Much needed maternity help is hit and miss

Demand for China's "maternity matrons" has grown but the quality of these nanny services has been questioned amid reports of infant maltreatment and other incidents.

Demand for China’s “maternity matrons” has grown since the end of the one-child policy in 2016. However, the quality of these nanny services for new mothers has been questioned amid reports of infant maltreatment and other incidents.

Mai Tian, an employee of a state-owned enterprise in Foshan City in south China’s Guangdong Province, said she started looking for a maternity matron, or yuesao in Chinese, when she was six months pregnant.

She said her search began late, as many mothers-to-be start looking for a yuesao in the third month of pregnancy.

Salaries for a maternity matron in China range from a few thousand yuan per month to more than 30,000 yuan (US$4,750).

Those who are able to help increase a mother’s milk supply or perform infant massage are in high demand, especially if they have abundant experience and a good education.

For in-demand maternity matrons, mothers have to book services at least six months in advance.

Mai hired two maternity matrons in the first month after giving birth last year.

The first was a top-rated maternity matron with a salary of 9,000 yuan per month. But Mai fired her after 10 days.

“She would not come to comfort my baby when he was crying. She often locked herself in the room, talking on the phone for a very long time. She even forgot to bring me fruit, which she should have done every day,” Mai said.

The second yuesao was found through an intermediary agent. Mai paid 300 yuan to the agent so she could request a new nanny if necessary.

Mai said the second yuesao was more professional in her care, and the payment was 3,000 yuan cheaper.

“The quality of maternity matrons cannot be ensured just based on their certificates. I believe it all depends on luck,” Mai said.

As the maternity care profession in China has grown substantially, so have problems associated with the industry, which is plagued by an abundance of fake certificates and a lack of regulation.

“Some maternity matrons obtain maternal-child nursing certificates only after one week of training, or without any training at all, while others just purchase certificates,” said a housekeeping company employee who declined to be identified.

Complaints about top-rated caregivers maltreating infants or injuring babies because of unprofessional conduct have been reported frequently.

“The number of complaints and incidents is hard to collect since too many disputes occur every year,” said Zhu Mingzhong, chairman of the housekeeping service industrial association of northeast China’s Jilin Province. “The market is in chaos,” Zhu added. “In some areas, you get the certificate as long as you pay the money.”

In February 2016, the Standardization Administration of China issued standards for maternal-child nursing services. However, it is hard to implement the standards strictly, so the quality of post-partum caregiving services cannot be guaranteed.

Special Reports