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It is not just new mothers who are unable to take care of babies, but the grandparents too. “Some grandmas call us to hire a doula for their daughter-in-laws, [because] they don’t know how to take care of them,” says Akiko Cheng, assistant supervisor of the Yan Oi Tong Jockey Club Training Centre which provides training and referral services for doulas.

Hui Yuet-chun, a 50-year-old mother of two, has been one of the centre’s referral doulas since 2006. “Some grandpas and grandmas are very young. They don’t know how to take care of babies either,” Hui says.

In the old days, new mums and babies were taken care of by family members, usually the mother’s mother or mother-in-law. That is no longer necessarily the case.

Chow Lai-ying, a 22-year-old mother, hired a doula for a month after she gave birth to her first baby in December 2011. Even though Chow also asked her mother and mother-in-law for advice on how to take care of the baby, she decided from the start that she wanted a doula. “We as the younger generation may not accept the traditional methods,” Chow says.

Chow thinks contemporary doulas can provide more reliable care than traditional ones. “Things are more advanced now, like the old generations are still using only hot water to wash the feeding bottles [and no washing-up liquid].”

After watching her parents raise her younger siblings, Chow thinks the doula she hired for her baby provided better care than her parents did.