My day: Maternity nurse Wen Xiaowei


Wen Xiaowei, 47, works in China as a yuesao, a maternity nurse who lives with new parents and their babies for the first month after the birth of their child.

image captionWen Xiaowei has cared for 50 babies in nine years

I'm from Fushun city in Liaoning province. My husband works in Shandong province as a construction worker.

When I'm working, I wake up at 06:00 because I have a lot to prepare. I need to have a shower and wash vegetables for breakfast.

Sometimes, when the baby cries, I get up at 03:00 or 04:00. But the baby usually wakes up at 07:00. First, I change the baby's diaper and wash the baby gently. I don't wait for the baby to start crying; I take care of problems before they happen.

New parents generally think yuesaos care for newborns like a professional. They know our advice is best. Some have traditions like binding the baby with cloth, but we know it's bad for the baby's growth.

Mothers eat breakfast at 07:30. They need lots of energy to feed the baby, so I prepare their food very early. New mothers usually eat several different kinds of rice porridge. Sometimes I cook porridge with beans and I add an egg and some minced vegetables.

Tough years

When the new mother breastfeeds the baby, I guide her to the right position. Then I wash the milk bottles and I fetch the sun-dried nappies from the balcony.

At 10:00, the mother needs to eat again. In Beijing, we cook soup with pork bones, pig feet, fish or eggs to help mothers produce more milk.

Then I spend time with the baby and try to communicate with it. You need to understand the baby's needs, so this time is important. Some babies cry when their family members hold them, but when I hold them, they'll stop crying immediately. Babies are soothed by my voice and the way I hold them. I make them feel safe.

When I started working, my youngest child was nine years old. I missed him very much and I cried a lot. The first three years were very tough on me. I made mistakes, like forgetting dirty nappies in the basin.

If my family called me and told me my child was sick, I wouldn't know what to do. Sometimes my relatives wouldn't tell me about things happening at home. I had to organise everything properly at home so I could focus at work.

Now my oldest child is married, so I don't worry about her. My youngest just graduated from high school and he's out making money as well.

I don't have to worry so much about home now, so I can devote myself to this job. I love this job. I can't describe how close I feel to babies. A family hands their new mother and baby to me. I feel responsible for them.

At 11:00, the baby sleeps again and I prepare lunch, sometimes with meat dumplings. I ensure the mothers won't eat the same meals every day.

After the mother finishes eating, she'll keep the baby company. Then I'll eat lunch with the family, and clean the kitchen and the dirty nappies.

After 14:00, the new mother and the baby have a deep sleep. It's very important for the baby to get enough sleep. If it eats well, it will sleep well.

Sound sleep

You have to pay attention if the baby has jaundice. Some families won't spend money on hospital treatments, so we help them buy fluorescent lights and put the baby under the light for a certain amount of time. We feel lots of pressure when this happens.

When I'm working I don't sleep well, but in the afternoon I take a short nap. I don't have free time even on weekends for 26 days. After a month, a yuesao is usually unnecessary. I often take a 10-day or half-month break between different customers.

Still I haven't been home for Chinese New Year for six years. Sometimes my mood is really low, since my own children are at home but I'm taking care of others' babies.

After dinner, between 19:30 and 20:00, we give the baby a bath. I massage the baby's body gently too. It's very good for the baby's health. Every yuesao in Beijing knows how to do it.

At night, yuesaos sleep in the same room with the mother and baby. It's more convenient for me to ensure a sound sleep for the new mother. When the mother and baby are fast asleep, I wash up and go to bed as well.

I've done this job for nine years and in that time, I've cared for more than 50 babies. I changed my phone number twice and returned home, but customers still find me. I've worked for doctors and entrepreneurs and I've learned a lot from them.

I've done this for so long, some of the babies I've cared for are already seven years old! When they call me on the phone, I feel very happy and grateful.

Wen Xiaowei was talking to the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing