In our series The Debate, our community of real moms tackle the pros and cons around the idea of a baby nurse. The truth is, like so many decisions around child rearing, there is no right or wrong answer. At HATCH, our job is to give voice to both sides of any debate, peppering real mom wisdom with the necessary facts so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.
After “And what shall, we name him?,” the question of whether or not to get a baby nurse is probably one of the heaviest decisions a mother can make. Of course, so much of that choice depends on finances, living space, other children at home, proximity to family and various work schedules, but one thing’s for sure – a baby nurse can be a wonderful resource in figuring out life post-babe (not to mention getting a little shut-eye), or totally intrusive, depending on your POV.
“A baby nurse can be incredibly helpful in many ways for the right parent,” says Dr. Aliza Pressman, parenting expert and co-founder of seedlingsgroup and host of the Raising Good Humans podcast. “But you have to manage expectations. Some baby nurses are wonderful for their experience, but parents often forget that they don’t have a professional healthcare approach. If you do hire one, make it for a limited period of time – no longer than five months – so that your baby doesn’t get attached to a temporary figure.”
In this episode of The Debate, we hear from two of our HATCH mamas – one who lived for hiring a baby nurse (#noregrets) – and one who preferred that the intimacy of those first few weeks at home be shared exclusively with her partner and babe. Whatever you decide, remember that you’re still mama and you call the shots. “If a mom has the ability to take care of herself and sleep and get support, whether with a nurse, doula or mother-in-law, it’s always beneficial,“ says Dr. Pressman. “Just don’t forget that you’re still the mom. You’re not an incompetent person just because there’s a professional there telling you they know best.”
All Nurse, All The Time
“With my first daughter, I was working as a private chef in New York City and my hours were nuts. I was working until the day I gave birth and was working again two weeks after having her. I don’t really take breaks. If I don’t work, I don’t make money. So I knew I needed a nurse to help out. We were living in a one-bedroom apartment with a pull-out couch, so it was not ideal. We had her for one week, and the rest of the time I was juggling it all. I’d put the baby in the carrier and try to get through the day, and it was super stressful. I just didn’t have the space to accomodate someone comfortably even though I needed the help.
By the time I had my second daughter, we had moved out of the city and had more space. Stupidly, I thought, I got this. I can do it on my own. Meanwhile the baby had reflux and was up all night. It was a lot to juggle, and if I could do that experience all over again, I definitely would’ve gotten a nurse.
I’m due in January with my third and it’s not even a QUESTION. I’m having someone for the first month or two, and possibly more. I’m going to play it by ear and see how things go. My work schedule is slightly different now. I’m not a private chef but I run a family meal subscription business, so I need to be at my desk working, and then twice a week, I test recipes. So I’ll have someone here to help me with sleep training, and it gives me the space to tend to my two other kids who still need attention. Plus I have lunches to make and work to balance. I need to sleep at night to get my work done and be a human being.
The best part of having a baby nurse is sleep. I need a good eight hours, otherwise I’m off my game and I feel miserable and cranky. I need my sleep. My husband can function on four hours of sleep and be totally fine. I need my sleep and that’s a reason right there to have one, especially if you’re working and need to function the next day. The “nap when the baby naps” idea is a very new mom thing. When you have other kids and you’re running carpool and working, it’s a totally different situation.
With a baby nurse, it’s all about finding someone who jives well with you and who you feel comfortable with. Now we’re a bit more set up. She’ll have her own little domain with a bedroom and bathroom, but we’ll still be under one roof. The key is to find someone a friend has used, or go based on references. I don’t have time to sit and interview millions of people. I need someone I know is fantastic and committed, which is easier said than done. I also think it’s about having no expectations. I’m going to play it by ear and be flexible with everything. It may be a totally different situation, so I’m going to feel it out.”
No Nurse, No Thanks
“The ironic thing is that we were supposed to have a baby nurse, but in the end, we didn’t and I’m so much happier for it. Because Esme was my first, we weren’t sure what to expect. I heard from friends that a baby nurse is helpful in the first few weeks – that I could get sleep and she’d take some of the pressure off. So we got a great recommendation from a friend and signed up for two weeks with the possibility of extending. However, that same friend ended up getting pregnant and delivered right before me.
I ended up having an emergency c-section. I wasn’t really mobile at all, and as soon we came home from the hospital, my partner and I discovered very quickly that we had to work as a team and figure out what the best strategy was for us. I think that was helpful for our relationship and in going forward with the baby. We started dividing up the labor right away. Because my milk was slow to come in after the c-section, we supplemented the 3:00am feeding. So we figured out what’s the best schedule that works? Because we were using a bottle, it took the pressure off me a bit. I would feed at midnight and sleep until 6:00am. Dave is a much better sleeper than me, so he would sleep from 9:00pm-3:00am and then stay up with the baby and go back to sleep once I got up for the day. We figured out what worked best and also I was much more comfortable being able to experience these new and super raw emotions just with my partner and without someone living in our home.
At first I was nervous without a nurse. People always say, “Your motherly instincts will kick in,” but that puts a lot of pressure on new moms. You don’t know what you’re doing and you’re navigating so many things being thrown at you. In the end, you do the best you can. But it forced my husband and I to rely on each other. What do we think is best, how do we want to handle this situation? So we had to trust our own judgement and ultimately I think that was the right thing for us.
The only time I felt like I really needed help was when Dave went back to work after two weeks. Those first few nights were difficult because he needed to sleep. There was so much more responsibility on me, and I wasn’t completely active. I was very much still recovering, so those days were particularly hard. Plus, some of those postpartum feelings started creeping in, and at some point, I felt really alone. But I don’t know that I needed a baby nurse. If I have a second child, I’ll just make sure my mom is there or a companion can come support me when he goes back to work.”