They say money can’t buy happiness, but did you know that money can buy you a good night’s sleep when you have a newborn in the house? That sounds like an awful lot of happiness to me. Night nurses for newborns are gaining popularity around the country — but are they necessary?
Before I gave birth to my second daughter this past fall, I mentally prepared myself for the coming long, sleepless nights. It’s just part of having a baby. Like all middle class folks, I assumed I simply had to suck it up and deal with the sleep deprivation.
Then some older friends of mine became grandparents of triplets, and I learned about night nurses. Parents can hire a night nurse to come to their home and care for the baby at night. Mom sleeps peacefully in her bed and the nurse brings the baby in for feedings if she’s breastfeeding. If mom bottle-feeds, she doesn’t even need to be awakened. The night nurse handles all diaper changes and comforts the baby between feedings, and she sleeps in the nursery or a nearby spare bedroom.
The Cost of Night Nurses for Newborns
The mother of the aforementioned triplets is a doctor, so I doubt she had trouble affording the pricey service, which can run from $20 to $45 per hour depending on the experience of the nurse and how many babies you have according to one agency, Exclusively Baby Nurses.
Night nurses are most often hired to care for multiples, babies with special needs, or premies. In those cases, it becomes more a matter of practicality than a luxury. Still, nurses can and do care for healthy singletons. In fact, night
nurses are apparently a fixture in the New York area, according to this article. The author even mentions that one of her acquaintances who could hardly afford rent had family members pool money to give her a night nurse as a gift.
Night nurses for newborns help with more than just nighttime care, too. Parents sometimes hire them as 24-hour live-in helpers. Baby Nurses America, like many baby nurse organizations, says its nurses have three goals when working with families: infant care, parent education, and scheduling. They help with everything from diapering to umbilical cord care to tidying up the nursery, and they aim to help the infant develop good eating and sleeping patterns.
The night nurses for newborns at Rachel’s Infant Care also takes care of moms. “Giving care and support to the new mother and monitoring her recovery is important. We make sure she gets good nutrition, rest, lots of bonding time with her new arrival, and time for a bubble bath.” The part about the bubble bath feels like the height of excess to me. You know you’re wealthy when you can hire someone to care for your newborn while you have a nice soak in the tub with a magazine.
For the fun of it, my husband and I did some basic math after our second daughter was born. Consider a somewhat conservative rate like $25 an hour, and that adds up to $200 for a basic eight-hour night shift. If you want your nurse to work five nights a week in your home, that’s $1,000 a week. If you keep your nurse for 12 weeks – the amount of time usually needed if you want your infant sleep trained – that adds up to $12,000. There’s also the initial application fee, which can be in the $200 range. That’s a lot of potential college tuition going to night nurses for newborns.
That begs the question: If money were no object, would I hire a night nurse to care for a healthy singleton? My first thought is that extra help at night would be a lovely thing. I had a hard time getting any sleep after my first daughter was born nearly four years ago, and I often randomly burst into tears out of sheer exhaustion. A night nurse would have gone a long way toward helping me feel better about my new role as a mom, but I might have felt funny handing my baby off to someone else at night, not to mention feeling awkward about having someone else in my house all night. I also don’t know how I could face other moms at library story time or on play dates. Those sleepless nights are a rite of passage, and any mom who gets out of night duty is bound to provoke jealousy.
Still, the idea of a night nurse is compelling. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture. If we moms could avoid it, why not? I do know one thing. This is a parenting decision I will probably never have to make because I could never afford it. Instead, I guess I’ll go make another cup of coffee and dab some makeup on the circles under my eyes.