I previously wrote on why it might be worth getting a confinement nanny, especially if you're a first-time mother, but if you're unable to spare $2,800+ to get such help, there are still ways you can DIY instead.

Other reasons to skip the confinement nanny could include:
  • If your mother or mother-in-law is helping you through confinement
  • If you have a domestic helper at home
  • If you're tight on cash and cannot afford to spare $2700+ for a nanny

The key assistance and duties of a confinement nanny covers the following, so these are what you need to find substitutes for if you intend to DIY your own:
  • Taking care of your newborn
  • Taking care of the mother after childbirth by
  • Cooking confinement food and preparing longan red dates tea
  • Preparing your confinement herbs and showers
  • Doing household chores 
  • Provide breastfeeding support
  • Allow the mother to rest and recuperate so she recovers faster
  • Teach you how to take care of your baby 
Let's go through each of them individually:

1. Confinement Food & Red Dates Tea
Proper nutrition is critical while you recuperate - after all, childbirth is a major strain on your body - and even more so if you intend to breastfeed your baby. So if you're not hiring a nanny to cook confinement meals for you, fret not because you can still choose from a wide range of confinement caterers who will deliver to your house.

I personally picked Tian Wei Signature mainly because they offer a mix of Chinese and fusion dishes, and have garnered a number of rave reviews (both sponsored and organic) online. The main kicker was because my best friend (who delivered a month before me) tried them out first and sent me mouthwatering photos of her dishes. 

Cost: from $1,560+ for 28 days 
of lunch and dinner if you book at least a month before your expected delivery date (portions are so big that you can share with your spouse!) - that's $13.90 for you and your spouse each per meal and takes away the need to go grocery shopping, plan the menu, and covers gas and utilities. 

Image credits: Tian Wei Signature 

2. Confinement Herbs
You can get these from any traditional Chinese medical hall (TCM), but be careful to check on the quality as there was a recent case in Singapore about a mother who found maggots in her packed herbs from a family-owned TCM shop!

I was initially going to get mine directly from Hock Hua Tonic since they have an outlet near my place, but found that they do not include the bathing herbs as a set and I would have to add that on myself. My friend TL later shared with me her package from PEM Confinement Agency, which had an option for 
  • longan red dates tea
  • confinement soups (labelled by the 28 days i.e. Week 1 Day 1, Week 2 Day 3, etc)
  • confinement herbal baths from Ban Kah Chai
Image credits: PEM's website

It would have been far too much of a hassle for me to get each of them individually, so we decided to book ours with PEM directly as well! When we met with the PEM representative assigned to our booking, she shared that their herbal soups are designed to focus on nourishing the blood lost by the mother during childbirth, enhancing breast milk and supply, increasing vitality for recovery, calming the mother's nerves to prevent post-natal depression, and also aid in weight loss. 

The herbs are individually packed and ordered by days so it makes it easy to just rip open what you need for that day and prepare. Since the first month of your baby's arrival can be rather hectic, convenience is key! A friend of ours DIY-ed his wife's confinement all by himself (and he barely cooks) simply by buying these herbs from the company as well and throwing them into the pressure cooker with chicken / fish / pork as instructed in the easy-to-follow recipes. If he can do it, so can you!

I had a nanny but for convenience, we also got our entire set from PEM:

The pre-packed herbal soups for confinement, one for each of the 28 days and labelled accordingly.
I drank them every day, together with my red dates longan tea, which I all got as part of the set.

I showered daily with these boiled herbs (simply boil them in a huge stove and pour them into a tub to bring into the bathroom for showering with), and washed my hair every 2 - 3 days

The entire herbal soup package, together with the recipes
The 28-day menu was:

  • Week 1 Day 1: Decoction for Postpartum Troubles
  • Week 1 Day 2: Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup
  • Week 1 Day 3: Four Treasure Soup
  • Week 1 Day 4: Chinese Motherwort Soup
  • Week 1 Day 5: Gastrodia Fish Head Soup
  • Week 1 Day 6: Fo-ti Root Soup
  • Week 1 Day 7: Four Herbs Tonic Soup
  • Week 2 Day 1: Eucommia Bark Soup
  • Week 2 Day 2: Achyranthes Root Soup
  • Week 2 Day 3: Four Elements Soup
  • Week 2 Day 4: Codonopsis and Astragalus Soup 
  • Week 2 Day 5: Notoginseng Soup
  • Week 2 Day 6: Astragalus Soup
  • Week 2 Day 7: Gastrodia Tuber Soup
  • Week 3 Day 1: Cordyceps Militaris Chicken Soup
  • Week 3 Day 2: Eight Treasures Soup
  • Week 3 Day 3: Silkie Herbal Soup
  • Week 3 Day 4: American Ginseng Soup
  • Week 3 Day 5: Ten Complete Soup
  • Week 3 Day 6: Lamb Chop Herbal Soup
  • Week 3 Day 7: King Solomon Seal Chicken Soup
  • Week 4 Day 1: Cordyceps Militaris Soup
  • Week 4 Day 2: Korean Ginseng Soup
  • Week 4 Day 3: Ganoderma Soup
  • Week 4 Day 4: Fish Maw Soup
  • Week 4 Day 5: Dendrobium and Ginseng Soup
  • Week 4 Day 6: Cordyceps Militaris with Fish Maw Soup
  • Week 4 Day 7: Ginseng and Cordyceps Soup
Cost: Depends on whether you take the full package or partial. Expect $450+ inclusive of delivery to your place, or a discounted rate of $380 if you're also getting your nanny from PEM

3. Taking care of your newborn
If you won't be getting a confinement nanny to help take care of your newborn and teach you on what you need to do, then you'll need to learn these elsewhere. 

We went for a one-day intensive parenting workshop at Thomson ParentCraft Centre to learn how to swaddle, feed, burp, shower the baby, change baby's diapers, and more. They also have a 4-week course option if you prefer that. My review can be found here.

Cost: $247+ (depends on weekday / weekend / discounts. We picked a weekday + used the FBI subsidy)

With my husband at TMC's class!

4. Doing household chores
Either get your husband, parents or in-laws, or domestic helper to assist, or hire a part-time help from apps like Helpling. Costs vary.

5. Get breastfeeding support
It is crucial that you join and get some support from fellow breastfeeding mothers to support you on your journey, because breastfeeding is going to get tired, painful and frustrating at times! Find fellow mothers with similar delivery dates like I did on Dayre, or look out for them on other social media channels like Facebook.

6. Rest and recuperate! 
Childbirth is a major ordeal - after all, it isn't called labour for nothing! So please do yourself a favour and delegate tasks so that you can rest and recuperate. Your only duties during confinement should be to focus on recovery, eat your nutritious meals and red date tea, and breastfeed your baby. Let your spouse do everything else, or outsource to your parent / in-law / domestic helper if you can.

So there you go, ways to DIY your own confinement even if you can't afford or don't wish to hire an external confinement nanny! However, as you can see, the cost don't necessarily work out to be too substantial in savings, so it really is up to your individual preference on whether you feel the $800+ in savings would be better spent to hire a live-in nanny or for you to plan and DIY your own with some effort. In my opinion, I will always pick the nanny because this is an expense I don't believe in skimping on - after all, my recovery and sanity is worth a lot more!

Whatever method you pick, I wish you all the best in your confinement and may you have a speedy recovery!

With love,
Budget Babe