • Plastic storage bags
  • Feeding bottle + teats
  • Baby-grade dishwashing detergent
  • Brushes for washing bottles
  • Can of infant formula on standby + whatever samples you can get from the hospital

Recover from your pregnancy with postnatal Jamu massage | Confinement Diaries

Sue Henshaw, a masseuse specialising in jamu massage
Behold, a 10-day massage experience awaits.

This is Auntie Sue. Auntie Sue learnt the art of Jamu massage from her Javanese grandmother. She also finished a postnatal massage course at the Mustika Ratu Beauty School in Indonesia.

Auntie Sue will push your uterus back to its original spot. With luck, a proper diet and some exercise, your tummy might shrink back to pre-baby size. 

You can start the massage as early as four days after delivery. But those who gave birth via c-section should wait three weeks before beginning their massage.

Disclaimer: about this post

 

This post is about Auntie Sue’s Jamu massage course and my very positive experience. I liked it so much that I booked her again, after I delivered my second baby about 2 years after I first blogged about this. 

Each course lasted 10 days and each session lasted 90 minutes. This post is not sponsored, and I did not get anything free from her. 

Note: Auntie Sue no longer does massages in the West side of Singapore. Drop me a message on the Contact page if you’d like her contact details. 

What is Jamu?

Jamu in Singapore is synonymous with traditional Malay postnatal massage. But it actually refers to traditional herbal medicine from Java, Indonesia.

Jamu drinks are general cure-all herbal drinks much like Chinese liang teh. Jamu Kunir Asam, for example, is a tamarind and turmeric drink to combat heatiness. Jamu capsules can also be prescribed by herbal physicians to treat more serious ailments.

Jamu Lady, Bintan
A lady sells Jamu drinks outside a shop in Tanjung Pinang, Bintan.

What's in the massage?

A basic Jamu massage has three parts:

  1. A full body oil massage to expel remaining lymphatic fluids and lochia.
  2. Two herbal pastes applied on the lower abdomen and forehead: tapel releases “wind” from the stomach and pilis releases tension on the forehead.
  3. A corset (bengkung) to bind your abdomen.

There are many massage centres in Singapore offering Jamu massage today.

However, what’s interesting about Auntie Sue is that she brings a fold-up bed to your house and comes over everyday with the herbs. She even brings a fresh bengkung so you don’t have to wash it after use.

Having your favourite Spotify playlist in the background and an essential oil diffuser helps to set the mood.

Sue recommends leaving the girdle on for six hours continuously. Which means you’ll need to feed the baby, have two meals and do your toilet runs throughout the day with your stomach tied up in the sweaty contraption.

The results

Was the pain worth it? Hell yeah. The results of the massage were visible after just a few days.

If I had to draw an equivalent, Jamu massage would be getting like a deep tissue massage the day after a major endurance race. But without the insults – the masseuse won’t call you a wuss if you yelp in pain.