How would you react if you found out that your baby was being breastfed by your maid? This Singaporean mother captures her Indonesian maid offering her breast to her 7-month-old baby on camera
Joanna* is a working mother, a 30-year-old lawyer in Singapore. What she found on her ‘nanny camera’ is not only disturbing, but terrifying for any mother to watch.
She shares her story with us…
When I had my first child, I thought maternity leave would be lovely bonding and lots of walks, snuggly outdoor time. But I spent most of my maternity leave topless, nursing and pumping. I wanted to breastfeed till my baby girl was a year old but by the time I went back to work (4 months later), my fatigue with juggling work life and being a new mum got the better of me. I struggled for the next two months, then decided to switch to full formula feeding when Emma* was 6 months old.
Before I went back to work, I hired a maid through a reputable maid agency and Ayla* was the helper that was recommended to me. She was young (aged 24), from Batam, and had left her 2-year-old son back home with her family to come to Singapore to earn money to build a bigger home for them. I felt sorry for her and gave her a good starting salary for someone inexperienced.
The first month that Ayla had come into my home, my life got much easier. I was able to concentrate on work, and when I came home, it was 100 percent baby time. It felt wonderful coming back to a clean and happy place, and I felt more fulfilled as a mother with this arrangement.
My husband was away most of the time (he travels a lot for work) and we Skyped a lot so he wouldn’t miss our baby’s special moments. Ayla was given her own room, with Sundays off (this was when I would take Emma to visit her grandparents). My husband was not very comfortable with a maid being left alone all day with his child, but I kept assuring him that she was a good fit and took great care of Emma. I told him there was nothing to worry about.
Still, he insisted that I install a camera in the hall of our home. He had heard numerous horror stories about maids in Singapore, and he just wanted to feel completely safe with a stranger being around our child all the time. I did it after a few nagging conversations with him.
Everyday from work, I would check the camera footage from my smartphone, at intervals, to monitor the activities at home. Mostly it showed Emma playing in her play-pen, and Ayla cleaning, or playing with her. Nothing out of the ordinary.
But one dreadful afternoon, I couldn’t believe what I saw while at my lunch break. Ayla was seen offering her left breast to my child! Emma could be seen sucking for a couple of seconds, then refusing to continue. After a few minutes, she shifts Emma to her right breast. My heart literally stopped for a bit- I was infuriated and disgusted by her actions. Throughout the episode, Emma was moving away, resisting her breasts.
I froze and couldn’t think clearly. Why the sudden urge to attempt to breastfeed her? Did Ayla still have milk? I knew she left a suckling baby behind. But that was 2 months ago! Was it even possible that she still had milk in her? Yes, of course it was.
I dropped everything, and drove back home with the wildest thoughts in my head. Was my baby a victim of a sexual motive? What if I hadn’t installed the camera? What if I missed this footage today? It may have continued for a while!
My stomach was in knots, I felt faint and nauseous. I called my husband and he went beserk, naturally. He was away in Penang then, and booked the next flight to get home to us. He advised me to stay calm while I confronted Ayla.
I was completely shaken and couldn’t control my emotions – I walked into my home and I demanded an explanation from her. Initially, she lied saying that Emma was crying uncontrollably and she was trying to soothe her, after my baby was touching her breasts. She even dared to tell me that since I was not offering Emma my breast milk, she thought she needed the nourishment so she tried to offer her milk.
I didn’t want to hear more. I called the police, made a report and she was made to undergo medical tests. This was really wrong on so many levels including the fact that HIV, Hepatitis B and other serious illnesses can be transmitted through breast milk. Thankfully she was tested negative for all diseases.
It’s been 3 months since that horrific incident and it still boggles my mind as to what she was imagining when she breastfed my baby. She breached the trust that was bestowed in her of guarding my baby against danger. All I can do is thank my husband for making me install the camera, and am so lucky that I caught it in time.
(Story as told to Pavin Chopra)
*All names in this story have been changed to protect the identity of those involved