Bringing your newborn home from the hospital can be an exciting but nerve-wracking time. Although you no longer have the helpful hands of the maternity ward nurses, you don’t have to go it alone. Having outside help can be a blessing. Here’s what you need to know about hiring an in-home baby care professional.
Newborn Care Specialists
A newborn care specialist is your go-to person for your baby's first three months. “Some first-time parents may not know how to schedule feedings or help their baby sleep through the night, or in some cases diaper a baby. We help get them more comfortable caring for their babies,” says Nancy Hamm, a certified newborn care specialist and managing director of the Newborn Care Specialist Association (NCSA). Many newborn care specialists work eight-hour night shifts to help get the baby to sleep through the night while tired parents also get some rest.
Newborn specialists who work during the day may help with feedings, naps, diaper changes, and baths. To find a newborn care specialist, ask your doctor for a referral or contact the NCSA.
If you have a premature baby or a baby with special needs, you may prefer a baby nurse instead. “Baby nurses are either registered nurses or licensed practical nurses who are hired to help with newborns who have medical challenges like prematurity or a genetic disorder that requires close monitoring,” Hamm says.
A nanny may work full- or part-time and live with your family or at her own home. “Nannies generally work during the day and follow the client’s instructions about how to care for the family’s children,” says Hamm. Typical nanny duties include meal planning and preparation, laundry, bathing, disciplining, organizing outings, and taking kids to activities. You may want to ask your nanny to take an infant CPR course so she knows how to handle some basic emergencies. You can find a nanny via word of mouth, asking your doctor, or contacting the International Nanny Association.
Au pairs are sort of like foreign exchange students with skills. These young adults (between the ages of 18 and 26) often come from another country to stay with your family and provide full-time child care while learning about American culture. Their roles and responsibilities are similar to that of a nanny’s: tending to children’s needs, making meals, providing transportation, bathing, and laundry. “Au pairs are great because they can expose children to another language and culture,” says Sarah McNamara, senior director of operations and product at Au Pair Care, a San Francisco-based au pair placement agency. Au pairs stay with a family for a year with an option to extend for another 12 months. To find an au pair, contact one of the 14 au pair agencies approved by the U.S. Department of State.
Postpartum Doulas and Lactation Consultants
Two other specialists that new parents may hire are postpartum doulas and lactation consultants.
“The postpartum doula’s role is to provide education and support to new parents during the ‘fourth trimester’ or the baby’s first few months,” says Jessica English, a birth doula and public relations director for DONA International, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization for doulas. Postpartum doulas may assist with newborn care, family adjustment to a new baby, meal preparation, and light household tasks.
The Interview Process
Placing your trust in someone else to care for and nurture your baby is no small task. Your interview and decision process may vary depending on the type of professional you want to hire. These questions can be a great starting point.
- Why did you become a newborn care specialist/baby nurse/nanny/au pair?
- What experience do you have caring for children, specifically newborns?
- How many children are you comfortable watching at one time?
- What type of family do you like to work for?
- What medical training do you have (first aid, infant CPR, and other skills)?
- Which, if any, household chores are you willing to do in addition to the ones directly related to the children?
- How would you describe yourself? What are your interests and hobbies?
- Are you willing to undergo a background check including a check of your driving record?
- Are you a take-charge kind of person or are you more comfortable when someone directs you?
- What will you do, or how will you handle it, if your way of doing things and the family’s are different?
- Can you provide us with referrals?
Preparing for a Specialist’s Arrival
After you choose your child care specialist, make sure you both are clear about house rules and job expectations. Having a written agreement is a good idea. A newborn care specialist is there to help make your home baby-friendly, which means you don’t have to do a lot of prep work before her arrival. But she will need a place to rest that is close to the nursery if she will be spending the night. An au pair or live-in nanny needs her own bedroom, and preferably her own bathroom. If you have older children, enlist their help in decorating the room. It’s also nice to find out the types of drinks and snacks your child care provider prefers so you can have a few on hand to make her feel at home. Remember, you are the employer, as well as the parent. It is up to you to guide your employee so that your children receive the loving care they deserve and you get the help that you need.