A local social enterprise helps new mothers with confinement needs and teaches unwed mothers new skills, writes Nadia Badarudin
SELINA Ramli, 24, is worried. The young expectant mother has done all the preparation to welcome her firstborn.
However, she is still clueless on one thing: Who will take care of her during “pantang” or the confinement period?
Her husband, who runs a car workshop, is unable to take long leave.
In Kuala Lumpur where Selina lives, confinement centres are aplenty.
However, with the emotional and physical changes that await, she prefers a familiar space. In addition, some centres do not admit fathers during confinement or do not serve halal food.
Selina can ask her relatives for help but she does not want to trouble them as her mother is unwell and she is not that close to her mother-in-law.
Selina’s dilemma is common among new mothers.
But help is actually just a fingertip away. Just click Pantang Plus.
AT HOME SERVICES
Pantang Plus is among the few social enterprises in the country that aims to keep the early motherhood blues at bay.
The home-based company provides traditional Malay confinement services and postnatal therapies to new mothers in the comfort of their home.
“Our mission is simple: We make new mummies happy,” says Pantang Plus founder and chief executive officer, Zamzana Mohd Arifin, 45.
“At Pantang Plus, we believe that mothers who have just given birth deserve to be pampered and treated like a queen.
“We take their worries away so that they can concentrate on getting back in shape healthily and beautifully,” she says.
Zamzana quit her job in the banking industry and set up a spa before venturing into MyMakBidan.com in 2014.
“Isaw the potential to set up the business from customers’ enquiries on comprehensive confinement services and therapies while I was still operating the spa.
“From a one-woman-show at MyMakBidan.com, I decided to rebrand the business by having a more technology-based and systematic approach to reach out to clients.”
Zamzana teamed up with SirapLimau.com parenting website founder and engineer Md Hisamudin Ahmad (Pantang Plus chief technology officer) and accountant Elis Suhaili Abd Rahman (Pantang Plus chief financial officer) and pitched their startup idea to Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre last year.
The enterprising trio was accepted into the MaGIC Accelerator Programme where they were groomed to establish Pantang Plus.
Reaching out to its potential clients online, the company offers comprehensive services tailored to suit the clients’ needs during confinement.
Offering bundled mother-care and baby-care services, each package is handled by a trained confinement woman, whom Zamzana refers to as a postnatal therapist.
Mother-care services include confinement-compliant food, postnatal massage, “bertungku” (a traditional Malay treatment using a hot compress to warm up the body, help expel wind and improve blood circulation), “bengkung” or girdle-wearing (worn after each massage to improve body shape), herbal bath, traditional vaginal steam or “bertangas” (for healing purposes and fertility) and body scrub.
In terms of baby-care, the assigned therapist will help the mother to bathe, massage, apply herbal poultice and take care of the baby while she rests.
“We also offer added services such as housekeeping and laundry. The package price depends on whether the client wants a stay-in therapist or daily visits for a duration of 14, 21 or 28 days,” says Zamzana.
Fees for daily visits or stay-in therapists range between RM3,800 and RM7,600.
The company also caters to mothers who just had a miscarriage.
Pantang Plus has 40 postnatal therapists aged between 25 and 60 catering to customers throughout Malaysia as well as overseas such as Australia, United Kingdom and the Middle East.
From only four bookings a month, the business
has an average of 15 bookings a day now.
Pantang Plus employees have between five and 30 years of experience in postnatal massage and taking care of mothers during confinement.
“Our aim is to make a confinement woman a professional career.
“We don’t call them makcik tukang urut (masseuse) and regard them as postnatal therapists,” says Zamzana.
“Our therapists undergo a training module and are groomed to be professional and look presentable.
“We also encourage our therapists to go for courses in beauty and wellness to improve their knowledge and skills,” she says, adding that some of the therapists earn up to RM4,000 a month.
HELPING UNWED MOMS
As a social enterprise, Pantang Plus is determined to help unwed mothers, particularly teenagers.
Besides basic parenting skills, it provides an avenue for the young mothers to learn skills to earn a living.
“Most of them are left alone to cope with their new life. And that triggered us to reach out and make a change,” says Zamzana.
“We use part of our profits to empower these young mothers to make a living.
“And we’ve just finished training 10 young mothers to be mobile postnatal therapists.
“They have the option to set up their own business or work with us.
“Pantang Plus is more than just a business,” says Zamzana.
““It’s about helping people to better their lives.”
EDUCATED “MAK BIDAN”
Pantang Plus postnatal therapist Nor Erma Mustapha, 37, from Klang, Selangor, was born into a family of midwives and postnatal masseuses.
She realised she had inherited the talent and skills when she was in her teens but did not have the courage and confidence to go further. For the past seven years, she only practiced her skills on family members and close friends.
But that changed after Nor Erma met Pantang Plus chief executive officer Zamzana Mohd Arifin when she took a short course in beauty and wellness in Kelana Jaya, Selangor last year.
“Zamzana was my mentor at that time and she still is. Initially I was quite shy to admit to anyone that I work only as a ‘tukang urut’ (masseuse) or ‘mak bidan’ (midwife).
“But she made me realise that this job can be turned into a professional career with the right knowledge, skills and attitude,” says Nor Erma who is expecting her second child soon.
Nor Erma is among the 40 postnatal therapies trained by Pantang Plus.
Unlike a typical traditional Malay midwife commonly perceived as sarong-wearing aunt or “makcik”, Pantang Plus therapists are taught to be more professional, and that includes looking presentable from top to toe.
“Yes, we wear makeup to work and we work just like a 9 to 5 job. We’re modern and educated ‘tukang urut’ or ‘mak bidan’,” she says.
“And compared to working alone and depending on word-of-mouth marketing, my job has become easier and more systematic with Pantang Plus.
“Now I can admit that I’ve a steady job and I can easily earn between RM2,000 and RM4,000 a month,” she adds.
AVOIDING POSTPARTUM BLUES: TIPS FOR NEW MOMMIES
Confinement is a crucial period for new mothers to recover and regain strength, and also to avoid negative health consequences such as postpartum depression.
Here are some tips for new mothers from Sri Kota Specialist Medical Centre consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr B Vinodhini on keeping the blues at bay during confinement:
- Get plenty of rest; Keep visitors at minimum
- Have adequate sleep
- Eat food such as dark chocolate which can increase serotonin levels to maintain mood balance
- Do light exercise, yoga or meditation
- Get family’s support and help to take care of the baby and other children, handle house chores etc.
- Let your doctor know if you have a family history of depression
- Get professional help if you feel like you need it.