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Fri, May 25, 2012
The New Paper
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Celebrity confinement nanny
by Gerald Goh

Madam Huang Yi Lian, more affectionately known as Aunty Lian, is Caldecott Hill's confinement nanny of choice.

She has taken care of the newborns of celebrities like Zoe Tay, Vivian Lai, Huang Biren and Mark Lee.

Now, the "celebrity" confinement nanny is taking care of Ben Yeo's newborn second child and wife, Claudia Cheong.

And it was the Queen of Caldecott Hill herself who recommended Madam Huang, 63, to the couple.

Yeo's newborn son, Jarius, who was born on Saturday, has been under the tender loving care of Madam Huang since Monday morning.

This is the first time the actor-host has hired a confinement nanny.

His in-laws helped out when his first child Javier was born, and as they will still be caring for the elder boy, it was "necessary to hire help", especially when the couple, who are both 33, do not employ a maid.

Yeo told The New Paper: "Zoe's three children were taken care of by Aunty Lian, and Zoe said I would love her."

Tay's recommendation was so effective that Yeo didn't bother looking around for other confinement nannies.

Madam Huang has turned out to be exactly what Tay promised, said Yeo.

"Aunty Lian definitely erased my discomfort of having a stranger live with us (for the first time). Seeing her in action is really believing.

"Even though she has been with us for only a couple of days, I'm glad she's here because she's been such a big help."

Yeo is paying Madam Huang $2,600 to stay-in and look after his wife and child for a whole month.

A check with local confinement nanny agencies PEM Confinement Nanny Agency and Josian Services revealed that their package rates start from $2,000 to $2,200.

This includes having a stay-in nanny take care of mother and child for 28 days. The final fee is dependent on the exact nature of services requested.

Madam Huang certainly knows how to keep mother and child happy and healthy.

And it comes from the experience of raising her four children, now aged between 23 and 40.

The widow was a full-time mum until she was about 40 and her only full-time job for the past 23 years has been as a confinement nanny.

Local funnyman Lee praised her ability to connect and bond with both mother and infant.

Madam Huang took care of his two children, Calista, three, and Maksonn, who is nine months old, as well as their mother Catherine.

Lee, 43, said: "Besides being able to 'magically' calm down a crying infant, she also knew how to tell Calista why her brother was crying and not to fret about it. She was also very reassuring and really knew how to cheer up my wife when she was tired and feeling a bit down.

He paid $2,200 for Madam Huang's services when his first child was born, and $2,500 for Maksonn.

"I considered both a very reasonable price. You have to pay for quality," said Lee.

"Some of my friends who visited Catherine during her confinement periods asked me to introduce Aunty Lian's services.

"I told them that they must book well in advance. Once your wife knows that she's pregnant, you have to call her immediately as she has a long waiting list."

Madam Huang agreed.


She said: "I don't have so much energy as I'm old now. I have turned down a lot of requests."

Madam Huang said that most of her business usually comes from word-of-mouth recommendations.

She also said that she "makes no distinction between celebs and non-celebs".

"I treat all the parents and their babies equally, whether they're celebrities or not.

"The celebrities whom I've taken care of are very nice and have no airs. In fact, they're very generous and treat me like a family member.

"They took me out for a very sumptuous meal, and they also often give very big hongbao (red packets) as a token of their appreciation."

She declined to reveal her exact rates, but said she evaluated her fee on a case-by-case basis.

"I'm a person who really respects the privacy of others. The celebrities also return my trust implicitly and they've never asked me to sign any confidentiality statements."

Madam Liang's conscientious touch extends to the way she fusses over the mother and newborn.

These include buying fresh food every day to cook all three meals for the entire family in a nutritious and tasty manner, as well as boiling herbal water for the mother to bathe in.

The latter is contrary to traditional Chinese confinement beliefs that mothers should not bathe for the first month after giving birth, but Madam Huang disagrees, saying that her herbal water bath is not only hygienic but also helps the mother recuperate faster.

She said: "After Zoe's (first child) Brayden was born (in 2005), she insisted on wiping herself down with a towel, so I respected that. But for other mothers, I'll get them to bathe in the herbal water.

Lee also paid tribute to Madam Huang's culinary skills, adding that he was impressed with the way she made fish and papaya soup for his wife to drink to increase her lactation.

"Her cooking is also excellent. In particular, her tom yum soup and chicken rice with hand-made chilli stand out.

"She'll also cook for the whole family, not just mother and newborn, and she gets along very well with the entire family.

"I've heard some stories about lazy confinement ladies, but Aunty Lian's very hardworking. She won't demarcate her role and do only her prescribed duties but also help my maid with washing the newborn's clothes, for example."

Yeo, who was trained at the hospitality and culinary school Shatec, added that even though his cooking skills were "not bad", he would certainly defer to her cooking during his wife's confinement period.

"I'll learn some cooking skills from her, that's for sure," he said.

Despite the glowing reviews, Madam Huang remains humble about her talent.

She said: "I love and treat the mother and child as if they were my own flesh and blood.

"It takes a lot of hard work and diligence in being a good confinement lady. You just have to be especially attentive toward the newborn as if it were your own."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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