SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – For some Utah families, the sleepless nights that sometimes accompany having a newborn baby are being made more bearable by some special night visitors.
Like the “practically perfect” Mary Poppins, night nannies are being sought after more and more to save children and parents alike. These nocturnal nurturers aren’t cheap, but they aim to offer the priceless gift of a good night’s sleep for babies and parents. Night nannies stay overnight while parents sleep and care for your baby for you.
Previously-pooped parents John and Kate Elliott say a night nanny saved their sanity when their newborn John was born pre-mature.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” said the couple, whose eyes no longer had bags underneath them after a grueling first few months with baby John. “It was an epic fail in the beginning.”
Baby John, born two months early, was in the NICU for a few weeks after his birth. The stress of that plus the stress of having their firstborn child caused sleep to elude them – and with baby John’s difficulties as a newborn, he never wanted to sleep, either.
Kate’s mother flew in to help the couple, new to Salt Lake City.
“She said ‘this is not an easy baby. You’re going back to work in a week…you need help,'” Kate recalled. Both John and Kate work demanding hours as medical professionals.
That’s when a visitor appeared on their doorstep, just as night fell.
“We were hallucinating at that point, I thought we saw an angel walk through the door,” Kate said of night nanny Marie, who works for The Doula House in Salt Lake City. Marinda Lloyd, a night nanny herself, co-owns The Doula House.
“I’m coming into a home of desperation…parents are at their breaking point,” Lloyd said. “I had one mom who said ‘I was this close to checking myself into a mental hospital.'”
Some might think parents who enlist night nannies aren’t cut out for the job. Not so, Lloyd said. Post-partum depression, demanding careers and prematurity issues make new parenthood more difficult, and help is sometimes necessary.
Hollywood highlighted this vocation in the 2018 Mother’s Day weekend release Tully, which stars Charlize Theron as an over-exhausted stay-at-home mom who enlists the help of a night nanny to stay with her newborn while she tries to get a good night’s sleep. The film delves deeply into post-partum depression through Theron’s character.
“I’m here to take care of you,” Tully, the film’s night nanny, says to Theron’s character as she appears on her doorstep.
That’s exactly what Lloyd and her team aim to do as well.
But the Elliotts were skeptical at first when a friend suggested they enlist the help of a night nanny.
“We definitely laughed it off at the time, we thought they were being a little over-indulgent,” said John.
But when baby John was born, they realized they needed one. The service can cost thousands of dollars at first, but after a few weeks to months, parents are sleeping better and are able to wean themselves and their baby off of the need for a night nanny, the Elliotts said.
In fact, this type of postpartum care prompted the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to push for policy changes in the United States that would encourage insurance companies to implement “reimbursement policies that support postpartum care.” Studies have shown postpartum in-home care can drastically improve the mental health of new parents and help infants hit important milestones.
“We usually teach parents how to read their child, how to anticipate what is coming next so that they are like almost two steps ahead of their child – so that their day AND their night can have this beautiful flow,” said Lloyd.
In the Netherlands, for example, new moms get newborn care and assistance from professionals in their home as part of their healthcare plan – a practice Lloyd said the U.S. should adopt.
“We kind of have this belief system in our culture which is ‘you got this,'” said Lloyd. “Parents internalize that and say ‘I should have this,’ so when it’s not going the way it should be going in the book or in the movie, they start putting it on themselves.”
At first, Kate Elliott thought she had failed as a mother. Now, she believes her night nanny empowered her to be a better mother.
“You pay a fair amount of money up front…but it’s an investment…and it pays dividends,” John said.
Even if a night nanny isn’t in your price range, Lloyd said there are other services you can look into, such as help with depression, newborn care or a birth doula to help you through the delivery process.
Today, baby John is happy, health and sleeping through the night. And so are his parents.
“Being a parent is tough – and it’s a total cliche but it does take a village,” said John. “And we didn’t have a village here. And so, they became our village.”
“Sleep is not just something that’s nice…it’s actually required,” said Lloyd. “This is why I do what I do, so that I can see that happy baby and those calm, balanced parents.”