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Confinement Lady FAQ

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Many Malaysian-Chinese women hire a pui yuet(literally "companion for the month" in Cantonese) to help out in the postnatal period immediately after birth. Also known as a confinement nanny or confinement lady, a pui yuet is usually an older woman experienced in caring for the special needs of a new mum and newborn baby according to the traditional confinement practices of the Chinese. Usually, a pui yuet is an acknowledged expert in Chinese postnatal practices.


Although some women find confinement nannies or confinement ladies to be old-fashioned in their approach to the do's and dont's of the postnatal period, they can be particularly helpful to a first-time mum who may not be familiar with various aspects of caring for a newborn baby.


How and where do I find a pui yuet?

Word of mouth is your best bet. Ask a friend, colleague or family member who has employed a pui yuet if she would use her again. Also check if the pui yuet was attentive to the baby, if she could cook well and followed instructions. This kind of recommendation ensures you are getting someone with reasonable manner and habits.

Once you're satisfied with the candidate, and she confirms that she will be available around your due date, pay the deposit and keep her contact details handy. You, your husband or a family member can contact her once you've given birth to check when she will be able to begin her stint with you. If you give birth earlier than anticipated, she may have yet to complete her stint with the client before you.

You could also try going through a confinement nanny or confinement lady agency. There are several based in the Klang Valley and other big urban centres. They retain a roster of trained and experienced confinement ladies who will be assigned to you based on their availability during your postnatal period. The advantage of using an agency is that you are assured of getting a pui yuet when you need her; the disadvantage is that she is an unknown quantity, and may not live up to her billing!

If, for various reasons, you find it impossible to observe your confinement period in your own home, you can still enjoy the services of a confinement lady at a confinement centre.


What will the confinement lady or confinement nanny do?

Traditionally, the pui yuet's duties include:


  • Bathing baby daily.
  • Feeding baby (once breastfeeding is well-established, you can express breastmilk so that she can take over one or more night feeds).
  • Generally caring for the baby so that the new mother can rest.
  • Cooking special confinement dishes such as traditional chicken soup which are considered extra-nutritious. In smaller households (especially if it is just you and your husband), it is not unreasonable to ask the pui yuet to cook all the regular meals.
  • Washing the baby and the new mother's clothes (or you can just toss everything into the machine).

Few confinement ladies or confinement nannies these days are expected to do other household chores, though they should always clean up the kitchen and dishes after meals. The older and more traditional ladies will be used to doing some light housework.


How much will I have to pay the confinement lady?

Payment usually consists of three parts:


  • The deposit (usually a fifth or a quarter of her full fee) as you need to "book" her while you are still pregnant. The more experienced and in-demand the confinement nanny, the earlier you have to book her (many women do so in their first trimester).
  • The fee which you will pay once the confinement period is up. It can vary depending on your area. Fees are probably highest in the Klang Valley and during the Lunar New Year.
  • The ang pau (also called lai tse) is supposed to be a token sum given at the end of the month as a gesture of appreciation. Some may leave the amount up to your discretion; others state upfront how much they expect.
What if I just want my confinement lady to take care of my baby?

Some women retain your pui yuet's services for some months after the confinement period. If you feel you may want to do this, you will have to let her know when you book her so that she will not accept other bookings for that time.

You will likely still have to pay her usual rate even if you don't need her to look after you or do anything else.


Will my confinement lady also help take care of my older children?

If you keep in mind the general theme, that the pui yuet is there to help you rest and recover, then it is reasonable that she should keep an eye out or keep older children occupied while you have a nap or simply spend time with your newborn.


How can I live with this stranger for a whole month?

There are various things you can do to help both you and her adjust to your expanded household. Some ideas:

  • Many confinement nannies do not speak or are not literate in English. If you don't regularly buy Chinese newspapers, subscribe to one for the month so she won't feel so isolated.
  • If you don't feel like going out, ask a few close friends to come and see the baby so youwon't feel so isolated.
  • As long as baby is safe, warm and fed, it won't hurt to let her do a few things her way.
What if I find the confinement practices too restrictive?

If you do not wish to observe the traditional restrictions of the confinement period, then you don't have to. Even if your confinement nanny nags you, it is your choice whether to wash your hair, drink cold milk, go out and see your friends, have cold showers or indeed, run naked in your garden at midnight under the full moon! Remember she is there to help you through this stressful time. You are paying her and this makes you the boss!

If you are not sure about some of the safety of some of the confinement practices, then check with your doctor.

The postnatal period can be stressful, particularly if you have had a caesarean section or anepisiotomy, so concentrate on keeping yourself happy and comfortable. Her happiness is secondary.

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