Celeb mum Jamie Yeo: For now, I just don't want my daughter to fail

We speak to the newly minted mum of two about her latest addition!

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A familiar face and voice on TV and radio, deejay Jamie Yeo, 41, is a well-known figure to many Singaporeans.

Married to Englishman Rupert, 40, a consultant in the risk management industry, Jamie delivered her second child, a baby boy named Luke, in August last year. She’s also mum to Alysia, 7.

Luke was born a little early at 35 weeks, and spent 3 weeks at the Singapore General Hospital, but well and healthy, he's at home.

We caught up with the scrummy mummy to find out just how motherhood has been treating her, this second time round!

Hi Jamie! Thanks for talking to us. How have you been, now that you’re a mum of two?
I’ve been good! I’ve been quite busy of course, just enjoying the time I had on maternity leave, to hang out with the kids!

Luke is now 4 months? How would you describe his personality?
Yes he’s around 4 months old now – I say around because he came 5 weeks early. The paediatricians would say to use the corrected age, which would be 2 and a half months. He has become quite an easy baby actually, in terms of sleeping and stuff like that. There’s something about his feeding – if he’s in discomfort, he might not want to drink, but usually he’s fine.

Luke is also very vocal! For example, if he is being fed formula, he knows the difference and he’ll make a noise! Obviously it tastes different compared to breastmilk. When he couldn’t see that clearly – cos their eyes aren’t so developed when their really young, he would whine more, because he wasn’t really engaged. Now that he sees better, he laughs and smiles a lot! But if he’s put too long in a rocker, he’ll certainly let you know. He’s got a fieriness about him, and quite a quick temper. He’ll go eaghh! Then, the moment you go, “Hi baby!”, he’ll smile at you. I think he’s like me, basically!

I was in hospital for pretty much a whole month before I gave birth.

So, he came at 35 weeks – how stressful was that for you? Was it a difficult pregnancy?
Well, my water bag started leaking pretty early – at 30 weeks and 6 days. Medical care in Singapore is such that when your water bag leaks, they put you in the hospital, because there’s a risk of infection. So, I was in hospital for pretty much a whole month before I gave birth. That was awful because it was just no fun waiting to go into labour.

They told me to at least hold on to 34 weeks, where I had the choice of whether or not to be induced. The risk of infection is not that high at this stage – about one in 100, but the point is that if you do get infected, it could be fatal. So, I was left thinking, should I or should I not induce, because you read all over the net – people whose water bag leak early, but they don’t deliver till close to 40 weeks. And obviously, it’s better for your baby to get bigger in your womb. I was in a dilemma.

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What did your husband think?
Obviously Rupert left it to me, so I told him, since I’m at the hospital and they’re checking on me twice a day, and the baby’s heartbeat is getting taken twice a day as well, I’ll just hang in there till at least 35 weeks.

So, I told myself, okay, next Wednesday I’m going to get induced. By the way, everyone’s telling me that induction is painful and unnatural. But the night before I was going to be induced, I just went into labour naturally! So, I took it that I was destined to give birth on that day, and I’m glad that I held on till then, and I went into labour naturally.

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Was the birth a smooth one?
The birth was very quick, just like Aly’s. I had contractions the night before, and he was born before 10am. I had an epidural this time around because I now know how painful it would be without an epidural, and I was very adamant about getting one! Because I had never gotten one before – Aly had arrived to quickly the last time – so, I was also a bit scared.

How difficult is it to cope with a preemie? Could you share with us a bit more about the early days?
It was challenging because although he was born at a good weight of 2.4kg and everything was healthy, the only thing was that he had to learn how to feed. Some babies are just slower in that area – the whole process of sucking, swallowing and breathing. So, he couldn’t keep up and they had to tube feed him for a while. It was good news that he was only in the hospital because of that and it wasn’t anything more serious. But it was also very frustrating that we couldn’t take him home and we just had to wait for him to learn.

It was also very frustrating that we couldn’t take him home and we just had to wait for him to learn.

Were you able to do anything to help him along?
It was purely his own development. Sometimes, we would try to give him the bottle and if we tried to make him feed too much, he would get tired and just want to sleep. Then, they had to tube feed him again and it would be a step back, because they had to slowly bring up the amount to the step we were at. He ended up being there for 3 weeks. I had to go home because there was no point staying there, but we had to make twice daily trips to the hospital. It was a natural birth and it hurt to walk for the first two weeks, and I think I overdid it. I didn’t rest enough, so the bleeding took longer to go away, but I still had to do it.

We’re glad he’s doing well now! How are you coping at home?
I spoiled myself this time round and got a confinement lady for 6 weeks, and then I got myself another confinement lady for another 5 weeks. I told myself that I’ve worked so hard, and at this age, if I can afford it, just get it. By the time the second confinement lady was done, he was already on a good schedule, waking up just once a night. He now sleeps from 7.30pm to about 3 or 4am, so we are so blessed in this area. He wakes up once to feed and then sleeps all the way till 8am.

We’ve settled into a nice routine. He’s in bed before Aly goes to bed, so after I put him to sleep, I go to her room and we put her to bed at 8pm. By the time it’s 8.15pm, we are free of the kids! But I’m also very aware that it can change any time – just last night, he woke up at 1am. I have this plan that if he does it more often, I’ve told my helper that he needs to learn that he doesn’t get milk at 1am, but only if he gets up after 3am. We might have to train him and let him cry a little bit, because we know he’s not super hungry.

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Will you be doing things any different, compared to when Aly was a baby?
I think this time round I’m more experienced so I’m not going to be so “soft”. Because with Aly, I only weaned her off being rocked to sleep after 1 year old! So, with Luke, I’ll try to not rock him to sleep at all. He’s also a lot heavier than she was at this age, and my back can’t really handle it any more. I’ve been reading that they need to learn to self-soothe, so you should put them in the cot when they aren’t fully asleep, but when he looks like he’s just drifting off. When you have two, you sometimes have to be heartless, you can’t afford to be rocking him to sleep every night – what about the older kid?

Are there any signs of sibling rivalry?
Obviously Aly was always going to be a bit more jealous, because firstly, she’s a girl, and secondly, she was my one and only for seven years! At this age, she knows what’s going on, she can see people gushing over the little one and she acted up a lot at the start. It’s getting better, but she’s still jealous – she might say things like, “Oh di di, you’re so cute, treasure it because when you get to my age you won’t be so cute anymore”. So, stuff like that can be really loaded, and when she says it I’m like, “Sweetie, you know mummy loves you right?” And she’ll say in her kiddy way, “Yeah I know, but it’s true right, when you get older you’re not going to be so cute!” I’ll say that babies have to be cute because they can’t do anything and need you to take care of them!

At this age, she knows what’s going on, she can see people gushing over the little one and she acted up a lot at the start.

I’ll even catch her looking at herself in the mirror saying, “Mummy, I’m too thin”. I’ll say, “No, you’re not too thin, you’re fine”. And she’ll say, “No, I wanna be as chubby as di di! It’s a bit sweet, but sad at the same time. What are you going to do – you can’t tell her that fat is bad… it’s a fine line to tread on. But she is getting better.

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How do you manage a school-going child with a newborn? Do you have to help Aly with her homework?
I believe in trusting whoever you have at home to help. For example, I’ve got a very good helper, so I can trust her to manage Luke if Aly is home and I need to walk her through her schoolwork. She was in Primary 1 last year, and I was pregnant pretty much through the whole of 2017, as we found out at the end of January. I had a difficult pregnancy, I didn’t feel very well and I was very tired, so Aly’s schoolwork took a hit last year. But, I also knew that because it’s just Primary 1, it’s fine. This year, I’ve upped tuition for her and I’m trying harder to make sure she does her homework. She’s actually a lot more responsible this year, I’m really grateful for that.

Do you see yourself as a Tiger mum?
At the end of the day, I don’t need her to get full marks, I just don’t want her to fail. I’ve taken on a very different approach to what my parents did with me, and I want her to enjoy her childhood. I’m still not very sure if she’s going to be here in Singapore for her whole childhood – we are open to the idea of moving to another country, and I really want her to experience running around in the fields, and not studying that much. I had the luxury of doing that – I moved to the States when I was 13, I didn’t have to do my ‘O’ or ‘A’ Levels, and I feel like it did me a lot of good. I really don’t mind my kids going away for a while – but for now, I just don’t want her to fail. I would like to instil a sense of diligence and responsibility in her, without forcing it on her, as I feel those values would carry her further in life, rather than if I force it on her by bribing her or caning her.

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How hands-on is daddy?
Rupert is very hands-on! He’s very lucky to be able to spend so much time with us, because his company is quite family-friendly. He gets to work remotely, in fact, he gets a lot more done at home at times. He firmly believes that we’re only young once – and if you miss a milestone, then you miss it. You may not get another chance to witness your baby smiling for the first time, or crawling for the first time.

I’ve never done a middle of the night feed, because he’s always done it! When we both wake up, I pump and he feeds. That’s how hands-on he is. He’s also been the one reminding me to spend time with Aly – he really loves her as his own. He would say, I think you need to spend more time with Aly because she was looking a little sad when you said this and this about Luke. As a mum, naturally I would gush about my baby, like I used to gush about Aly, too. So, Rupert would say, maybe you can put her to bed tonight, and I’ll take care of Luke. He’s a gem of a husband and I’m very blessed.

So, how would you describe yourself as a mum these days?
I think I am a pretty relaxed mum, I try not to sweat the small stuff. I try to remember what I didn’t like as a kid, or remember what has impacted me negatively, and I try not to do the same thing to them. Things that are important to me include letting them just be a kid, letting them play, getting them to eat good food, having lots of protein in their diet, and not just rice and porridge. I’m a stickler for what they eat, but I also know that you reach a certain point where you can’t really control them anymore. They go to Primary school and their friends buy snacks, which they’ll eat, too. You just got to make sure that when they’re with you, they eat good stuff. I want them to travel, I want them to see things, I want them to run around in fresh air and I wish they could do it more here.

I want them to travel, I want them to see things, I want them to run around in fresh air and I wish they could do it more here.

Do you get much time to yourself?
I definitely get free time, because I have a helper. And now that the holidays are over and Aly is back in school, I do get time to, for example, speak to you. At night, I get my time, too, because the kids are good sleepers. For Aly, once she’s in bed, she’s in bed till 6. She’s been like that since she was 2. So, we watch a lot of Netflix at night, like when Black Mirror came out, we were like, ok one episode a night! And I think it’s healthy. On Friday nights, Aly goes to my parents to spend the night, and Rupert and I would go out to dinner. We’re back early, by 8.30pm, but at least we get an hour or two for a nice dinner outside.

What do you enjoy doing together as a family?
We love cooking together, hanging out at home – we don’t go out that often because Luke still naps three or four times a day and we accommodate his napping schedule. If we go out on Sundays, it’s maybe for 2 hours and then we’re back home. We go to the tennis court downstairs and Aly will blade around, or we play some badminton, something that Aly is learning, so she can be involved in a sport that Rupert and I also do.

Photos: Instagram/@iamjamieyeo

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