“How’re you sleeping?”
Asking this question, and being asked it, is a rite of passage for all parents. It’s a gesture of empathy, and a simple acknowledgment of a fundamental truth: It’s pretty damn hard to get good sleep when you have a baby. (Fun fact: Babies gestate with an upside-down schedule — meaning they sleep during the day and are active at night—which is why they often nap during waking hours and are more active when you want to sleep.)
If and when you go back to work, the challenge deepens. Just try and stay awake during a meeting on how more efficient analytics could lead to a greater ROI (yawn) on how our investments (sigh) are performing across platforms (eyelids fluttering, head slowly lowering in sweet, sweet slumber).
An alternative to napping in meetings? A night nurse. Or a night nanny. Or a newborn care specialist. There are a lot of terms out there, but simply put, they all describe someone who takes care of your baby during the nighttime hours, in part so you can be fully rested to tackle your day.
To learn more about how the relationship works, we spoke with Connie Fong, vice president of brand for Care.com. Here’s what we asked, and what we learned:
So, what is a night nanny (or night nurse or newborn specialist), anyway?
“Night nannies provide much-needed help with nighttime tasks, like changing diapers, helping with bottle feeding, preparing the baby for nursing mothers, or sleep-training to establish a bedtime routine. This not only lets parents catch up on some much-needed rest, but also educates first-time parents about infant care. Night nannies may be hired for several weeks, or longer, and working parents may need them only on weeknights, while other parents may need them for just two or three nights weekly.”
Sounds great. But what does it cost?
“Wages will vary depending on where you live and the experience of the nanny. In most parts of the country, overnight care for one child pays $22 to $25 per hour, while in large cities, that rate can run up to $30 to $35 per hour. It’s a common misconception that nighttime nannies should be paid less because the baby is sleeping. Anyone who’s spent time with an infant or baby knows that nighttime can be especially challenging.”
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What should a person look for in a nighttime caretaker?
“Parents hiring a night nanny are often seeking care for infants along with any older children they may have, so good candidates should have experience with infants, understand the challenges of bedtime routines and schedules, and be patient—with babies and with anxious parents. It also helps to know CPR and other safety protocols and to have strong references and a clear history as demonstrated through a background check. It should probably go without saying: Given the hours of being a night nanny, this is not an ideal job for someone who’s already worked a full day.”
“Parents looking to hire a night nanny should definitely ask nighttime-specific questions, like how should an infant be positioned in a crib. They should also remember to ask the basic questions parents should ask when hiring any type of care for their children—what kind of experience do you have with children, do you have any references from families you’ve worked with (and then speak with those references). Also, ask “what would you do”-type questions on how a candidate would handle different scenarios. For example: How would you handle an emergency, and What would you do if the baby started fussing or crying?”
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Are there any fundamental differences from a daytime caretaker?
“Typically, a night nanny has a very different set of responsibilities than a daytime nanny. For instance, she won’t be playing, reading or doing fun crafts. More likely, she’ll be changing diapers, handling feedings, managing sleep training, and soothing a fussy baby. Having this type of help can really benefit both babies and parents, giving everyone more sleep and quality time with each other.”
Next steps to finding a night nanny
It’s often said that a night nanny is a luxury for some families and a necessity for others. Whether one is right for you will depend on your budget, your situation, and even whether or not this is your first child. (Having someone to help you with sleep training is almost worth the price of admission alone, in this humble parent’s opinion.)
Looking for a night nanny? You can start by checking Care.com’s listings in your area. (Right after you get another shot of espresso.)
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Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children. This article is sponsored by Haven Life Insurance Agency. Opinions are his own.
Haven Life Insurance Agency offers this as educational only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies or offer the products, services and/or strategies discussed here.