Postpartum Doulas, Night Nurses, Nannys, & Newborn Care Specialists

Postpartum Doula, Night Nurses, Nanny, or Newborn Care Specialist. What’s the difference and Who should I hire?

Doulas have been getting more attention lately (Thanks Royal family & Jimmy Kimmel) and although birth doulas are having a moment, there is still uncertainty about what postpartum doulas do for families. I get a lot of parents inquiring about doula services that could really benefit from one of these other professionals. Don’t know which type of support would fit your family best? What are the differences between these types of services? Let's take a closer look at the care that families can expect from each.

Night Nurses

A Baby Nurse/Night Nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) that cares for newborns with medical challenges in a family home. They have special knowledge of infants with prematurity, genetic disorders or other life-threatening conditions. They are often hired for overnight care of infants that require some type of medical supervision or treatment at various hours around the clock. They are the only type of infant caregiver that provides actual medical treatment as part of their scope of practice.

Specific Services:

  • Medical treatments

  • Administration of medicine to infants

  • Extensive knowledge of medical conditions in newborns


Nannies provide professional, in-home childcare and are often used to replace daycare facilities for one or multiple children. Nannies care for all children in a family and can even be shared by several families at a time. Their job is to provide a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment during the day. Hours are tailored to the needs of the family but are typically 40-60 hours a week. They focus on high quality childcare but also tend to home care such as cooking, laundry, tidying, grocery shopping, and running the children to their activities. If you are looking for care for children of various ages, to replace daycare with a more personalized option, or a more encompassing child/home care option, then a nanny will be the choice for you.

Specific Services:

  • Replacement of daycare - providing educational and developmentally appropriate activities

  • Care for children of all ages

  • Household chores - cleaning, meal preparation, errands as needed around childcare

Newborn Care Specialists

An NCS is a highly trained in-home infant care provider. They usually support families for a minimum of two weeks between birth to 6 months and are hired for 8-10 hour daytime shifts, full overnight support, 24 hour live-in care, or even to care for baby during family travel. The focus of an NCS is to provide parents peace of mind that their new baby is being well cared for while they sleep, work, or are otherwise occupied. NCS provide parent education on newborn care, sleep training, and guide them into effective newborn routines. Often specializing in care for multiples and preemies, NCS are well versed in all things related to infant development, behavior, and appearance and are equipped to spot any issues and relay those concerns to parents.

Specific Services:

  • Thorough documentation and implementation of infant schedules, including feeding, sleep, and diaper output.

  • Implementation of sleep training starting at 3 months old

  • Work with little oversight from parents

  • Stays up to date on evidence-based information and studies in newborn care

  • Assistance with and education on breastfeeding, pumping, breast milk & formula storage, bottle feeding and sanitation

  • Support parents bonding with their baby

  • Tips for infant soothing

  • Offer local resources and support groups as needed

  • Knowledgeable about normal baby development as well as common newborn issues that might need attention such as jaundice, allergies, reflux, colic, etc…

  • Training in working with preemies and multiples

Postpartum Doulas

Although postpartum doula care incorporates similar tasks to newborn care specialists in terms of infant support, they have a different focus. Their goal is not only caring for baby, but caring for the parents and supporting the family as a whole unit. How is everyone recovering, bonding, adapting to the new family dynamic? And what are some changes that can be made to make that transition as smooth and peaceful as possible? A big role of postpartum doulas is to act as educators, empowering parents to take care of baby on their own and ultimately working themselves out of a job. They are often hired during pregnancy and start visiting and providing resources anywhere from right after birth up to a year old. Shifts range from a short term basis - even single visits, to long term weekly schedules of a few hours a day or overnights. Postpartum doulas are problem solvers, listening to parents experiences, watching interactions, and providing evidence-based information on infant care, postpartum recovery, and any other issue that a family may have. Postpartum doulas know how to spot postpartum mood disorders, how to support recovery after birth and cesareans, and are really there to support both baby and birth parent.

Specific Services:

  • Whole family care with an emphasis on supporting the birth parent

  • Stays up to date with current evidence-based information on infant development and studies in newborn care

  • Assistance with and education on breastfeeding, pumping, breast milk & formula storage, bottle feeding and sanitation

  • Emotional and physical support in recovery from birth

  • Encourage parents bonding with their baby

  • Tips for infant soothing

  • Some errands, light house cleaning/tidying and home organizing

  • Sibling bonding and adapting

  • Light meal prep, snacks, and help with ordering groceries

  • Help with discovering and implementing plans to reach your parenting goals

  • Recognize and refer for postpartum mood disorders

  • Offer local resources and support groups as needed

  • Training in working with preemies and multiples

Here are some things to consider when hiring any of these professionals: Do they follow, teach, and practice all current safety recommendations for safe sleep, feeding, and use of baby products. Are they currently CPR AED certified? Do they act with professionalism in each step of their contact and services with you? What other types of certifications and trainings do they hold that would be beneficial to your family?

When deciding which support is best for you and your family, I suggest that you consider just how much guidance you are hoping for in caring for your baby. Do you want some tips and tricks on newborn care and ideas for bonding with baby so you can feel confident as a parent? Do you want some pampering and companionship as you manage the first few weeks postpartum? Do you want someone you can trust completely to care for baby while you are working or away? Are you looking for full time, long term support that could replace daycare? What are your medical needs? Whatever your needs may be, these caregivers are here to support you. Reach out to a few in your area, do some interviews, and see who feels like a good fit. When you meet the right person, it will seem like they were meant to be with you on this journey all along.

Chelsie Duckworth  

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