The search for super (confinement) nanny

You’ve booked the gynae, now find the right helper to care for your new baby and yourself after birth. Here’s your guide to hiring one.

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You’ve booked the gynae, now find the right helper to care for your new baby and yourself after birth. Here’s your guide to hiring one.

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Good gynae? Check. Affordable yet luxurious maternity hospital? Check. 

Now comes the next big decision that many Chinese mums in Singapore have to make: Which confinement nanny to choose? 

This grandmotherly helper usually lives with the family during the traditional “confinement” period that ranges between 28 and 44 days. 

Most couples are relieved that there’s someone who can understand and soothe the crying newborn, and attend to countless rounds of diaper duties, especially in the middle of the night. 

The nanny also takes care of the new mum’s diet, so the latter can focus on breastfeeding Baby and recuperate after the delivery. 

Your search for a nanny should begin in the first trimester of pregnancy. Popular ones are always in high demand, so you’ll want to book yours early. Most expectant mums rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends or parenting groups on social media. 

You can also use an agency. The advantage is that you won’t have to handle the paperwork, such as applying for a work permit if the nanny is from Malaysia. The obvious drawback is that you have to trust that it will assign you the “right” nanny. 

If you’re pregnant and wish to engage a nanny to look after you and your soon-to-be- born baby, here’s what you should know. 

The salary

A full-time, live-in nanny can cost from about $2,300 to $2,800 for 28 days. Some parents have reportedly paid up to $5,000 for a very experienced and popular nanny. 

If your husband is willing to help out after work – and wake up at night to tend to the crying baby – you can consider hiring a daytime nanny, who may charge around $1,600 to $3,200. 

As you can see, this is not much of a discount. That is why many couples prefer to go for full-time ones. 

Take note, though, that most nannies do not do housework, and there are various factors that can add to the fee. For instance: 

• Does the nanny have to cook for your family members? Most are willing to prepare your spouse’s meals, but if you have a large family, it’s likely that she would increase her fee. 

• Is she expected to look after your older children? 

• Is your home very big? Do you live in a multi-storey or landed home? 

• Did you give birth to twins or triplets?

• Has she received formal training at a hospital? 

• Is she expected to work over Chinese New Year? During the festive period, be prepared to pay up to $1,000 more. 

The red packet

It’s also a tradition to give the confinement nanny a red packet on the first and last day of the job. If you’re getting your nanny through an agent, ask if this is covered under her fee. 

Just like at wedding dinners, there is a market rate for the red packet. Be prepared to fork out between $30 and $200. Most mothers give a smaller red packet on the first day, and a bigger one on the last. 

The work permit

If the confinement nanny is from Malaysia, you must apply for a work permit, which costs $30. This is either paid directly by you, or by an agency. If you’re using an agency, make sure you confirm if the $30 is included in the fees. 

Besides the work permit, you must also pay a $60 monthly levy to the government if your newborn is a Singapore citizen, and $265 a month if your baby isn’t. 

The insurance

Finally, you must buy medical insurance for the nanny, offering coverage of at least $15,000. This applies whether she is Singaporean or not. 

Some couples will also want the nanny to go for a medical checkup to ensure that she is in good health. You’ll have to bear the cost for this, of course. 

Before she arrives

A full-time confinement nanny will be staying with you, so you’ll need to prepare her room or sleeping area. Be aware that some couples have complained about their nannies blasting the air-con all day and wasting electricity. 

You’ll also want to brief her about all the household tasks she is expected to do. Besides caring for your newborn, these might include the family’s laundry, cooking and cleaning. Make sure you've bought all supplies, such as detergent, before the nanny’s arrival. 

She may also want you to buy certain traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbs or special ingredients for your confinement meals, which are not included in the fee. 

Finally, don’t forget the red packet. You’ll want to set things right on her first day of work.

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If you don’t want to hire a nanny 

So, a confinement nanny sounds like an angel to have at home after childbirth, but what if you’re not willing to fork out hundreds of dollars, or just don’t like the idea of having a stranger in the house? 

Thomson Medical Centre and some caterers can deliver confinement meals to your doorstep. It’s not going to ease your fatigue from breastfeeding and lack of sleep, but at least you won’t have to prepare your own meals. 

But if your husband or mum is happy to cook for you, direct them to the wide variety of confinement recipes on Young Parents’ website (, or follow these from Mount Alvernia Hospital. 


Serves 6


500g threadfin fish bones (also known as ngoh he) 

1 medium green papaya (get the large Hong Kong or Malaysian variety, not the small Hawaiian type) 

2 slices ginger 

10 pieces red dates (optional)


1. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. 

2. Add ginger and fish bones. Boil for half an hour. 

3. Peel papaya skin and remove seeds. Cut papaya into chunks. 

4. Add papaya and red dates to soup and boil for 15 minutes only. Do not over-boil.

5. Drink the soup. There is no need to eat the ingredients. 

TIP Add 500g fish meat to increase protein.


Energy                    202 calories

Carbohydrates       31 g 

Total fat                  3.1g 

Protein                   16 g 

Fibre                       2.8 g 

NOTE The calories, protein, carbohydrates and fibre content will be negligible if the soup ingredients are not consumed.  


Serves 4


1 cup black beans 500g lean pork ribs Salt, to taste 


1. Soak black beans for a few hours. 

2. In a medium pot, bring water to a boil.

3. Add pork ribs and simmer for half an hour. 

4. Add black beans and cook till the beans and meat are soft. 

5. Add salt to taste. Serve. 

TIP You can drink the soup as often as you like, and eat the ingredients. They provide a very good source of proteins, which is good for promoting lactation. 


Energy                    335 calories

Carbohydrates       30g 

Total fat                  6.7g 

Protein                   38g 

Fibre                       7.4g 

NOTE The calories, protein, carbohydrates and fibre content will be negligible if the soup ingredients are not consumed.


Serves 2 to 3


1 block soft tofu 

1 egg

200g minced chicken 

Salt or soya sauce, to taste


1. Mash tofu into fine pieces. 

2. Beat the egg. 

3. Mix tofu, egg and minced chicken together in a microwaveable bowl.

4. Add salt or soya sauce for taste.

5. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Or microwave for 10 minutes. 

6. Serve hot. 

TIP This dish is high in protein and the tofu provides a good source of plant- based omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. 


Energy                    174 calories

Carbohydrates       3.1 g 

Total fat                  9.8g 

Protein                   18.5 g 

Fibre                       0.1 g 

Mount Alvernia Hospital’s Kang Phaik Gaik, head of Alvernia Parentcraft Centre, contributed the recipes and Tan Shiling, dietitian at the Nutrition and Dietetics Services Department, shared the nutrient analysis.