It wasn't until I was pregnant with my second child that I heard about the existence of something called a "night nurse." A close friend, who was about six months pregnant with her first baby, mentioned she had recently secured one to help her for the month after her son was born. Intrigued, I asked her to explain what a night nurse did.
"She'll come from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. to help with the baby so I can get more sleep," she said. How did I not know this was a possibility?
After some research, during which I learned that most night nurses start at around $25 per hour (you'll pay more than that for a registered nurse or if you have twins) and usually require a 10-12 hour stay (quick math: that's a minimum of $250 a night), I decided a night nurse probably wasn't for me. After all, I had lots of family help and a generous maternity leave that didn't require any work from me for three whole months. Plus, since I knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my son as I had my daughter, I figured long blocks of sleep weren't in my future no matter how much overnight help I had.
If I had to do it all over again I would without a doubt hire a night nurse.
I got through those first six months of my son's life until he started sleeping through the night — barely — but if I had to do it all over again (I don't. This baby shop is officially closed), I would without a doubt hire a night nurse. Yes, it's expensive, but that doesn't mean it's a luxury designed for only ultra-rich and/or spoiled new moms (a stigma I admit initially buying into). In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the best money a new mom can spend.
According to Chicago's Bliss Newborn Care, studies have shown that parents lose an average of six months of sleep during the first 24 months of their child's life, a startling fact that I totally believe. If you're like me and absolutely need eight hours to survive normal life — and we all know life with a demanding newborn is way harder than normal — what could be a better investment than help designed to let you get the rest you need to be a good mom?
Night nurses don't just let you sleep. They can also assist with breastfeeding issues, help your baby develop a nighttime routine, and introduce sleep training for parents who want it. Therefore, it's important to find a night nurse who meshes with your parenting philosophies.
And, of course, trust is key. The profession recently was in the headlines when Susan Sarandon's daughter, actress Eva Amurri Martino, opened up about how her night nurse fell asleep and dropped her newborn son, cracking his skull. That situation, while devastating, is an exception, not a rule.
If you're thinking about hiring a night nurse and find one you like, book them quickly. Many nurses are secured months in advance, and if you don't hire a night nurse by the time you're six or seven months pregnant, you might have trouble finding one at all. Most nurses ask for a deposit to secure the time you want them (it could be as little as two weeks or as long as months), and they'll make sure they block out the time around your due date.
Although I never got to experience the joys of having a night nurse, I trust this review from the friend who first told me about them. "When I found out I was pregnant with baby number two, my night nurse was the first person I called so I could get on her schedule." That pretty much says it all.