Taking care of a newborn is not easy. No matter how much you prepare for coming home with your baby, the postpartum experience always brings surprises. I know I had big unexpected postpartum experiences that made me on an emotional and physical rollercoaster, even though I was so happy to meet both Caden and Willow when they arrived!
The truth is, so few people talk about how hard it is to come home with your newborn. It doesn’t matter if you had a C-section or vaginal birth, your body is physically recovering from a major medical event. Yet, you’re supposed to take care of another life who’s just gone through the same ordeal in another way. You’re both emotionally, and physically exhausted, and adjusting to a new life. In some cases, you’re expected to do this alone too.
They say “it takes a village” for a reason. You and your partner need all the support you can get to make those first few weeks of adjustment as smooth as possible. Getting enough sleep is key to maintaining your mood, healing your body, and absorbing those precious few weeks you have with your newborn. Obviously, that’s difficult when the average newborn is waking every 2-3 hours. This is when a night nurse can be incredibly helpful!
I’m dedicating my post today to night nurses and what they do. There’s no shame in hiring help after you give birth, and I want to do what I can to destigmatize the process and encourage you to do what’s best for your family. Here’s what a night nurse does and why you may need one:
What is a Night Nurse?
A night nurse is a hired in-home newborn care specialist who provides overnight support to your family who has a nurse license. They handle all the infant care duties, help with breastfeeding or bottle feeding in the middle of the night, and soothe the baby back to sleep after waking. The term night nurse is sometimes used interchangeably with baby nurses, postpartum doulas, and night nannies. So be sure to understand if your intention is to find someone specifically with nurse credentials, or simply someone who can support both you and your baby in the early postpartum days.
Their primary goal is to help you get rest and to help baby adjust to their new world. Each night nurse has slightly different duties depending on their qualifications and price. So, ask thorough questions about the services you’re interested in if you decide to interview a night nurse. Below, I have listed out common night nurse responsibilities:
Night Nurse Responsibilities
- Support and assist you when you arrive home from the hospital
- Help you create a good nighttime routine
- Bathe your baby
- Prepare bottles if you pump or formula feed
- Bottle-feed your baby if you pump or use formula
- Bring you your baby if you breastfeed
- Provide breastfeeding support
- Change diapers at night
- Manage rinsing and washing of cloth diapers if applicable
- Comfort your baby and get them back to sleep after waking
- Help you establish good, safe sleeping habits
- Wash and sterilize bottles and pump parts used at night
- Wash and put away any baby laundry made
- Help with basic medical needs like cradle cap, circumcision care, diaper rash, reflux, etc.
- Support your postpartum recovery, like assisting with bathroom trips and middle-of-the-night medications
- Do light housework
- Watch and care for your baby in every way while you get rest
* I wanted to note that night nurses if hired, will not be overnight childcare for your older children.
Night Nurse Qualifications
- CPR Certification
- First-Aid Certification
- LPN or RN Licensing
* The level of medical training really depends on the person. Some just have first-aid and CPR certifications. So, if you want a licensed nurse, confirm the night nurse you’re hiring has the right qualifications. This is also a distinguishing factor between a nigh nurse and a postpartum doula.
Do I Need A Night Nurse?
Every new parent would benefit from sleeping through the night. So if you think about it that way, any fresh mama would benefit if they hired a night nurse. However, there are a few factors that might make it extra helpful to get you through those tough weeks. If you’re a single parent, have a partner who’s unwilling or unable to help with care, had a c-section, or struggle with postpartum depression or anxiety, a night nurse would be a great way to give yourself and your baby the best possible recovery period–both mentally and physically.
How Much Does a Night Nurse Cost?
Based on my research in The Bay Area, a night nurse has an hourly rate that ranges anywhere from $45 – $75. It depends on their qualifications and how many services they offer. To calculate exactly how much it might cost for you, first determine the hours you want them there. A night nurse typically works from around 8:00 pm – 7:00 am. However, the needs could differ. Research a few nurse options and create your budget before diving in. If this price is prohibitive but you are looking for some support, consider a night doula with rates a bit lower at $35 to $65 an hour on average. Also note that many night nurses have a minimum you must commit to, for example, one I came across required 40 hours over 5 nights as a minimum.
*These rates will vary based on your location.
How Long Do You Need a Night Nurse For?
Usually night nurses are hired for the first 4 to 6 weeks of your child’s life. This usually gives you enough time to physically heal, which makes night wakings much easier to manage on your own. However, it’s not uncommon for them to be around for 3-4 months either! You can have them come nightly or a few times a week.
Another consideration is if your partner is helping throughout the night, but needs to go back to work full-time, you may benefit from a night nurse during this transition.
In reality, it depends on your budget, sleep situation, and mental health. Once you feel like you might be ready to take on the overnight care by yourself, start by having the nurse come fewer nights a week rather than quitting altogether. Ease you and your baby into the new flow.
Benefits of a Night Nurse:
- Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
- Help establish a good sleeping and eating routine
- Improve energy and mood with a good night’s sleep
- Better and faster postpartum recovery
- Less chaotic mornings with laundry and dishes complete
- Less chaotic bedtime with an extra set of hands
- Comfortable and well-fed baby
- Feeling of community with extra support
Is Hiring a Night Nurse Worth It?
Sleep deprivation is real. Research found that new parents lose an average of 109 minutes of sleep every night for the first year. And, almost half of parents reported that they get just 1-3 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night in the first six months. The symptoms of sleep deprivation include slower thinking, fatigue, irritability, a lowered immune system, and headaches…You don’t need any of that as a recovering mama. If you have a partner that cannot support you and your baby overnight with diaper changes and feedings, I definitely think hiring a night nurse is worth it.
A night nurse is a worthwhile investment if you do not have overnight support.
Overnight care is one of the hardest parts of postpartum recovery. No matter how tired you are, you still need to get up and feed or change the baby. Luckily, with a night nurse, you don’t have to worry about tending to your child all night long.
And, don’t let that mom guilt come in. Missing out on a couple of feedings and diaper changes isn’t going to ruin your bonding experience. I promise. Giving up the evenings means in the morning–you get to be a well-rested and prepared mom.
So, have an honest conversation around expectations with your partner, and consider adding a night nurse to your newborn essentials list! You won’t regret the extra help, and your baby will benefit from the extra love. For more birthing and postpartum advice like this, check out my posts on understanding doulas, midwives, and pelvic floor physical therapists, and browse everything else on the pregnancy section of my blog. Now, go get some sleep!