the twins · thoughts

5 things to note when hiring a confinement nanny

When we found out that we were expecting twins, one of the first things I did was to source for and book a confinement nanny. I will use the term ‘nanny’ for the purpose of this entry. Good nannies are booked up way in advance and to find one that can manage twins is twice as difficult.

With Elliott, we did not have a nanny. We were staying with my parents and my mum was helping me with the confinement food, etc. However, even though she offered, I did all the night feeds on my own as I did not want to tire her out. It was brutal, to say the least. And I was constantly exhausted. This is also the reason why I knew that we had to have a nanny for the twins for sanity’s sake.

I remember that I started my search for one the moment we cleared the first trimester and I must have spoken to no less than 6-7 nannies. They were either booked for the period that I needed their service, or were unwilling to care for twins. For the record, I chose not to engage a nanny through a confinement nanny centre even though they exist because there were a ton of negative reviews.

Finally, I found my nanny through a friend of a friend. Let’s call her Aunty P.

As with most (if not all) nannies, Aunty P is from Malaysia. She sounded affable and pretty normal over the phone. After a quick discussion with the boy, I bit the bullet and transferred a deposit of S$300 to secure our date.

Aunty P did share that she has never cared for twins before but because time was running out, I wasn’t left with much choice. I knew that we’d be pretty hands-on in the caring of the babies so I didn’t think it would be much of a problem.

We ended up having Aunty P for 56 days (28 days x 2). Having experienced the services of a nanny, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts:

1. Book your nanny early. As early as possible!

This is a no-brainer. I know of ladies who booked a nanny the moment their pregnancy test strips turn positive. Somehow, getting a good nanny is not easy and the good ones get booked up way in advance. And if you are expecting twins/multiples, the search becomes doubly difficult because not all nannies are keen to care for them.

2. Be prepared to pay, especially for multiples 

Aunty P was considered “cheap” as it was her first time caring for twins. She charged us S$3XXX as compared to “experienced” nannies. A friend recommended her nanny who cared for her twins and it was going to cost us S$4XXX! And this price is for 28 days. If you wish to extend their stay, just multiply accordingly. That is A LOT of money.

Also, you have to remember that other than this ‘service’ cost, you have to remember that your household will have 1 more person. Your food and utilities bill (aircon, water, electricity) will go up when the nanny is staying with you.

It is also customary to give the nanny an ang pow when she arrives and when she leaves. There is no ‘set amount’ to give but I remember reading that some nannies expect a minimum amount of S$50 per ang pow!

3. Stranger in the home

Having a nanny means that you will have a virtual stranger live in your home for a period of time. This stranger will come into contact with your babies and will also see you at your rawest state.

I sit in the living room to pump milk which meant that I was in a state of undress in front of Aunty P (and our helper) most of the time. With Elliott, I was more conscious of covering up when I nursed or pumped but when you have twins and you’re exhausted pretty much all the time, modesty goes out of the window.

4. Different habits and standards

Even though Aunty P is Chinese and from Malaysia, we had pretty different habits and standards.

Example 1 – Our household rarely snacks. At least I don’t. We eat 3 square meals a day and we are done with it. However, Aunty P eats small meals throughout the day which meant that on usual days, she would have eaten at least 3 times before noon. She would also snack (a few times) between lunch and dinner.

This meant that the food supply in our home depleted really quickly which honestly, was a bit of a shock to my system. The boy would buy bread from the bakery (5-6 pieces each time) and in less than 3 days, our bread basket would be empty again. Wow.

Example 2 – Because we told Aunty P to ‘treat our home as her own’ and to ‘help herself’ if she needed anything (e.g. food), she took it literally. We buy kiwis for Elliott but before we could get to them, she would have eaten 2. Food was disappearing from my fridge faster than I expected because she’d help herself to them without asking. That is because she took our word literally to ‘help herself’ even though we said it out of politeness and thought that she would ask before taking (nope).

Example 3 – I happened to walk into the kitchen one afternoon and saw that Aunty P was slicing raw pork to prepare for dinner. After she was done, she rinsed the knife with running water and placed it back on the knife rack. To say that I was horrified is an understatement. I quickly told her that we must always wash used utensils with detergent. To prevent such incidents throughout her stay, I told her to leave all the washing up to our helper who have been briefed thoroughly on her first day that hygiene and cleanliness is of utmost importance in our household.

On hindsight, to prevent misunderstandings and unhappiness, I should have listed down all my expectations at the start. Aunty P shared that some households expected  her to sanitise her hand after washing while some others expected her to take a shower every single time she held the babies (which can be up to 6 times a day). So yep, good to make your expectations clear from Day 1.

5. Got helper or not?

One of the first questions Aunty P asked was whether we have a domestic helper. From my understanding after many chats with nannies, they need a helper if they are going to be taking care of twins. This is because the nanny can concentrate on caring for the twins and leave all the washing-up to the helper.

Usually, a nanny will do the cooking, washing (because new mothers cannot come into contact with water), etc. However, caring for the twins (feeding, burping, changing, cleaning) is literally a full time job. At any one point, someone will need to get his soiled diaper changed, or a milk feed.

I can also assure you that with twins, there is A LOT of washing to do – clothes, swaddles, milk bottles…multiplied by 2. I’m not even talking about hand washing the clothes. Even if you use the washing machine, there is still loads to wash!

This is not counting washing up after cooking and general household chores like mopping the floor, changing bedsheets, etc. Even with our helper, Aunty P rarely gets time to rest and can only get small snatches of sleep in the day when the twins nap.

All said and done, Aunty P did a good job of caring for the twins. She genuinely cared for them and showed concern if they were uncomfortable. She always ensured that they had clean and dry diapers – she was religious about changing wet/soiled diapers, as well as applying anti-rash cream at each change.

She was also systematic when she gave them their baths, ensuring that they wouldn’t catch a cold and that they are clean and fresh before noon each day.

Speaking of systematic, because she is old school, she religiously recorded all the milk intake and timings in an exercise book. She also took note of how often they pee and pooped. This simple but effective way of record-keeping was very helpful as this meant that we did not have to rely on pure memory power (which is sorely lacking in my head these days).

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What I really appreciated was how she was encouraging and listened to how we wanted things to be done, instead of insisting that things be on her terms or taking the ‘easy way out’. She did not insist that we feed the twins with formula milk at night ‘so that they will sleep longer’ or make careless remarks about breastfeeding.

At the start, before breastfeeding was properly established, she painstakingly used a syringe to feed the twins, as per our request. This takes up a lot of time but she did it because we said so.

In the beginning, as this was her first time with twins, she would wake me for the night feeds if both twins cried at the same time. As time went by, she became more confident and on most nights, she managed the twins on her own and that allowed me to sleep undisturbed for a couple of hours (i.e. 4-5 hours) – at least until I had to wake to pump milk. That, to me, was the most important thing about having a nanny. Because when I do not get enough sleep, I go quite mad and cannot function.

In case you’re wondering, we made sure that our helper had her full 8 hours of undisturbed sleep so that she is able to handle the chores, as well as to help with the babies in the day when required.

Since we spent so much time together in the house, we would chat and Aunty P  would share ‘best practices’. I learnt quite a bit about baby-caring from her even though I wasn’t a first-time mum. For example, I learnt that when a baby’s forehead is cold to the touch, this meant that he is having tummy problems. I also learnt to place a piece of tissue over a very soiled diaper before cleaning their dirty bum bums so that our hands don’t get dirty accidentally.

She was also patient with the babies (and me). Throughout her stint with us, I never saw her lose her temper at the babies. Can’t say the same about myself!

Aunty P was with us for 56 days (28 days x 2) and we are immensely grateful for her help. She will be leaving on Wednesday – 9 August (National Day!) so please wish us A LOT OF LUCK! 🍀

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