Concerned parents flock to wet nurses

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 September, 2008, 12:00am

Wanted: wet nurses. Pay: 10,000 yuan (HK$11,400) a month - and if you are a college graduate, double that.

As panicky mainland parents grow desperate for safe food sources for their babies amid the scandal over adulterated baby formula, demand for wet nurses is soaring.

Housework agencies in major cities such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing and Hangzhou say the number of inquiries and reservations for wet nurses has skyrocketed.

One Shenzhen-based agency said it had helped more than 30 families find a wet nurse and taken reservations for up to 200 more in the two weeks since the scandal began with the discovery of tainted Sanlu brand baby formula. The agency had handled one or two contracts a month.

Zhongjia Housework Agency manager Zhang Guixiu said hundreds of new mothers had registered for the job.

She said a wet nurse should be a healthy new mother with sufficient milk whose child was a maximum of four months old. Those with good education, personality, appearance and childcare skills could earn more. 'Most of the wet-nurse applicants are young migrant mothers working in Shenzhen who would rather save the milk to get a high salary and send their own babies back to the countryside to be fed with milk powder.'

But there were a few university-educated applicants with excess milk who were exploring income options.

'A wet nurse with junior high school education in the second month of lactation can be paid 10,000 yuan a month, but a mother in the second month of lactation can be paid 18,000 yuan if she has college education and good personal qualities,' Ms Zhang said.

She said employers were mostly concerned about the health of the wet nurse, so the company insisted on candidates submitting to a 'strict physical check on everything from HIV to skin diseases'.

The employers kept a close eye on the wet nurses' diet and lifestyle.

In one extreme case, a wet nurse was only allowed to drink fresh chicken soup 'made of fresh chicken air-freighted from overseas'.

Mr Lin, from a Beijing agency, said his company had started offering wet nurses this week. He said that within days he had received a dozen inquiries and found one woman willing to be a wet nurse.

'Nobody has signed a contract yet. Maybe this is a new idea for Beijing people who are generally more conservative,' Mr Lin said.

A Beijing-based mother of a six-month-girl said she produced a lot of milk, up to 6 litres a day, and would like to help feed babies with 'the most precious and safest food in the world'. She said: 'We can trust no one but ourselves. As a mother, I just want to help. It's not about money.'


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