If you ever find yourself wondering what the first few months of parenthood will be like, the answer is pretty simple: sleep-deprived. It’s a time that can only be described as a whirlwind of love, exhaustion, confusion, and… more exhaustion. Turns out things get pretty tough when you’re running on two hours of sleep per night. And, for some (who have the financial means) this is where the debate comes in: to hire a night nurse or to not hire a night nurse? We know, we know, this is a taboo topic that most parents tend to play pretty close to the chest. But that, my friend, is why we’re here to talk about it. Here’s the breakdown:
What is a night nurse?
A night nurse, sometimes referred to as a newborn care specialist, is someone who aids a family in their first few weeks or months postpartum. They are often older women who have extensive experience with newborns or are real experts such as doulas and nurses, who are there to either solely or partially take care of the baby throughout the night and help alleviate the postpartum load, particularly for mom. Of course, when you’re living with a family during this vulnerable time, things tend to get pretty intimate pretty quickly and night nurses often take on a more amorphous role.
So…what are the pros?
Well, for starters, sleep is really, really valuable (especially if you have to get back to work sooner and don’t have a generous leave or if ya know…you’re a human). More sleep in general means an easier transition postpartum, undoubtedly. We’re all a better version of ourselves professionally, personally, to a partner and to our children with a good’s night’s rest. Plus, you’ll actually have more energy to spend with your baby.
Secondly, having someone who has a great deal of experience with newborns and knowledge about how to take care of them is really valuable, particularly when you’re a first time mom. As a new mom, having someone there to show you WTF a swaddle is and how to change a diaper properly is a major bonus. Plus, depending on your arrangement, they’ll sometimes bring you the baby if you need to breastfeed and then take care of the rest. That means they’ll burp, diaper, and rock them so that you can head back to sleep and work on your recovery.
Not to mention, these women are typically pros when it comes to sleep training. This is a massive upside considering the sooner you get your babe sleeping through the night or at least on a sleep schedule, the sooner you will have freedom in the evenings to make plans with family, friends, and your SO (and yes, binge watching the new HBO limited series definitely counts). Oh, and you might even be able to sneak in a hot shower.
We also find that exposing your baby to caretakers other than yourself or your partner is really great for them. Even though it can be very daunting to trust another person with your most precious treasure, it often plays out to your advantage. Not only does it make them more independent and less reliant on mom, it also helps them in learning to create intimate, valuable connections with non-family members from an early age which is an essential life skill.
Now, onto the cons.
Hiring a night nurse is a privilege…to say the least. In a city like Manhattan, where night nurses are probably more common, the going rate starts at $300 a night (yup, it’s a doozy). Now of course, this all depends on your financial situation and yes, sleep is priceless, but the steep cost of a night nurse is definitely a big barrier to entry for most new parents.
If the cost thing isn’t an issue for you or you are willing to shuffle around your finances or budgeted pre-baby to make it work, you might want to think about exactly what you’re paying for. If you’re choosing to breastfeed exclusively, or breastfeed at all, a night nurse may not be the right choice for you and your baby. Yes, they might be there to bring your baby to your bed or to help soothe them back to sleep, but at the end of the day, that babe will likely be glued to your boob for half the night, night nurse or no night nurse.
We also know that it can be incredibly difficult to actually find someone who you trust implicitly and who you feel emulates a similar parenting style as you. After all, it’s a big deal to bring someone into your home during such an intimate time, and at all hours of the night. Your night nurse might see and hear things you’d hope no one would ever see or hear so it’s important that your relationship with them is very strong.
Lastly, this is an extremely exciting and important time for both you and your partner to connect with your newborn and find a new groove as a family. Even if you adore your night nurse, you might find yourself feeling a bit less connected with baby because they are there. When someone else is soothing your babe during the night, you might develop a disconnect with your LO or resentment towards your nurse which can lead to an overall awkward situation.
Of course, there is absolutely no shame in asking for help as a parent—there’s a reason we say ‘it takes a village’—and this is not a place to fault anyone who does or does not end up feeling this way, but rather a friendly reminder to take inventory of your disposition and familial preferences before pursuing this type of arrangement.
As with everything when it comes to parenting, it is all up to your personal preference (and, of course, your financial situation and lifestyle). That’s the beauty of this wild ride, it’s a journey that allows you to evaluate what’s important to you, what’s not, and how you should prioritize. If you’re a working parent running a new business you might feel differently than someone who has chosen to stay at home…or you might not.
Not to mention, night nurses are not the only option for postpartum aid. Many new parents choose to have close family come and stay at their homes or come throughout the day to help navigate their new normal. Other new parents might choose to have a postpartum doula come anywhere from a few times a week or once a month to help show them the ropes and support them emotionally.
Just remember: whatever you choose to do will be the right choice for you. And if it’s not, you can make a change. Nothing is permanent. Oh, and drown out the haters—we know this is painfully obvious (and also painfully difficult), but do your best to listen to your intuition and choose what works for you and your family, not what works for your BFF, neighbor, sibling, or favorite celeb.