Thought would share some ideas from my experience—mistakes, learnings, mommy friends...am still learning.... Many of this could be generalized for other domestic help as well.
What to look for in a maid, nanny, “ayah” or domestic help who will help take care of your baby/child
- Ensure that the maid comes from reputable sources. If an agency, then check the records carefully. If from personal sources, then remember to get references of where the maid has worked before and talk to these people.
- It is a good idea to have the maid be police verified. Most police stations in India have a process for verifying domestic workers. It is easy. You will need 2 photos of the maid and need to submit a form. It will give you confidence in your choice. Most honest folks, will not have an issue if you request police verification. We did this with our current one who has been with us for the past three years.
- Ensure that the maid is clean and has high standards of personal hygiene. If you are very particular, get a doctors examination and get tuberculosis or other diseases ruled out.
- The person should be experienced enough to take care of a baby but also needs to be young enough to be strong to hold the baby, bathe the baby and wake up often at night (for the baby).
- Of course other criteria like patience, honesty, work ethic, love for kids, cleanliness, past experience and knowledge of caring for babies, flexibility, attitude are also very important.
- You might have other requirements like being able to cook, clean or perform other tasks. But remember that in the initial months, the baby needs a lot of caring and can easily “gobble up” your time as well as others.
Babies and new mom need special care
Once the baby is born, even the new Indian mother will need caring—special diet, breastfeeding, post-delivery massage, time to heal etc. On top of this mom might take time getting back to her domestic and other chores. So someone will need to do mom’s everyday work as well.
Special traditions for newborn care
In most parts of India, per tradition typically a new Indian mother is supposed to “take it easy” for the first 40 days and bond with her baby. 40 days are the delicate time when it takes for mom’s body to heal and breastfeeding and mom’s milk supply to stabilise. And also the baby’s immunity will get a kick-start.
Few Indian women like to get a special lady for the delicate 40 days after the baby is born called the “40 day lady” or the “Japa” lady. They help the mom in bathing, massaging the baby, tips with breastfeeding, massage for mom, mom’s special diet etc. Btw, this 40 day lady is similar to a doula or the labour and post-delivery coach they have in the United States.
Where to find 40 day lady? Ask your doctor, nurses, hospital, word of mouth, maybe check with other parents on Parentree...
Before I had kids, I would have scoffed at this 40 day lady stuff. I had my mother come. But these days even grandmas forget baby care fundas because of the trend towards fewer kids and nuclear families. A new mom and baby need the best of care and pampering and even grandmas are getting older and need to be more relaxed. A couple of friends recently had this “40 day lady” and these were a blessing for breastfeeding, baby jaundice etc. So now my take is that if you can spare the resources, it is worth it to have these 40 day ladies for baby and new mom.
Different people interpret this 40 day period differently—some are very strict and do not even allow the new mom to go out for 40 days and some are more practical. The idea behind the tradition is to allow the mom to rest, tune-in and bond with the baby, breastfeed and protect the baby from infections until the baby’s immunity is well developed. You have to find your own special balance here.
Things to think about before you hire...
- Assess your domestic needs and your finances. Some Indian families might need a live-in or part-time maid. Some like a specialized advanced maid like the 40 day lady or “ayah” for the baby and some like someone who can do different chores.
- The best time to spread the word around is during second trimester. You might not need one as soon as that but upfront planning will ensure that you will have the right person when the baby comes.
- In the third trimester, start interviewing a short-list of maids.
- Having the maid stay with you for a month or so before the baby is a good idea. It will help you both get used to each other and you can also train the maid per your needs.
- Remember that this person will help you in taking care of your most “precious one” and deserves the due treatment and respect. Be fair, caring and firm etc. etc. etc.
It sure is a learning process that continues. Please share your experiences and wisdom as well.