SINGAPORE — Ms Chen Liyi, who gave birth to a baby boy in May, is among parents here who paid a five-figure sum for her confinement.
Instead of heading home after being discharged from the hospital, the 30-year-old project executive checked herself and her baby into a luxurious two-bedroom suite in Shangri-La Apartments on Anderson Road.
For the next 28 days, a dedicated team of postpartum experts put together by Singjoy — a confinement centre service provider— cared for her during her stay.
She and her husband, both Singaporeans, paid around S$23,800 for the stay and said that they have no regrets doing so.
“(At a confinement centre), you don’t need to worry about a lot of things. As first-time parents, my husband and I do not know much about looking after a newborn,” Ms Chen said, adding that paying a premium price for high quality postpartum care is now “the norm” among her family and friends.
The cultural custom of women going into confinement after birth is to recuperate and adapt to caring for a newborn, but as Ms Chen has shown, it is no longer just a mere home-based practice with the resources you have in your own household.
In Singapore, it has turned into serious business, with more people now willing to splurge on premium postpartum services to ease themselves into parenthood, meaning it has become a lucrative affair for service providers.
Some doctors have observed a similar trend as well.
Dr Christopher Chong, a uro-gynaecologist and obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, said: “In the old days, (postpartum) confinement basically means staying at home and eating confinement food, often prepared by a senior (member of the family) or a confinement nanny.
“But in the last 10 years, I’ve been hearing about patients who go for stays at confinement centres, spend on special wraps and Jamu massages (a traditional massage for women who have given birth), and go for weight loss programmes.
One of my patients said that she paid more than S$10,000 for such a programme.”
WHAT CONFINEMENT CENTRES OFFER NEW MUMS
There are now at least 15 postpartum confinement centres in Singapore, when there was none about 10 to 15 years ago, Dr Chong noted.
Singjoy started offering confinement centre services at Shangri-La Apartments in 2018.
Singjoy’s founder, Ms Joey Zhang, said that the occupancy rate there is “always full”.
Its centre at Shangri-La Apartments caters to around 15 mothers each month, with five rooms on standby for last-minute requests and mothers who deliver earlier than expected, she added.
To cope with increasing demand, it recently opened a new branch along Havelock Road, offering one-bedroom options. A 28-day stay in a one-bedroom suite there is priced at around S$19,800, excluding tax.
“When we first started at Shangri-La, most of our clients were high-income families. But in recent years, we notice that there are more middle-income clients as well, which is why we opened our Havelock branch,” Ms Zhang said.
Most confinement centres here charge a five-figure sum for a month-long stay.
Mothers staying in these centres are given personalised attention by a team specialising in confinement care, while the babies are cared for round-the-clock by either nurses or confinement nannies.
During her confinement centre stay with Singjoy, Ms Chen was fed nutritious meals, afternoon snacks and herbal tea specially prepared by an in-house chef daily.
A personal confinement nanny attended to her and her baby all day and night, and when the nanny rested, Ms Chen’s husband helped to mind the infant.
Licensed nurses and an in-house team of lactation consultants led by a International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant were also on hand to support Ms Chen’s needs and address any breastfeeding issues she may have.
A International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. It is the highest-level credential for healthcare professionals specialising in the management of breastfeeding.
Ms Chen also enjoyed pampering services such as a daily herbal bath, foot spa, hair wash, head and shoulder massages and postnatal massages.
Mothers at the centre may attend postnatal yoga sessions, handicraft workshops and undergo therapy for wound care.
Ms Zhang said that the centre works with a panel of doctors from Speedoc, which offers home medical services, and has experts on hand to provide mental health support.
Ms Chen said: “When (my postpartum confinement ended), I felt like I was not ready to go home because I felt so comfortable there.”
Mr Joel Tan, 32, co-founder of confinement nanny service provider Nannymoon, said that even the older generation are now willing to invest to ensure that their adult children get the best quality service during the postpartum recovery period.
He has observed more grandparents-to-be enquiring about confinement packages, whose own children are expecting a baby. They make up about 10 to 20 per cent of the total enquiries that Nannymoon receives.
Mr Tan and his wife Chen Shiang Jing, 35, started their own confinement nanny business after having trouble hiring a confinement nanny during the Covid-19 pandemic. Their child was born in 2021.
To ensure that their clients are matched with a nanny that best suits their needs, Nannymoon uses a system that taps artificial intelligence in order to match the parties.
WHY PARENTS SPEND ON PREMIUM POSTNATAL SERVICES
Ms Chen Shiang Jing said that new parents are willing to spend more now because they want the best for themselves and their babies.
“I think a possible reason could be that many new mothers today have busy and demanding lifestyles, and may not have the time or energy, or both, to devote to every aspect of infant care.
“So investing in quality service, like hiring a professional nanny, can provide them with the support and guidance that they need,” Ms Chen Shiang Jing said.
Hiring regular live-in nannies may cost a few thousand dollars a month, but some parents still end up spending a five-figure sum by the time they add up everything.
For her own confinement after the birth of her child, Ms Chen Shiang Jing and Mr Tan hired a live-in nanny. After factoring in the costs of buying herbal tonics, confinement food, a good-quality breast pump, postnatal massages and other baby care items, Mr Tan estimated that they spent a five-figure sum.
Dr Mythili is also an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and the director of Mother and Child, a prenatal and postnatal hub for expectant couples and young families.
For new mothers, good quality support should involve teaching them how to manage and care for their babies, she added.
Good quality lactation support is also crucial in the early post-delivery weeks.
“We have noticed that the breastfeeding rates at the confinement centres tend to be lower.
“It is not simply about whisking the baby away from the mother so that she has ‘sufficient rest’. When these mothers head back to their own homes, they may not know how to manage these responsibilities,” she said.
Dr Mythili wants to tell mothers who go for a no-frills postpartum confinement that they are “not at the losing end”.
“In fact, I think if mothers regain their confidence in managing themselves and their baby early, it is much better for their mental health.”
When considering postpartum services, such as a confinement centre stay or engaging a confinement nanny, Dr Chong advised parents-to-be to do their research early.
“Get genuine reviews from those who have tried the service. Get down to the centre to have a feel and speak with the people in charge.
“Interview the confinement nanny so you can understand each other and one another’s expectations before committing,” he said.
Dr Mythili said that it is also important for mothers to work out their breastfeeding goals and check if the centre provides support from the International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants.
And do not forget that fathers have a very crucial role to play as well, Dr Chong emphasised.
Fathers have to be “part of the team” to help the new mother feel loved and supported, he added.
“The most important thing is to be around and to be supportive. A simple hug and kiss can mean a lot to the one suffering most — the mother.
“Dad can help in many ways — simply taking over and letting the mother rest is a big help,” Dr Chong said.