What to expect from a Newborn Care Specialist

by Andrea Hedley, Founder of the Newborn Care Specialist Association

A Newborn Care Specialist (NCS) works in the home usually starting the day you come home with baby or the day of home birth.  An NCS helps empower new parents to become confident in their new roles, by helping establish good feeding and sleeping routines and habits. They typically work overnight or work 24/7, for up to 3-4 months. An NCS will usually take on full care of your newborn overnight so parents can rest, with the exception of bringing baby to feed with the nursing parent. They are highly trained to educate and empower the parents in those first few months with their baby, which can often feel overwhelming.

How do Newborn Care Specialists differ from nannies who work overnight shifts?

A Newborn Care Specialist is highly trained specifically in all aspects of newborn care and will have many years of experience with families during the first few months with a newborn. They will be able to help parents feel confident in their own care of their precious newborn and will be familiar with common issues, such as reflux, and have proven solutions and resources to help. A Night Nanny works typically with a family for longer, this is often an add-on to their day work, and they may not be as trained and experienced in the first few months of care with a newborn.

Are they RNs or Lactation Consultants?

Many Newborn Care Specialists are also qualified in other areas, such as Lactation, as either a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or Lactation Educator/Counselor, and Sleep Training/Conditioning. Many will also have qualifications such as working with multiples, premature infants, car seat safety, infant development, and maternal mental health. Some are also RNs, LVNS, LPNs, Postpartum Doulas, and/or Birth Doulas.

Do Newborn Care Specialists generally work at night? (If so, when do they sleep?! And what are their hours?)

Newborn Care Specialists are happy to work whatever hours a family feels they need. Often this is overnight care so that a new parent can rest and recover from birth or adapt to new parenthood, if the baby is adopted or born via surrogate; however, they will offer around-the-clock or daytime support as well, if needed. When working ’24 hour’ contracts, an NCS will typically require a 4-6 hour break, usually taken first thing in the morning when the parents wake up, and will lightly sleep when the baby sleeps at night. All aspects of any contract are negotiable between the family and the Newborn Care Specialist they hire.

How do NCSs assist new parents in addition to baby duties, do they take care of any household chores, etc.?

In addition to caring for the newborn, Newborn Care Specialists will often do baby-related duties such as organizing and maintaining the nursery and all supplies related to baby care, such as breast pumps, bottles, pacifiers, and baby laundry. Some Newborn Care Specialists are willing to help with additional duties such as family meals, laundry, sibling, and pet care, etc. However, those things usually fall outside the general duties of a NewbornCare Specialist and are on a case-by-case basis, typically negotiated between the caregiver and the family. 

How does their help differ between nursing parents and non-nursing parents?

A Newborn Care Specialist will often be qualified in lactation support and will work within the scope of practice of their lactation qualification; and will know when to refer to an IBCLC or an MD. Also, an NCS will provide professional infant feeding foundations, including lactation support, latch techniques, address milk supply challenges, pumping support, and provide non-judgmental, unbiased formula feeding advice. Guidance on human milk and formula preparation/storage, bottle and pumping equipment hygiene, will also be part of the NCS’s duties. Parents are advised to always confirm their NCSs qualification and level of lactation support before the contract starts.

How long do parents usually need Newborn Care Specialist Services?

Parents normally book Newborn Care Specialists for 3-4 months but recently we are seeing longer-term contracts for families who want continuity of care during the pandemic. Often families seek to extend contracts when they have booked for a shorter period; thusly, it is advised to speak with your NCS about realistic expectations for how long you will require care.

Should parents tip Newborn Care Specialists?

As a working NCS myself, as well as being the Founder and Executive Director of the Newborn Care Specialist Association (NCSA), I have never been tipped. I do, however, get invited to a lot of birthday parties, as babies I have worked with grow up, and this means more to me than any tip ever could.

When parents are looking for a Newborn Care Specialist, what questions should they ask?

As the voice of the NCSA, I urge parents to only hire a Newborn Care Specialist who comes with a great resume of experience and references; they should be highly trained with a reputable NCS training academy, and ideally have ongoing training certificates in sleep conditioning, lactation and feeding issues, care of multiples, premature babies, infant mental health, and perinatal mood disorders. The Newborn Care Specialist Association has been providing certification to NCSs, since 2006, who have the required training, hours of experience, CPR certificates, and background checks. With NCSA certification, families can rely on the ease of knowing they are hiring a NCS who is entirely up to date with their knowledge and experience.

These are some suggested questions:

  • What do you believe makes you a great NCS?
  • How will you support my feeding decisions?
  • What is your philosophy on care, and what methods will you use to soothe my baby?
  • What is your preferred method for helping a family with a sleep schedule?
  • Will you support the family if we change our minds about routine?

How can parents determine if a Newborn Care Specialist is right for them?

Whether your baby has been delivered after hours of labor via the birth canal, by surgical birth, arrived by surrogate, or via adoption, this is a time of transformation for your family. It can be a very sensitive time in your life involving extreme emotions. It is vital that the person you invite into your home to help during this time is the right fit for you as a family. The person your good friend recommended, because they were a great help to them, might not be the right fit for you, for reasons you might not be able to explain.

An experienced Newborn Care Specialist will understand the importance of this, and will be happy to spend time with you during your selection process, and answer any/all questions you have, so trust your gut instinct when choosing.

Generally, what is the cost for a Newborn Care Specialist who works throughout the night?

This is going to vary depending on where you live. As a general rule, a Newborn Care Specialist tends to be more expensive than a regular day nanny, about 25-30% more in most markets.

Rates around the US tend to be between $25-$55 per hour, with some anomaly markets, such as the San Francisco Bay Area seeing as high as $65-$75 per hour. These rates, even within the same market, are highly variable based on the background of the  NCS and the demand for their services.

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