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Judy Lai Wing-yee, a 30-year-old senior development specialist in the banking industry, also hired a doula for a month after her first baby was born in March 2011. Lai lived with her mother-in-law during the postnatal care period, but she still wanted to hire a doula to help.

The doula ended up acting as a buffer between Lai and her mother-in-law. “My mother-in-law may not agree with the new information that I learn from the Internet,” says Lai. “To have a third person [a doula] who is professional and experienced to say something for me can reduce the conflict between her and me.”

In the beginning, Lai’s mother-in-law did not approve of the methods and products used by the doula, like using washing-up liquid to clean feeding bottles. “They resist or don’t know how to use [these new products] because they have never used them before,” Lai says. It was only after the doula demonstrated it in front of Lai’s mother-in-law and showed her that it was safe, that she started to accept the new method.

Pioneering doula trainer Rainbow Tang Choi-hung thinks it is normal for young mothers to tend to believe in doulas rather than grandparents, since some of the older generations have misguided ideas about traditional methods and food. Some of these can be harmful to health.

For instance, it is believed that wood ear fungus can replenish the blood. But it has been shown that if new mothers eat it right after giving birth, it can lead to excessive bleeding.

Tang says new mothers these days do not blindly follow traditions but instead ask for scientific reasons. “Mums from the new generation won’t just follow what they are told, they also ask why,” says Tang. “Therefore you have to give them a logical reason to get them to trust you.”

Apart from the pursuit of professional care, Tang believes another reason for new mums to hire doulas is that they get less support from grandparents. “Many grandparents now have their own social networks. They may go to elderly centres and have their own lives,” she says.

While some grandparents may want to have their own lives, others may simply not be able to help. Many of the grandparents doula Or Chow-hung has met were relatively old. “[The grandparents] want to help but they are not able to,” says Or. “They just come to see the grandchildren, but they won’t help much.” Or says most of her clients got married and had their first baby after the age of 30. They are middle class and have regular jobs.

Akiko Cheng of the Yan Oi Tong Jockey Club Training Centre says mothers with a high economic status are more willing to hire doulas. “Those of a higher education level plan to spend a certain amount of money anyway, so they would be nice to themselves and hire a doula for better recovery,” she says.