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What is a night nanny — and do you need one?

Corey Kagan Whelan
Sept. 12, 2019

There's no way to prepare new parents for the fatigue, lack of sleep and resulting irritability they will experience when they bring their new baby home. If the freshly painted nursery is set up for multiples, exhaustion levels will be compounded. Hiring a night nanny may be the answer. But do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Here's a primer on how these infant-care specialists can help you.

What is a night nanny? 

A night nanny, also called an overnight nanny, a night nurse or a newborn specialist, may be hired for several weeks, or longer, following birth. Working parents may need them only on weeknights — other parents for just two or three nights weekly to catch up on rest.

"Night nannies typically come into the home later in the evening and are on duty throughout the night in order to best assist the family," says Becky Kavanagh, co-president of the International Nanny Association

What should you pay a night nanny?

Some night nannies, such as Nancy Gerberding, become certified newborn care specialists by undergoing a three-day training program and working a minimum of 1,800 hours and at least one year's experience with newborns. Gerberding, who is the literary director for the Newborn Care Specialist Association (NCSA), says being a newborn care specialist is the best job she's ever had. A baby lover, Gerberding usually works for 15 families annually and typically commands $200 per night. This is not unusual — the cost of hiring a night nanny can run into the thousands and is a luxury for many families.

Use the Care.com rate calculator as a starting point.

What should you look for in a night nanny?

While fees vary based upon experience and certification of the nanny, any professional you hire to care for your newborn should have extensive experience with small babies other than their own, so as to expertly manage sleep training, scheduling, diaper rash, soothing and nighttime feedings. Some families will require additional support to handle colicky babies, reflux, circumcision care or other issues.

Why do you need a night nanny?

One such mom is nutritionist and mom of three, Allison Reyna. When Reyna's oldest turned 4, she gave birth to twins. Reyna, whose husband travels extensively for work, remembered how challenging it was with her first and decided to spring for a newborn specialist.

"Financially it was a big investment, but we couldn't not do it," she says. "Our twins needed to spend some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and our night nanny helped us to keep them on the NICU schedule, which was a huge help to our family." 

Reyna was committed to breastfeeding her babies, so she would pump during the night and put the milk in a cooler at her bedside so the night nanny could utilize it for nighttime feedings. Other moms arrange for their night nannies to wake them up in order to breastfeed on demand, but then hand the infants back to the nanny for changing and swaddling. Reyna felt a personal connection with the soft-spoken woman who would become part of her household for several months. "I felt comfortable with her and that was important, as I was inviting her into the most personal of spaces."

At one time, night nannies were utilized primarily by individuals who brought multiples home, but now, just as many parents of singletons are seeking their services.

"My husband and I used a night nanny when our son was born last year," says sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman, Ph.D. "We had a wonderful woman who is an RN, lactation consultant and baby sleep coach for six weeks, about two nights per week. Given that my son started sleeping eight-hour stretches at 4 weeks, we consider the investment well worth it, even though it was a tough financial decision."

What is the nanny-family relationship?

The dynamic between parents and their night nanny is crucial, but so is the nanny's enjoyment of working with infants. "Often, night nannies appreciate working with these very young infants on a one-to-one basis," Kavanagh says. "There is also a lot of satisfaction in helping a family through these early days and seeing that they've had a positive impact on their lives by the time they are no longer needed."

A night nanny may be a luxury for some families and a necessity for others, particularly those who have no close relatives nearby, or who have demanding, stressful jobs. Budgetary concerns are on everyone's mind, but you may decide your family could benefit from hiring a night nanny.

Keep in mind, added rest at night will help you to give your best to your baby and your other responsibilities during the day. And it's hard to put a price on that. 

Think you need this type of help? Check out our 8 Tips for Hiring a Night Nanny.

Need to convince your partner that you need a nanny?  We've got you covered.

6 ways your family can benefit from hiring a night nanny

Here is some constructive rationale you can use to convince your partner (or yourself) to take the plunge and hire a  night nanny :

1. Saving your sanity is worth it
When you're up every hour on the hour with your baby, it's easy to feel run down, ragged and miserable. Explain to your partner that the extra cost of a night nurse is definitely worth preserving your mental health.

"I hired a night nanny for my second child, and it was the best thing we did. It saved our sleep and our sanity," says Caroline Turben of New Jersey, who recalls that her nanny would bring the baby to her at night for feedings and would do light housework around the home. Both helped her get more shut-eye than she would have if she went at it solo. "It was fabulous and I would recommend anyone to try it," she says.

2. It can do wonders for your relationship
You might not realize it initially, but losing sleep can put a strain on your relationship. Lack of sleep can make you feel grumpy and cause you to snap at your partner for no reason. A nighttime baby nurse can help relieve some of that friction by lending a helping hand and allowing you both to get a little more sleep.

3. You may learn a thing or two
Good, professional nannies come with tons of experience with little ones. They can help give you pointers in all aspects of parenting, including putting your little one on a better schedule to helping with nighttime feedings and diaper changes. In other words, most night nannies are more than happy passing on their know-how (even if it eventually puts them out of a job in the process).

4. It's cheaper than losing your job
Need another reason for hiring a night nanny? Look no further than your job. "We hired a night nanny over 11 years ago when my twins were born," says Wendie Khabie of Minnesota. "It came out of desperation. I wasn't able to keep up with the feedings and my husband had a grueling work schedule, so I couldn't expect him to help me every night."

Most families have one or more parents who work long hours during the day. If parenting your child at night is negatively affecting your performance on the job, it's probably less expensive to hire a night nanny and take some of the pressure off, rather than lose your employment.

5. You don't need an extra room
A night nurse, unlike a live-in nanny who requires her own bedroom, will often set up camp right in the baby's nursery. This arrangement lets her snooze as the baby sleeps and get up easily when the little one wakes, all without disturbing your slumber. But don't worry about your night nurse not catching enough sleep. She can take some time off during the day to recover.

6. It can help you both be better parents
Night nannies don't just take care of newborns — they also take care of Mom and Dad. And when you are well cared for, you can be your best, both physically and emotionally. Getting a good night's sleep can set you up for success during the day and there's nothing better than that.

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