Should you be a night nanny? What to know about the job

Of all the tasks that accompany having a newborn, waking up with them in the middle of the night — multiple times for an extended period of time — is one of the hardest. Because of this, some new parents decide to hire a night nanny, which, as its name suggests, is different from a traditional nanny role

“Night nannies can be an invaluable resource to new parents, providing relief and rest to them when they’re exhausted,” says Dr. Monte Swarup, an OB-GYN in Chandler, Arizona, and founder of HPD Rx. “Typically, a night nanny starts when new parents come home from the hospital and lasts anywhere from two to three months.” 

Interested in becoming a night nanny but aren’t sure what the job entails exactly or where to begin? Here’s what you need to know. 

“Night nannies can be an invaluable resource to new parents, providing relief and rest to them when they’re exhausted.”

— DR. MONTE SWARUP, OB-GYN

What is an overnight nanny?

In the simplest terms, a night nanny, sometimes referred to as an overnight nanny, is someone who’s been hired to help out with the baby at night. “In general, an overnight nanny may or may not have specific training and experience with newborns and is there to simply follow parental instructions overnight after the arrival of a new baby,” explains Tonya Sakowicz, a master newborn care specialist and owner and director of education for Newborn Care Solutions. Sakowicz adds that a night nanny shouldn’t be confused with a night nurse, baby nurse or a newborn care specialist (NCS), all of which require specialized training. 

“In general, an overnight nanny may or may not have specific training and experience with newborns and is there to simply follow parental instructions overnight after the arrival of a new baby.”

— TONYA SAKOWICZ, MASTER NEWBORN CARE SPECIALIST®

“While some families will colloquially refer to night nannies as baby nurses, it’s important to note that the term is illegal to use unless you are also a registered nurse (RN),” Sakowicz says. “And similarly, a night nanny isn’t the same as an NCS in both scope of education and duties. An NCS usually has extensive education and experience working with newborns and families both during the day and overnight and needs minimal supervision or guidance from parents. They understand newborn behavior and are educated in supporting family goals around feeding and sleep after the arrival of a new baby.” 

Here’s everything you need to know about becoming a newborn care specialist

Important note: There are families with babies who have medical needs that require consistent monitoring and “awake care” at night. Sakowicz notes that, in these cases, only qualified medical support in the form of an actual RN should be providing care — “not a night nanny.” 

What a night nanny should know

While the overall goal of a night nanny is to tend to the baby/babies at night so new parents can rest and recover, there’s more to the job than just waking up and rocking little ones back to sleep. Here are some of the duties of a night nanny, according to Swarup and Sakowicz:

  • Changing diapers.
  • Feeding baby or bringing baby to parent to nurse. If doing the former, bottles need to be prepared as directed by the parents, according to Sakowicz.
  • Soothing baby to sleep after eating. 
  • Providing general care overnight under the direct supervision and guidance of the parents. This may include swaddling, helping with sleep training or helping to create a feeding schedule.  
  • Following specific instructions from the parents on how to handle night wakings. An NCS generally “does not need instructions from parents.” According to Sakowicz: “They handle night wakings completely on their own.”

What night nannies should not do, according to Sakowicz: 

  • Offer medical advice or guidance. 
  • Administer medication. 

How many hours does a night nanny work?

Sakowicz notes that night nanny hours can vary, but in general, overnight nannies “work 8 to 12 hours overnight, with 10 to 12 hours a night being the most common.”  

She adds: “A night nanny generally starts their shift somewhere between 7 and 10 p.m. and is responsible for the care of a newborn baby (or babies) overnight to allow parents to rest and recover during the postpartum period.”

“A night nanny generally starts their shift somewhere between 7 and 10 p.m.”

— TONYA SAKOWICZ, MASTER NEWBORN CARE SPECIALIST®

Does a night nanny sleep?

Ultimately, it depends on the baby. “As a rule of thumb, a night nanny will sleep if and when the baby sleeps at night,” notes Sakowicz. “But overnight nannies should never expect that they are going to sleep. Sometimes babies sleep and sometimes they don’t — the job of a night nanny is to provide comfort and care for the baby. If the baby is awake, then the night nanny needs to be up caring for the baby.” 

“Overnight nannies should never expect that they are going to sleep. Sometimes babies sleep and sometimes they don’t — the job of a night nanny is to provide comfort and care for the baby.”

— TONYA SAKOWICZ, MASTER NEWBORN CARE SPECIALIST®

How to become a night nanny

Technically, anyone who wants to work with babies overnight can become a night nanny, but it’s a good idea to have “some basic newborn training or experience” in the following areas, Sakowicz notes: 

  • Sleep safety.
  • Diaper changing.
  • Making formula bottles. 
  • Breast milk safety (including safe storage and proper heating and handling).
  • Techniques for soothing a fussy baby. 
  • Newborn care. “A 3-day-old baby is very different from a 3-month-old,” Sakowicz says. “Knowing those differences is important.”  

“Night nannies need to have very well-developed interpersonal skills to deal with parents during what can be a very stressful time,” Swarup adds. “They should be excellent at listening and be able to communicate with various types of parents and living situations.” 

 

Originally published by Care.com

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