Should I Hire a Night Nurse for My Newborn?

Bringing your newborn home from the hospital can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. You’ve waited so many months and they are finally here, in your arms, in the room you’ve been preparing for them. But then reality sets in and you find yourself utterly exhausted and overwhelmed. In some cases, it may make sense for your family to bring in a newborn care specialist (NCS) to help you adjust to your new normal—and to get some much-needed sleep. Here, discover exactly what a newborn care specialist is and what you need to know about hiring one.

Newborn Care Specialist vs. Night Nurse

If the term “newborn care specialist” sounds unfamiliar, the term “night nurse” might not. While these have been used interchangeably in the past, they sometimes referred to two different types of providers. A night nurse may not have the same accreditations as a newborn care specialist, and the term has more recently grown outdated.

What Is a Newborn Care Specialist?

A newborn care specialist, sometimes referred to as an NCS, is someone certified in newborn health and care. A NCS typically works at night, allowing parents to get some rest during the early days of their baby’s life.

For babies who are breastfeeding, the NCS will bring the baby to the breastfeeding parent during the night then take them back once they’ve finished feeding, adds Ashley Fairchild, a newborn care specialist with Nightingale Night Nurses, a Massachusetts-based newborn care agency. “If they are bottle-fed, we take over complete care,” Fairchild adds. “As the baby grows, we help with hitting milestones, talking to parents about what baby should be doing, how much they should be eating, and setting up a loose sleep schedule.”

While a typical shift for a NCS is eight hours overnight, such as 10pm to 6am, they can also work longer shifts or even stay with a family round the clock during those first weeks. In these cases, the NCS may take on additional duties outside of strictly overnight care.

“Newborn care specialists will often do baby-related duties such as organizing the nursery and maintaining supplies related to baby care, such as breast pumps, bottles, pacifiers, and baby laundry,” says Andrea Hedley, the Founder and Executive Director of the Newborn Care Specialist Association (NCSA). “Some are willing to help with additional duties such as family meals, laundry, sibling and pet care. However, those things usually fall outside the general duties of a newborn care specialist and are on a case-by-case basis negotiated between the caregiver and the family.”

What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Newborn Care Specialist?

There are numerous benefits to having a NCS on hand to help with overnight care. The first is the support of an experienced professional and the peace of mind that brings. “I’ve worked with parents who had a traumatic birth experience, couples who used a surrogate, and first-time parents who aren’t sure what to do,” Fairchild shares. “There’s an emotional aspect of having someone who helps formulate a plan and makes sure your baby and you are on a healthy plan.”

Then there’s the big one: you get to catch up on sleep! “The care we give overnight allows parents to have better, more meaningful interactions with their newborn during the day,” says Fairchild. “You get to have time with your baby when you’re awake and noticing the little moments. We give you back that joy.”

That joy not only comes from being able to enjoy your little one during the day, but also from the fact that getting rest significantly reduces the risk of developing postpartum depression. A 2016 study that looked at 360 women who had given birth in the last three months found that those with poor sleep quality were 3.34 times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression than those who had good quality sleep.

What Are the Drawbacks of Hiring a Newborn Care Specialist?

There are hardly any drawbacks to working with a NCS. If you’re worried about losing those eight hours of connecting with your newborn, Fairchild points to the fact that you’ll be that much more alert and engaged during your interactions with them during the day.

In Hedley’s opinion, you’d likely only experience drawbacks if you hire someone who isn’t a fit for your family. “The person your good friend recommended because they were a great help to them might not be the right fit for you,” she says. “An experienced newborn care specialist will understand the importance of this and will be happy to spend time with you during your selection process and answer any questions you have.”

How Much Does a Newborn Care Specialist Cost?

Like anything else, the cost of a newborn care specialist will vary depending on the individual, and where you might live. “As a general rule of thumb, a newborn care specialist tends to be more expensive than a regular day nanny, about 25-30% more in most markets,” explains Hedley.

That means it can vary from $25 per hour, or $200 per night, all the way up to $75 per hour, or $600 per night in the most expensive cities in America. Cost can also vary by NCS, as some work with an agency that sets rates (like Fairchild) and others work independently. What’s more, different newborn care specialists may have more advanced training and/or be located in a high-demand market, both of which can affect cost as well.

When to Hire a Newborn Care Specialist—And For How Long

Both Hedley and Fairchild agree that newborn care specialists are in higher demand than ever before, making it important to plan ahead. Fairchild shares that her schedule is currently full until January, as she’s set to spend the fall with a repeat client who is having her second child in September. That said, you may be able to find someone on short notice, especially if you locate an agency in your area.

There is no minimum or maximum length of a NCS contract, though Hedley says care will typically begin when you bring home your newborn and will last three to four months. “In my opinion, everyone would do at least 10 weeks,” Fairchild adds. “Then when we leave, the baby will be on a sleep schedule that they will be confident with. That said, I’ve had parents who just wanted a couple nights and others who said ‘please stay forever.'”

How to Find a Newborn Care Specialist

There are two easy ways you can find an NCS. The first is simply searching for newborn care specialists in your area and reaching out and interviewing care providers this way. If you find someone who lives nearby, you likely won’t need to provide accommodations (unless they are providing 24-hour care).

Another option is to fill out the form on the NCSA website with your location, the type of care you are looking for, and your anticipated timeline. The NCSA will share your inquiry with their private members group and forward resumes from available care providers.

Is a Newborn Care Specialist Right for Me?

Every parent and family is different, and it can be tough to know ahead of time whether a NCS is right for you. Consider whether you have other people in your local network you could lean on for help, like relatives or friends. And even if you do, it’s up to you (and your bank account) to decide whether you’d rather enlist help from an experienced professional like a newborn care specialist.

For her part, Fairchild has seen more and more people hiring a NCS in recent years. “People were nervous to ask for help or consider having someone come into their home in the past,” she says. “Now, more are realizing that it’s okay to need help in order to not be exhausted.” If hiring a newborn care specialist is going to make you the best parent you can be and you can afford it, then it’s a decision certainly worth considering.