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Hassle free pregnancies

  Friday, 20 l 05 l 2011  Source: The Straits Times   
By: Natasha Ann Zachariah

Busy parents here are getting baby planners to help them prepare for the arrival of their little ones

baby-planner-serviceBabies, like weddings, are a ton of work even before they arrive. So, just as brides these days can hire a wedding planner, mums to be are hiring baby planners to help them with the arrival of their bundle of joy and the initial babycare period afterwards. They do everything from preparing birth registries, signing parents up for workshops and organising full month parties to sourcing studios for photography sessions. One hospital here – Thomson Medical Centre – is taking baby steps towards the niche market, which has exploded in the United States and Britain in the last couple of years.

A check with other hospitals, as well as online, shows that it is the only hospital here to run such a concierge service.Ms Amy Leong, general manager of the hospital’s ParentCraft Centre which offers mother and baby education and care, says the hospital decided to launch the baby planner service in 2009 as there were many services and products for parents to pick from, but it is not a one size fits all solution. She says: “Everything’s available from baby massage sessions, weaning and confinement nannies. But not every parent needs all these things. So, as planners, we customise their wants and needs.”

The planner will assess the needs of the parents to gauge how prepared they are, as well as what they would like to have, before recommending a bundled package of services. They also work with sourced vendors, such as hotels and photography studios, to offer discounts to parents. Ms Leong has worked with Thomson Medical Centre for the past 21/2 years and heads the service with one other colleague, Ms Andi Rabiah. She spent eight months researching and understanding the concept of baby planners. Together with nurses and clinical specialists, she worked out what would work for a baby planner service here. Ms Leong says: “We do the walking and talking for them. All they need and want to do is really just enjoy the pregnancy and not deal with the hassle of signing up for the correct classes or planning a party.”

For a mix and match of services, parents can expect to pay a minimum of $499. Ms Leong says that parents usually spend an average of $2,000, but they can customize packages according to different budget sizes. But parents are not baulking at the price as a baby planner, they say, makes their pregnancy period easier.

First time mother Kwek Lay Ling, a commercial manager in a shipping and trading firm, was keen to use the service when she heard about it during a prenatal class. The 30 year old was not fully prepared for her son’s arrival, with just months to go. So she engaged a planner to coordinate postnatal massage sessions and plan her baby shower. She spent about $2,800 on the services. “Without a baby planner, I would have to do the factfinding, consider quotes from different suppliers and do all the liaison work during my confinement period,” she says. “It would have been quite stressful because I was occupied with breastfeeding for the first time and trying to rest.”

Aside from Ms Kwek, 17 other couples have taken up the service. But in comparison to some parents in the West, those here have pretty normal requests, says Ms Leong. In the West, the market for baby planners has taken off, with institutes sprouting up to certify people for the job. A large number are recent mothers themselves. There is even a new reality show exposing how extravagant demanding mums are and just how lucrative the business can be. Pregnant In Heels follows planner Rosie Pope as she works with her “million dollar mamas”. She does everything from baby proofing a home to planning baby announcements to convening a focus group to pick a name that would “brand” the baby well. However, the show does not quite reflect the reality here. Parents who sign up are mostly professionals in their late 20s to early 30s; they work long hours and do not have the time to search or even know where to go for the services they need, says Ms Leong.

For first time mother Theora Ho, working 60 hour weeks, coupled with late night weekly conference calls with clients and colleagues at her office’s overseas branch, as well as travelling overseas, left her little time to find a confinement nanny, set up a baby registry or plan a photo studio session. The account director of sales for an IT company, who is in her 30s, says: “I was already quite desperate because I was close to delivering. But the baby planner managed to get me a confinement nanny for the last two weeks of the period.”

Ms Ho, who is married to Frenchman Julian Oliver, could not rely on her inlaws as they were not here, or her mother, who was not feeling well. In total, she spent about $2,600 on the service. “Because I was pretty much on my own, the planner really came in handy. She helped me figure out what I wanted, then took over and made it all hassle free,” says Ms Ho, who is now eight months pregnant with her second child.

Financial reporting analyst Kristin Soo Thoo wishes that she had heard of the service earlier when she gave birth to her first child eight months ago. Being the first of her friends to give birth, the 27yearold had no one to ask for advice on what baby products to buy or what classes to sign her son up for. She says: “Even my mother thought that her knowledge of taking care of children was outdated. She wanted me to do it on my own. It’s money well spent if someone could help me step by step and I could just enjoy being pregnant, without worrying.”

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