Planning to Hire a Night Nurse? Perhaps Reconsider….

Postpartum care with a doula

When preparing for the arrival of a baby, it seems one thing there is never a shortage of are other peoples’ opinions — and questions. How to give birth, how to feed them, whether to put them on a schedule or follow their demands as they come. Who’s going to wake up with the baby at night? Should you keep formula on hand or exclusively breastfeed? Did you hire a night nurse? By the way, what is a night nurse anyway? Despite what the terminology may lead you to believe, a night nurse is not just a nurse that comes at night, and a baby nurse is neither baby nor nurse.

Hiring postpartum support to enjoy early parenthood

It might seem you’ve had your fill of everyone’s input. However, one piece of advice that you should definitely consider as your little one nears their debut is the suggestion to hire professional postpartum support. As many parents will attest to, having support is a crucial piece of the puzzle to making the postpartum period more manageable. A night nurse is not typically considered a professional role, however. Perhaps what you might be looking for is a Newborn Care Specialist, or a postpartum doula. Wait, a minute – a who–la?

One of the primary goals people have when hiring help in the postpartum period, is to offer parents more precious sleep. As studies have increasingly shown, getting enough sleep can be the crucial difference between debilitating postpartum depression and enjoying early parenthood. So the consensus is that having hired help will aid in recovery from childbirth, help to establish early breastfeeding and offer more sleep to new parents, but what kind of help do you need?

Do you really want a Night Nurse…or something else?

It’s no wonder new and expectant parents find it confusing to navigate hiring support for themselves. There are so many titles floating around and while sometimes they are used interchangeably, the kind of support you will end up with can vary greatly depending on what you are naming the role and who you are hiring to fulfill it.

What is a Night Nurse?

A night nurse is someone that comes at night and takes care of the baby. Typically people who use this title do not have professional training or certification. The term derived from the term nursemaid or nursery maid, and the addition of “night” was meant to distinguish between the nursemaid that worked at night and the nursemaid that worked during the day. This position historically described a servant, which would exist in a fully-staffed home, and  who typically worked under the direction of a governess or nanny who did have more formal training.

What is a Night Nanny?

A night nanny is essentially the same thing as a night nurse, although some people who use this title are also employed as a nanny during the day time. They typically do not have formal training or professional certification. This term has also gained popularity in parts of the United States where using the term “nurse” has become illegal for anyone that does not have an actual nursing degree.

What is a Baby Nurse?

A baby nurse is another term that falls under the night nurse/night nanny umbrella. It typically describes someone who works either overnights or 24 hour shifts taking care of a baby. Those who use this terminology do not typically have professional training or certification. This term is also a derivative of infant nursemaid which was a title used for a servant that strictly cared for infants.

What is a Postpartum Doula?

A postpartum doula typically describes an individual with training in caring for parents and their infants in the postpartum period. People who use this title typically have professional training and/or certification covering infant nutrition and feeding, newborn care, and postpartum recovery. A certified postpartum doula typically holds a certification in newborn CPR and has additional training in such topics as lactation, postpartum mood disorders, and infant sleep. Postpartum doulas work both daytime and overnight shifts, though some specialize in one or the other, and perform a variety of tasks to support their clients physically, emotionally, and practically as they become new parents. A postpartum doula will typically offer more in terms of housework than a night nurse, often doing laundry, helping with meal prep, or washing bottles and pump parts during their shift.

What is a Newborn Care Specialist?

A newborn care specialist is a trained professional that specializes in caring for newborns. Typically those who use this title have undergone training from an organization that provides training in the modern standards in caring for infants, including feeding, diapering, and sleep expertise. A newborn care specialist typically differs from a postpartum doula in that their care tasks tend to be limited to caring for the baby only, although individual tasks can be negotiated between a specialist and their clients. An experienced newborn care specialist can typically help get the baby sleeping through the night by 12 weeks of age, if that is the parent’s goal.

How to determine what kind of postpartum help you’re looking for

Now that we know a bit more about what each title means, let’s talk a bit more about how to determine the best fit for your family. It is often said that when a baby is born, so is a mother. There is a level of intimacy and tremendous trust in allowing someone into your home to care for your baby, or for you and your baby during this tender time. The physical, psychological, emotional, and relationship changes that occur in the transition to parenthood can be very intense. As such, choosing the right care providers to support you is paramount.

When considering the kind of help you would like to hire, first consider what your goals are for that support. Is it simply your goal to get a bit more sleep or have a break from caring for the baby? Or is it your goal to set up your baby on a developmentally appropriate feeding and sleeping schedule so they may begin sleeping through the night independently after a few months of age? Do you want someone that is going to require a lot of direction from you or would you prefer someone that comes armed with experience and expertise, who’s aware of the latest professional standards of care for infants and does not require much supervision or direction?

The Cost of a Night Nurse

A night nurse or night nanny role, with its origin as a servant’s position, is typically a less formal position. They might not utilize a contract or professional business structure, and payment might be under the table. While their hourly rate is often less, they also tend to require more supervision from you, and will not have the same level of training to spot common newborn health issues such as reflux or cows milk protein intolerance. Bringing a baby home can be very overwhelming on its own, and needing to provide constant guidance, instruction, and oversight to the supporting caregiver can add to that overwhelm instead of lessen it.

What to look for in an Overnight Doula

Education or Certification

Ask your postpartum doula or newborn care specialist about what professional trainings they have completed. Most professionals also participate in ongoing professional development to stay apprised of what the AAP standards are for safe sleep, bottle preparation, and other newborn care topics.

Check References

A professional should be happy to allow you to chat with others that have hired them.

Protect Yourself

Look for a doula or newborn care specialist that utilizes a professional contract and is happy to submit to a background check.

Safety First

Your postpartum doula or newborn care specialist should maintain certification in newborn resuscitation and first aid and follow the AAP’s recommendations on safe sleep at all times. CPR classes for parents and providers can be found either online or at your local Red Cross.

Self Care Practices

Ask your postpartum doula or newborn care specialist when they sleep, and how many nights a week they typically work. It is a red flag for any provider to be working both days and nights around the clock. Inquire about how often they take a break or what their plan is when they need a night off.

Strength in Numbers

Having multiples? Need care 5-7 days a week or for several months at a time? Consider hiring an agency where doulas get regular breaks and have the back up support of colleagues when someone is ill or has a family emergency.

Why Choose an Overnight Doula from Happy Family After

At Happy Family After, we have a team of the most experienced newborn care specialists and overnight doulas in the industry. Our team of professionals provide an expert level of care for the infants and families we care for. We love helping families meet their feeding goals, get adequate sleep to be their best selves, and care for their infants in a way that aligns with a family’s goals and values. You won’t have to book endless interviews or worry about reference calls and background checks because Happy Family After handles all of that for you. We take time to get to know you and pair you with the perfect doula for you so you can enjoy the professional support without the headache and hassle that comes with finding the perfect fit. We have packages that fit every family’s needs, so reach out to us! Let us know what you’re looking for and how we can help.