Confinement nanny trade turns professional to tackle diminishing job appeal

Through training and certification, 35-year-old Pearlyn Cheok has risen through the ranks to become an assistant trainer and now assists in teaching other potential confinement nannies. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

Through training and certification, 35-year-old Pearlyn Cheok has risen through the ranks to become an assistant trainer and now assists in teaching other potential confinement nannies. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: Thirty-five-year-old Ms Pearlyn Cheok is childless, but her love for children has brought her into contact with more than 14 babies over the past two years. Since then, she has spent more time with new families in Singapore than at home in Kulai, Johor with her husband.

Hers is one of more than 4,000 Malaysian work permit applications which the Singapore authorities receive each year for employment as a confinement lady – a woman hired to provide care and guidance for a new mother and her newborn.

They are usually hired as live-in help for 28 days, and are paid between S$2,500 and S$4,000 for their work. They are also given a red packet at the start and end of their stint for well wishes.

“So far, this work feels the most right to me. It’s hard work but also ‘heart’ work, meaning it requires a lot of love and care,” she said.

Ms Cheok is not your typical confinement lady, who is usually a woman in her 40s and 50s. She joined the vocation after stints as a consultant, clerk, salesperson and promoter in her early adult life.

Confinement ladies and agencies Channel NewsAsia spoke with say the workforce is ageing, and there is diminishing desire from young women like Ms Cheok to work as a confinement lady, especially Singaporeans.

Madam Peh Ah Moy, 59, a retired confinement lady, said that women generally do not want to leave their families and move in with another to work almost 24 hours a day. This is more so if they have little ones.

The work is even less inviting for a young woman because experience is highly valued in this occupation.

“There is demand for women like us, but it is hard to find because there are no standards to go by. You know how good a confinement nanny is through recommendations and testimonials, rather than going by a resume,” she said.

Compared to 16 years ago when she first started, Mdm Peh said the salary has grown from about S$1,700 to more than S$3,000 now. 

Most confinement nannies who work in Singapore are from Malaysia. While there are Singaporean nannies, they are far and few in between. Madam Dorothy Tan, 41, left her job 10 years ago to join the profession and said that Singaporean nannies like her are rare and in demand. They are usually booked up months before the baby’s arrival.

“There are [Singaporeans], I know of a few but they take overseas assignments. You hardly find them. They’re all taken up at a very early stage [of the pregnancy],” said Mdm Tan.


While there have been courses and programmes made available by various organisations, there are no set standards agreed across the industry. However, some agencies have introduced various training programmes to create a baseline for their work.

For Ms Cheok, she wanted to become a confinement nanny after knowing that she could go for training and obtain certification.

“It’s better to have skills and know-how in one thing, because then you can use that to ensure better employment,” she said.

She joined a training programme jointly awarded by Thomson Medical Hospital’s Thomson Parentcraft and confinement nanny agency, Confinement Angels. As part of the programme, Ms Cheok had to undergo five days of coursework and a week of practical training which included baby care, hygiene standards, confinement meal planning, an understanding of traditional Chinese medicine and breastfeeding.

The training programme is one of the few available for women keen on learning about confinement work or receiving an audit on their existing skills.

The other, organised by the Women’s Initiative for Ageing Successfully (WINGS), targets women above 40 years old who are seeking nanny skills to assist their children who are expecting a new child, or to work as confinement nannies to supplement their family’s income.

WINGS told Channel NewsAsia that more than 400 Singaporean women and permanent residents have gone through the training programme, which involves trainers from Thomson Medical Hospital and KK Hospital, since its launch in 2009.

“We have seen a gradual increase over the years with the programme gaining more popularity,” said Ms May Tan, programme organiser at WINGS.

Mr Gilbert Tan from Confinement Angels said he has seen demand for confinement nannies go up, especially with shrinking family size in Singapore.

“Most families only have one or two children and they want to give their baby the best. Some mothers may not know how to care for infants so we see more and more asking for such services,” said Mr Tan.

The training programme also allowed Ms Cheok to better understand the needs of a Singaporean family, which is starkly different from what she is used to in Malaysia.

“If I had carried out the confinement nanny work in Singapore like I did in Malaysia, it wouldn’t work out. I’ll definitely fail,” she said.

“In Malaysia, more attention is being paid to confinement foods rather than the mother and baby. This is because families and extended families tend to live close to each other and can help out,” she said.

“In Singapore, caring for the baby is our topmost priority. Like feeding the baby during day feeds and night feeds, changing their diapers, and supporting the mother when they have problems breastfeeding,” she added.


Ms Rachel Ang, 39, was promoted to be a trainer after working as a confinement nanny for almost two years.

She was picked based on her personality, experience and customer feedback to attend a one-week training session with a Thomson Parentcraft Educator.

“Apart from the regular confinement nanny training, I also learnt how to manage a class and how to use positive reinforcement to encourage these women,” said Ms Ang.

“For some of them, this is the first time they are leaving home. So it’s important to manage this as well,” she added.

The confinement nannies are also trained to take a more formal caregiving role, which includes responsibilities like jotting down information that may be useful for the parents and paediatricians.

Some agencies have given nannies a health booklet to record the feeding times, bowel movements, nappy changes and body temperature of the babies. The booklet also acts as a guide for parents after the nanny leaves the household.

One parent Ms Rachel Scully, who had a nanny from PEM Confinement Nanny, said that this proved to be important right from the very beginning.

"On the day I came home from the hospital, my baby had not pooped or peed at all and I had actually forgotten because I hardly slept in the hospital," she said. 

"So (it was) lucky when the nanny came, she checked it out. She said: 'I've been in your home for a few hours and there have been no diaper changes.' It just dawned on me and my husband. Then she said that it could be a sign of dehydration," Ms Scully added. 

The nanny suggested to try giving her baby formula milk just for one night, which solved the problem.


Largely engaged by Chinese families, agencies and confinement nannies have started to see non-Chinese families engage them for their services. 

Freelancer Nancy Tan has done confinement work for a German family, Chinese families in Perth, Australia and Indonesian-Muslim families.

She said she was recommended by an Indonesian family after she did confinement work for them and grew her clientele from there. 

Another freelance confinement nanny, Madam Phua, 53, said clients abroad usually pay more. For example, performing confinement work for an Australian household can net her an extra S$500. 

The demand for postpartum nannies and professionalisation of the trade is not restricted to Singapore. In China, confinement nannies are regulated and state-certified. Some nannies are paid even better than mid-level executives, with some clients willing to pay up to S$36,000 a month, according to a New York Times report in 2015. 

Read more at By Fann Sim

Six Principles of Sun Tzu & the Art of Business

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Six Principles of Sun Tzu & the Art of Business

1) Capture your market without destroying it

“Generally in war, the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this….For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”  Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu calls this the need to “win-all-without-fighting”. Since the goal of your business is to survive and prosper, you must capture your market. However, you must do so in such a way that your market is not destroyed in the process. A company can do this in several ways, such as attacking parts of the market that are under-served or by using subtle, indirect, and low-key approach that will not draw a competitor’s attention or response. What should be avoided at all costs is a price-war. Research has shown that price attacks draw the quickest and most aggressive responses from competitors, as well as leaving the market drained of profits.

2) Avoid your competitor’s strength, and attack their weakness

“An army may be likened to water, for just as flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the lowlands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.”  Sun Tzu     

The Western approach to warfare has spilled over into business competition, leading many companies to launch head-on, direct attacks against their competitor’s strongest point. This approach to business strategy leads to battles of attrition, which end up being very costly for everyone involved. Instead, you should focus on the competition’s weakness, which maximizes your gains while minimizing the use of resources. This, by definition, increases profits.

3) Use foreknowledge & deception to maximize the power of business intelligence. 

“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril” Sun Tzu  

To find and exploit your competitor’s weakness requires a deep understanding of their executives’ strategy, capabilities, thoughts and desires, as well as similar depth of knowledge of your own strengths and weaknesses. It is also important to understand the overall competitive and industry trends occurring around you in order to have a feel for the “terrain” on which you will do battle. Conversely, to keep your competitor from utilizing this strategy against you, it is critical to mask your plans and keep them secret.

4) Use speed and preparation to swiftly overcome the competition.

“To rely on rustics and not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.” Sun Tzu                   

To fully exploit foreknowledge and deception, Sun Tzu states that you must be able to act with blinding speed. To move with speed does not mean that you do things hastily. In reality, speed requires much preparation. Reducing the time it takes your company to make decisions, develop products and service customers is critical. To think through and understand potential competitive reactions to your attacks is essential as well.

5) Use alliances and strategic control points in the industry to “shape” your opponents and make them conform to your will.

“Therefore, those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him.” Sun Tzu

“Shaping you competition” means changing the rules of contest and making the competition conform to your desires and your actions. It means taking control of the situation away from your competitor and putting it in your own hands. One way of doing so is through the skillful use of alliances. By building a strong web of alliances, the moves of your competitors can be limited. Also, by controlling key strategic points in your industry, you will be able to call the tune to which your competitors dance.

6) Develop your character as a leader to maximize the potential of your employees.

“When one treats people with benevolence, justice and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.” Sun Tzu

It takes a special kind of leader to implement these strategic concepts and maximize the tremendous potential of employees. Sun Tzu describes the many traits of the preferred type of leader. The leader should be wise, sincere, humane, courageous, and strict. Leaders must also always be “first in the toils and fatigues of the army”, putting their needs behind those of their troops. It is leaders with character that get the most out of their employees.

These principles have been utilized throughout time in both the military arena and the business world to build creative strategies and achieve lasting success. If you use them properly, they will bring you success as well.


Top Shopping Trends Of 2018: Retail Experts Share What To Watch For Next Year


If 2017 was the year of the retail apocalypse, then 2018 could be the year of a retail renaissance. The signs are promising. Retailers have come through a time of trial, and many of the ones that have survived have made the necessary adjustments to align with evolving consumer needs and desires. While there will continue to be more retail closures in 2018, it’s unlikely we will see anything near the fallout that 2017 brought.

Going into 2018, consumers are showing signs of renewed interest, with growing consumer confidence, and if the tax cut lives up to its promise, people will see more money in their paychecks in early 2018.

Looking ahead, the retail contributor team offers these predictions for the greatest challenges and opportunities in the retail space next year.

The Big Trend: Tech Transformation

Tech is the talk around our virtual water cooler. Technology transformation holds great promise for retailers, but its implementation is not easy or its success guaranteed. The opportunities our team sees will largely come to retailers that tap the power of technology in small changes rather than radical implementation.

  • Shifting Landscape: "Retail success in 2018 will be about how well retailers adapt to the changing market around them and the evolution of their customers’ needs. To stay relevant in the future, evolving well will be the key to success." – Rupa Ganatra, founding partner, Millennial 20/20
  • Find Opportunities in AI: "Chatbots, facial recognition technology, image recognition, robotics and more will offer opportunities this year. Retailers have a significant amount of data to power AI and deliver personalized, customized and localized experiences to surprise and delight customers. More data beats better algorithms every time, and retailers continue to generate significant amounts of data both online and offline. Retailers should focus on small wins as opposed to big elephants. Artificial intelligence in retail can be applied in many new ways across the entire product and service cycle, from manufacturing to post-sale customer service interactions. This coming year, we expect to see AI deliver both top-line and bottom-line for retailers across the value-chain." – Deborah Weinswig, managing director, Fung Global Retail & Technology
  • Digital Integration: "2017 was the year of digital discovery; 2018 will be the year of technology and more integration of it into mainstream retail. It will be the year where we see retailers create new operating models that are less focused on their store vs. the web and more focused on creating experiences that give customers more control and convenient ways to shop. I think it will be an exciting year where customers will find newness and creativity. The acceptance of omnichannel trade and digital-savvy merchandising is a requirement for success. However, it is not only acceptance of new ideas, but also the need to review old systems and procedures. Store operations and mindsets must change." – Walter Loeb, president, Loeb Associates Inc.
  • What’s App? "Many large retailers have only just begun to see the benefits of data and artificial intelligence as they deliver out within different areas of marketing, audience segmentation, delivery routes and customer care, and we will see more adopt it in the year ahead. One of the biggest lessons of 2017 is for retailers to be where their customers want them to be, engage with them where their customers want them to engage them and make the customer experience seamless across all touchpoints and channels. With large European retailers, such as Yoox Net-a-Porter, testing What’s App as a customer service and order confirmation tool in 2017, I predict we will see wider use of this messaging channel for talking to customers and streamlining communications with retail customers at different touchpoints of their journey." – Rupa Ganatra, founding partner, Millennial 20/20
  • Word of Caution: "There has been a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) to support a personalized customer experience. Problem is, they can quickly move from the personal to creepy. Consumers will reject them. However, there are tremendous opportunities that retailers can gain from using them for more basic retail purposes, such as using the IoT to improve inventory visibility and get products into customers’ hands more efficiently and quickly, and using machine learning and AI to improve their forecasting and get the right product to the right place at the right time. At the end of the day, successful retailing is about basic blocking and tackling, and these technologies will move beyond the hype into helping retailers accomplish that blocking and tackling with a 21st-century twist." – Paula Rosenblum, co-founder and managing partner, RSR Research

What to Watch: Retail Is a People Business

In 2018, retailers will realign their businesses with the needs and desires of customers, who are driven today not by a passion to acquire more things but by a deep desire for more experiences. Retailers will work to give them those experiences.

  • Steering the Ship: "In the past, it was the retailer who determined what a customer should want to buy and how they should shop. Today, it’s the customer who is defining the shopping experience." – Walter Loeb, president, Loeb Associates Inc.
  • Give 'Em New Reasons to Shop: "As consumers are spending a larger percentage of their disposable income online, retailers with physical storefronts will need to flip the incentives to entice shoppers back into the store. In the early days of the internet, retailers incentivized shoppers to spend money online by offering lower prices at their websites. Fast-forward a few years, and consumers now expect lower prices online and have all but abandoned shopping at larger physical storefronts for that reason. Savvy retailers are already starting to offer gifts with purchase and in-store discounts to try to break the new online-only consumer spending pattern. To justify the expense of their brick-and-mortar stores, retailers need to start giving time-starved consumers a reason to travel and shop in-person." – Marcia Layton Turner, founder and executive director, the Association of Ghostwriters
  • Small Is the Next Big Story at Retail:"Shoppers will return to Main Street in 2018. This trend is fueled by the desire of the highest-potential and highest-spending customers’ passion for a new shopping experience that they can’t find online, at the mall, in the national chains or in big box stores. Owners of small retail shops often feel overwhelmed by the rapidly changing retail environment, with competition on all sides and most especially from Amazon. But small business retailers have a competitive advantage that none of these bigger, better capitalized and techno-powered retailers have: their personal touch. It is realized not just through the personal service that specialty retailers offer, but by being vital members of the local community. This trend will reshape the retail landscape over the next decade." – Pamela Danziger, president, Unity Marketing
  • More Experiences: "We are going to see continued experiential marketing in both brick-and-mortar and online, giving customers a deeper and more differentiated brand experience. Restoration Hardware is deep into experiences with its bistros/wine bars in their new flagships. Restaurant 3 Arts Club in Chicago is the location of 32 marriage proposals. It’s supposedly the seventh-most Instagrammed cafe in the U.S. Experiential marketing will become more relevant with online retailers as well, like Ikea’s use of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response)." – Kathleen Kusek, principal, Marketing Services Group LLC

Unconventional Wisdom: Stay the Course

With technology driving retail transformation and retailers using it to put the people they serve at the center of their business models, 2018 will also be a year when retailers shore up their internal systems and refine operations. Logistics and effective execution of systemwide changes will become a priority.

  • Time to Follow Through: "2018 will be the year of execution." –Neil Stern, senior partner, McMillanDoolittle
  • Logistics: Not Sexy, But Necessary:"It’s not the sexiest topic in retail, but logistics will be a defining issue in 2018. As shoppers come to expect that all of the best stores are omnichannel, the ability for brands to deliver products quickly and painlessly will separate the strong from the weak. Offering perks like same-day delivery, reliable delivery estimates and easy in-store pickup will continue to create customer loyalty while the stores that mess it up will suffer. Consumers are busy, stressed and discriminating. Nobody wants to revisit a brand that makes shopping feel like work. We’ll see brands and carriers alike innovate in this space in an attempt to keep up, and perhaps some new names in logistics will emerge. Ultimately, this falls into a bigger conversation about what shoppers really want: efficiency." – Rachelle Bergstein, writer and author
  • Remodel, Repurpose: "We’ll see more remodels of stores in 2018, due to the impact of omnichannel and buy online/pick up in store (or click and collect). The volume, especially in bigger-box stores, has grown to the point where the front end of the store is totally disrupted. The big question for me is whether they will do it in a smart way and start building the store of the future, or will this be another missed opportunity to transform the store? My hope is for the former; my worry is it will end up being the latter." – Nikki Baird, Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research
  • Now Shut Up and Deliver: "We will continue to see an increased separation between winners and losers as more companies head for bankruptcy and radically downsize. Retailers have been putting plans in place to drive in-store pickup, omnichannel growth, e-commerce expansion and the like. In 2018, they had better deliver. Retailers like Walmart and Nordstrom that have been investing heavily in infrastructure will reap the benefits as customer behavior catches up to technology investment." – Neil Stern, Senior Partner at McMillanDoolittle

Bold Predictions: Pot, Politics & Bitcoin

The year ahead will also hold surprises, as several on our team predict. Pot, politics and bitcoin will come to the fore.

  • An Evolution: "The big trend I see is that retailers are finally realizing that they must change. I predict that most well-funded retailers and department stores will adjust and survive." – Walter Loeb, president, Loeb Associates Inc.
  • Healing Power of Cannabis: "For the beauty and personal care industry, 2018 will be about the rise of cannabis. This will be the year when cannabis loses its stoner reputation — with 29 states and the District of Columbia currently having laws that broadly legalize marijuana in some form, cannabis will become a key skincare ingredient in 2018. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published a report in July of this year that showed that cannabis plant extracts THC and CBD prove to have anti-inflammatory effects and reduce itching in cases like psoriasis, eczema and allergic dermatitis when topically applied — which means you may be seeing weed-centric skincare in your local Sephora soon." – Janna Mandell, contributing writer to The San Francisco Chronicle and The Huffington Post
  • Politics Continues to Distract: "The acrimony that you thought could not get worse will do exactly that as the stakes rise and politicians feel threatened. I think politics will take up even more oxygen in 2018, be more distracting and even more caustic. With the release of the Mueller report and the upcoming midterm elections in November, the distraction will become a factor impacting general economic decision making and retail sales." – Richard Kestenbaum, partner, Triangle Capital LLC
  • Cryptocurrency Goes Mainstream:"There’s undoubtedly a meteoric rise of cryptocurrency awareness. It’s at the forefront of mainstream discussion and intrigue. In 2018, many retailers (SMB and enterprise) will hop onboard the cryptocurrency trend to diversify payment options — adoption will inevitably increase. Today, we already see retail and e-commerce players allowing bitcoin as a payment option for their customers (Overstock was one of the earliest adopters). Additionally, e-commerce platforms such as Magento and Shopify already have available integrations (i.e., BitPay) for vendors to seamlessly add to their stores. However, the real prediction is the emergence of cryptocurrency-only e-commerce stores. The fierce cryptocurrency and blockchain tribe of loyalists provides an incredible opportunity for rising DTC e-commerce startups to cater to that — it’s relatable and relevant (but obviously, their products need to have an appeal as well). It’ll be fascinating to see that a customer might first consider an e-commerce site simply because of its exclusive payment option, instead of the product(s) it sells — it’s only a matter of time." – Tom Popomaronis, contributing writer to Inc. Magazine

Final Words: New Business Models Will Emerge

While Amazon will continue to dominate retail in 2018, innovative business models will emerge to counter it. The store of the future is going to evolve, both in brick-and-mortar and in virtual models.

  • Retail's Death? Greatly Exaggerated:"Some have assumed that Amazon is going to kill the industry — that everything is going to be bought online. It’s not that simple." – Walter Loeb, president, Loeb Associates Inc.
  • Be the Change You Want to See in Retail: "In 2018, the emphasis will be on experimenting with new business models, seeing what works, stopping what doesn’t and do more of what does — whether it’s FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brands building or acquiring more direct-to-consumer capabilities/businesses or high-street retailers launching subscription businesses. Be it personalization of product or personalization of customer experience, this will continue to be a key retail trend in 2018. We know that today’s customers are placing a lot more emphasis and importance on experiences, and this doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon." – Rupa Ganatra, founding partner, Millennial 20/20

Original article from by Pamela N. Danziger