Utah (ABC4) – The majority of parents have experienced sleepless nights trying to sleep train their babies and feeling like a zombie the next morning.
But they may be able to skip over that difficult stage and get the sleep they need.
Jessica Rose Harper is a night nanny, though her real title is Newborn Care Specialist and Postpartum Doula. She is hired by families to come to their homes at night to sleep train and care for newborns.
“Typically, families will hire me before they have their baby, and I will come the night they come home from the hospital. I really just help them adjust to life postpartum because it changes so much when you have a baby,” Harper explains.
Harper says though her focus is on the baby, she can help moms with nursing and recovery from birth.
“Just the fact of getting sleep- sleep is so important for recovery. If you have a C-section, you really need that sleep to be able to recover, and if you’re nursing that’s even harder,” she says. “So just to be able to get that rest really helps, and it actually has been proven to decrease the risk of postpartum depression as well.”
Harper owns Jessica Rose Newborn Care, which provides services related to newborn care, according to the business’ website. She also works for The Baby Hive, a business that also provides newborn care.
According to Harper, a typical shift for a night nanny lasts from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. It will begin with her arriving and speaking with parents for about 15 minutes to check in on how the day has gone and providing education about topics such as swaddling. She might make suggestions on how to make the next day run more smoothly.
Next, she says the parents will go to sleep and she will check on the baby and wash bottles for nighttime feedings. Throughout the night she will provide care for the baby- burping, feeding, and changing them as needed. Harper says she will keep an in-depth log throughout the night of what happened and will write a summary of the night for the parents before heading out in the morning.
Nighttime care also involves sleep conditioning, she says.
“Really it’s building healthy sleep habits within the first couple weeks, so around three weeks we really work on their sleep environment: make sure they’re swaddled with sound and in the dark,” she explains. “As they get older, around six or eight weeks, we focus a little more on how much they’re eating and when, and that’s when they really start doing some longer stretches at night.”
Harper says she is taking precautions during the pandemic, such as just visiting one family at a time and wearing a mask overnight.
“It’s really just tailored to the family…, she says. “We’re really doing what families are asking for, whatever makes them feel comfortable.”
But is there a certain type of parent or family that usually invests in a night nanny? Harper says it’s very diverse, but she often sees families with twins or parents with demanding careers who need a good night’s sleep hire night nannies.
Missy Hiller is a mother of five who hired a night nanny from The Baby Hive to look after her fourth and fifth children- twins- soon after they were born.
She says her first three children used pacifiers to help them sleep. She says she was skeptical at first when the night nanny recommended that her twins get used to sleeping without a pacifier so that they could fall asleep in the future without one. After two days, they were sleeping fine without one, Hiller says.
“They’re more than just people who come in and help during the night; they help solve long-term behavior and problem-solving skills,” Hiller explains.
In fact, after her experience with hiring a night nanny, Hiller says she would like to see these services being paid for by insurance plans.
“My goal and my hope is that it would be accessible for every parent to have this postpartum care, and that would include night nannies because I believe this helps create a healthier atmosphere for not only the parents but also the child. When using these services, you have better mental stamina, you are thinking more clearly, you have energy, and you’re not just going through the motions,” she says.
In addition to caring for her twins at night, the night nanny helped Hiller create a routine that would allow her to care for her other children throughout the day.
“In that moment, with those hormones in that adjustment period, everything was so foggy and I was living on such little sleep. They were able to bring that clarity not only for the people they were helping sleep train but that structure into the home. I think that every parent and every family would benefit from that type of help and advice,” she states.
The Newborn Care Specialist would also give her advice on pumping, breastfeeding, and swaddling. They were also a shoulder for Hiller to lean on.
She says she would be excited to see another adult when the night nanny came in the evening after a day of taking care of young children.
“What that did for my mental health, I can’t put into words because I know that I would’ve dealt with postpartum depression had I not had that type of a friendship, and that’s why I feel so strongly that each mother should have someone coming in, checking in on them and not just saying, the baby is so cute, here’s dinner. But saying, let me help you; let’s set up a schedule. Let’s set up a routine,” she says.
“That brought the true sanity into the situation. They were there and they did something,” she adds.
Hiller explains that in other cultures and countries, mothers receive far more postpartum support than mothers in the United States.
“Their emotional and mental needs are taken care of – the babies are thriving… my hope is that it’s just included in your benefits, and its just part of the deal where you have someone that comes in, puts in a plan, makes sure your getting enough food, enough sleep, and makes sure you know what resources are available to you because once you have this experience, you want it for everyone,’ she says.
Additionally, having a night nanny come to her home helped Hiller maintain her relationship with her husband and older children, she says. It was also comforting for her husband to leave for work knowing that she had gotten a good night’s rest, and her twins were able to learn how to sleep well.
“For the twins, I was supplying their food. I was supplying their care. I was the one that feeding them every 45 minutes throughout the day. If I didn’t have that sleep, I wouldn’t have that passion and love. I would be more irritated, more stressed, and obviously, tired,” she explains.