Postpartum Doulas and Baby Nurses: What’s the Difference?
You know you need support but amongst the thousands of different baby products out there and the myriad types of postpartum support offerings, how do you pick the right one for you?
Let’s start with the two most common types of people who will come into your home after your baby is born and help you adjust to new parenthood:
1. The postpartum doula and…
2. The baby nurse*
A postpartum doula is a trained and experienced professional who aids new parents through education, information and support. Her focus is on the whole family as a unit (mom, partner, baby, siblings, pets), providing care and support, assisting the family wherever help might be needed and allowing mom to recover from birth.
A baby nurse* is a non-medical care provider, who may also be called a newborn care specialist. Her primary focus is on the baby and many times taking over care for extended periods of time.
So, let’s break that down a little more.
A postpartum doula takes a multidisciplinary approach to assisting a family during the newborn period. She is a coach, a counselor, a friend, a teacher and a cheerleader- depending on the needs of the family at any given moment. Postpartum doulas are inherently problem solvers and listen to what the family’s goals are and troubleshoot as things arise from a physical and emotional standpoint – through the lens of the stated goals. Many postpartum doulas begin working with a family before the baby even arrives and most have extensive credentialing including certifications and trainings in breastfeeding and sleep. Most postpartum doulas provide evidence-based support.
A baby nurse will generally work night shifts (though some will do days, as well) managing the baby’s care while the parents sleep restfully. When the baby wakes up, the baby nurse feeds by bottle or brings the baby to the mom for nursing. After feeding, the baby is burped and changed and put back to bed. Her help is nearly always related to the care of the baby – not the family – and includes support with scheduling, feeding, and sleep training. Some baby nurses may have training but many times her support is experience-based.
Deciding which type of support might be right for you will depend on the kind of support you think you need. How hands-on are you trying to be with your new baby? How much confidence do you have? And what parts of your pre-baby life are most important for you to maintain?
It’s also worth noting that these two types of support may not always be mutually exclusive. I advise a lot of my clients, especially if they’re planning on breastfeeding, to hire a postpartum doula for the beginning and then hire a baby nurse when your baby is 3-4 weeks of age. At that point, the “new baby adrenaline rush” has worn off, you’ve taken the time to establish breastfeeding and have had the opportunity to really get to know your baby, so you can certainly benefit from the overnight help and ability to sleep while your baby is well-cared for.
If you need more information about postpartum doulas or baby nurses, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Margot from The Daily Doula. She is happy to do free consults with anyone considering what kind of postpartum support they need.
* “Baby Nurse” and “Newborn Care Specialist” are often used interchangeably. Legally, however, it’s advised that “Baby
Nurse” should only refer to an individual who is an actual RN or LPN. Because there are no regulations placed on this profession, many individuals refer to themselves as “Baby Nurses” regardless of whether or not they were medically trained. It is important when interviewing your postpartum support candidates that you understand what training they come to your home with.
Margot, of The Daily Doula, is a trained postpartum doula, a certified breastfeeding counselor and a Gentle Sleep Coach. With her masters degree in early childhood education and development, her own unique birth, postpartum and toddler-raising experiences, and the over 50 families she’s worked with, Margot supports a wide variety of families as they tackle the often-unplanned for aftermath of bringing baby home and raising young kids. She also had a postpartum doula and a baby nurse during her postpartum periods. She became a postpartum doula. So, take that at face value.