Continuing on with our Help After Baby (HAB) Series, Part 2 is about other hired, in-home options for support in those early days and weeks with your newborn. From Part 1 of the HAB Series, we already know about postpartum doulas and the awesome and amazing benefits to including one in your postpartum plan (admittedly a little biased there…). But, did you know there are even more options for support? In today’s article, I will discuss as many of them as I could dig up in my research! By the end of this article, you should be well aware of the various options for in-home, hired support options after your newborn arrives.
I’ve decided not to include a few key professionals in this article. Notably missing from this article are lactation consultants, mental health providers, massage therapists, physical therapists, and home visit nurses. These professionals provide critical support to families with newborns, but their care is typically specialized and out of scope for the purpose of this article. Don’t get me wrong – I truly and whole-heartedly value EACH of these professions. I’ve worked with dozens of lactation consultants, many mental health professionals, a handful perinatal massage therapists and physical therapists, and a few home visitors (RNs and Social Workers) and I’m grateful to have them in my circle of preferred professionals!
So now, what you came here for…other in-home support professions for families with newborns!
Baby nurses provide full-time care and are focused mainly on taking care of the baby and all of baby’s needs. They are typically trained in feeding, sleep management and training, comforting, diapering, swaddling, and other baby-care needs. Some baby nurses are trained to educate parents on how to care for their newborn. The definition of baby nurse is changing and now means that s/he is medically trained and either a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). However, please be sure to check your local state requirements and the organization you are considering working with. Not all baby nurses are medical nurses! Families with babies who need a bit longer hospital stay in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) will often consider in-home support from a baby nurse, especially if the newborn(s) need medical equipment at home.
NEWBORN CARE SPECIALIST
Essentially, the new term for non-medically trained baby nurses is “Newborn Care Specialist.” According to the Newborn Care Specialist Association (association responsible for certifying all Newborn Care Specialists), a newborn care specialist is “an individual trained and skilled in newborn care. She provides unique expertise in all aspects of newborn care, parental education, and support. Her job is to help nurture and care for newborns while providing guidance and education for the parents.” Newborn Care Specialists often support families overnight, working 8+ hour shifts.
I like the dictionary.com definition of a nanny best – “a person, usually with special training, employed to care for children in a household.” I also like the Merriam-Webster definition – “a child’s nurse or caretaker.” As the definitions state, a nanny cares for the children in the home. Care can occur with or without a parent present.
Au Pair in America defines au pair as “a child care provider who lives with a host family as part of an international exchange program.” A Nanny or Au Pair MAY have training or experience with newborns, but it is not a prerequisite for an au pair and nannies often begin working with families when babies are 4+ months old (therefore lacking experience during the fourth trimester). Be sure to discuss this if considering nanny or au pair support in the early days and weeks.
To keep with the same dictionary sources, I also like the dictionary.com definition of babysit – “to take charge of a child while the parents are temporarily away” and the Merriam-Webster definition – “to care for children usually during a short absence of the parents.” We’re all pretty familiar with babysitters, so I won’t go in to further detail here!
A mother’s helper is a combination of a nanny and a babysitter, often referred to as a babysitter-in-training. A mother’s helper provides support and assistance to the family while another parent/primary care provider is also in the home. A mother’s helper receives all tasks from the mother/at-home parent, and typically works in conjunction with the at-home parent.
Pictures speak 1,000 words!
Now that we know the definitions, I want to compare them a bit and provide my thoughts based on my experience and education (remember, I’m a trained and certified postpartum doula and also a trained newborn care specialist).
Postpartum doulas, baby nurses, and newborn care specialists are trained specifically to support families during the fourth trimester. If you’re looking for someone with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to help during the newborn phase, you want one of these three professionals. Again, this is generally speaking. You may encounter a nanny or babysitter who is HIGHLY experienced with newborns, but by the aforementioned definitions, this is not the norm.
But which one?
Postpartum doulas support the family, as a whole. They physically, mentally, and emotionally support the parents and help the parents transition to life with their newborn(s). Postpartum doulas do not replace parents, but work along-side them. We will help in any way possible, but the objective of a postpartum doula is to work her way out of a job (ugh, I don’t like writing that…I love this job!).
Baby Nurses and Newborn Care Specialists primarily support the baby and take over care of the newborn. They feed, diaper, bathe, comfort, soothe, etc. and can teach the parents how to do these too. They check in with the parents, but a baby nurse and newborn care specialist’s main focus is to care for the newborn.
Finally for comparison, the night nanny. A night nanny will do as the parents ask, which usually entails taking over baby care overnight. This allows parents to rest. The biggest difference between a night nanny or newborn care specialist and overnight postpartum doula support is that the night nanny or newborn care specialist takes over, while the postpartum doula educates and helps the family with night parenting. Both of these overnight providers allow parents to rest while they care for the baby, so when evaluating your overnight support needs, make sure you consider the training, experience, and philosophies of the individual people applying to support your family.
If you’re looking for support for the whole fam-damily, you’re looking for a postpartum doula. If you’re looking for support for the newborn(s), focus your searches on a baby nurse or newborn care specialist (or night nanny). If you’re looking for more of a babysitter/care provider, research nannies or au pairs or babysitters. If you’re looking for an extra set of hands around the house, a mother’s helper is your best bet.
Now you know many of the support options available to families here in the United States. There are a lot! And making the right decision is completely up to you and your family. Be sure to consider your family’s values and what matters to you as you embark on the journey of finding postpartum support. You know your family best – trust that intuition!!
The next and last article in the HAB Series is on receiving in-home support from family/friends/family-like friends. I think Part 3 is going to be pretty interesting, so I hope you’ll be back next week!
If you’re a Facebook-er and you already have a child of your own, I hope you’ll consider joining my closed Facebook group, “Experiences In Parenthood Survey Group.” In this group, I post one question per day and one survey per week on a variety of topics surrounding the first year of life with your baby.
Thanks for reading. I’d love your feedback on this article, so post, comment on Facebook, or reach out to me directly! Feel free to share this with a friend who may be wondering about this topic.
Kari Haravitch PCD(DONA)