The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Night Nanny

May 21, 2024
BY Partum Health Care TEam
Night nanny watches over newborn baby

As a new parent, the more support you can get after giving birth, the better. Enter night nannies: a hero of the postpartum world, there to take care of your newborn while you sleep undisturbed. 

In many cultures, it’s common practice to have extended family in the home who can help care for a newborn overnight. In the US, however, new parents are often isolated, overwhelmed, and dangerously fatigued, leading to an epidemic of parental burnout and postpartum mental health challenges. 

Night nanny care is more affordable than you think, and can significantly ease those early sleepless nights postpartum. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about hiring a night nanny, from what, exactly, a night nanny does to how to conduct a night nanny interview and what to expect from their first night on the job. 

What is a night nanny?

A night nanny, or infant care specialist, is a professional designated to care for a baby overnight, typically while the parents sleep. Some night nannies are postpartum doulas; they often have more experience and training, such as in infant CPR. While sometimes also called night nurses, a night nanny is not usually a registered nurse.

However you want to refer to them, new parents will tell you, a night nanny can be a true lifesaver. Alex R, a first-time parent in Chicago, Illinois says, “Our night nanny is incredibly professional, experienced, and kind and she has, in a very short time, completely changed my postpartum experience with her support. I trust her with my newborn, which really says it all.”

Though not required, some night nannies will carry certifications, such as a Certified Sleep Consultant, Certified Advanced Newborn Care Specialist (NCSA), or Certified Doula. Beyond any specific training or experience, the most important thing to consider when you are looking for a night nanny is if you trust them, personally and professionally, to care for your infant. 

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What are a night nanny’s duties?

A night nanny’s primary duty is to ensure the baby is fed, calm, and safe throughout the night. Secondary to that, night nannies are often tasked with light household tasks, such as cleaning bottles, doing laundry, and organizing the nursery. 

Typical infant care duties include changing diapers, soothing, and bottle feeding. If you are breastfeeding, the night nanny will bring the baby to your bedside to nurse and take them away as soon as they are done feeding so that you are disturbed as little as possible. They’ll take care of burping and laying the baby back to sleep, all while you doze. 

As Stephanie P, a new mom in Houston, Texas put it, “I really appreciated our night nanny just coming in and taking over care of baby. We were both able to get some much needed sleep. She appropriately made the call to not wake me up again to feed baby when he was not full from his prior feeding. She also took care of light chores that set us up for an easy morning transition.” 

Overall, think of a night nanny as being the on-call caretaker overnight. If your baby needs anything during the night, the night nanny is the first line of defense, protecting you and your sleep.

Is it worth it to hire a night nanny?

Parents agree: it is absolutely worth it to hire a night nanny. Think about how you show up as a parent, partner, and professional on 2-3 hours of intermittent sleep versus a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep: that’s the difference a hiring night nanny can make.

Sarah H, a new parent in Chicago, Illinois describes how her night nanny soothed their infant with colic. “Our night nanny has been amazing and helpful to help transition to a new baby and sleepless nights. She did a fantastic job of finding ways to keep our son calm during his witching hour. She even shared info with me on how she did the baby massage that my son liked.” 

There are some cases when hiring a night nanny is extra impactful. Consider, for example, if you are a first-time parent and could use professional support learning how to take care of a newborn. Or, if you have children already, a night nanny can allow you to be fully present for toddler bedtime and help ensure everyone in the house gets a better sleep, easing the sibling transition with a new baby. Other parents seek out night nanny care after a traumatic birth experience, when there is concern about postpartum depression or mood changes, or if you have twins, triplets, or higher multiples. 

Whether you are adjusting to your first baby or your fifth, anyone can benefit from the extra hands-on support a night nanny provides. 

How to hire a night nanny

While it may seem daunting, the process to hire a night nanny is fairly straightforward, and similar to how you might research and engage other forms of childcare. Here, we’ll walk you through how to hire a night nanny from navigating costs, finding candidates, and deciding which night nanny is right for you.

1. Set a budget

The first decision to make when hiring a night nanny is how much you’re able to budget for their services. Night nannies typically cost about $35/hour: if they work an 8-hour overnight shift, that comes to $280 per night, or about $1200 for four nights a week of care. 

There are a number of ways to offset the cost of a night nanny’s services, for example:

  • Add night nanny care to your registry: Friends and family can give the gift of a good night’s sleep when you add night nanny care to your baby registry. This is a good option because you can pool funds from multiple people to invest in a valuable service, instead of winding up with too many newborn onesies.   
  • Budget for daycare early: If you plan to send your baby to daycare when they are older, you can think about the cost of a night nanny as comparable, and factor childcare expenses into your budget from birth.
  • Check your HSA/FSA: While it’s not typical for health insurance to cover night nanny care, you might still be able to take advantage of pre-tax dollars through an HSA or FSA.
  • Ask your employer: More and more, employers are considering covering night nanny services as an employment benefit, especially around the return-to-work. Even if this isn’t something your employer offers as standard practice, it doesn’t hurt to ask – at least they will know working parents are interested!

2. Decide when to seek services

An important part of hiring a night nanny is considering when, for how long, and how frequently you’ll need to schedule shifts. There are different timeframes when families can benefit from night nanny care; you’ll want to decide in advance when it will be the most beneficial for you, and understand how flexible a night nanny’s availability is in case your situation changes.

For example, here some considerations for when to hire a night nanny:

  • Timing: Do you want help for the postpartum period right after birth, or around your return to work? 
  • Length of contract: How long do you need a night nanny for? It’s common to hire a night nanny for 8–16 weeks, with many parents finding the 3-month mark to be the sweet spot. 
  • Frequency of sessions: How many nights a week should a night nanny work? Many families find relief with just one night a week, while others really want 4-7 nights. You might also consider starting with more frequent support, and tapering off as you find your footing.
  • Day or night support: Is your main goal to maximize sleep during the night, or would your ideal nanny also be available for some daytime support? 

You might try answering these questions alone, have your partner do the same, and then compare responses and discuss together. All of these criteria will help to narrow down your search for the perfect night nanny, and clarify your expectations heading into interviews.  

3. Interview candidates

It’s typical to have a brief phone or video call with a night nanny before engaging their services. During this conversation, you’ll want to have a few interview questions prepared; here are some examples of interview questions for a night nanny.

  • Experience: How long have you been in the profession, how many families have you worked with, and what are your favorite things about the job?
  • Style: How would you describe your “style” as a night nanny?
  • Services: What are some specific services you provide to help your clients through the postpartum period?
  • Availability: Do you have other clients around my requested dates? How many hours will you be present, and how can I communicate with you outside of those times?

Overall, it’s important to get a sense of whether a night nanny’s caretaking philosophy lines up with your own. Try to focus on open-ended questions, and make sure to take notes on their responses so that you can compare multiple candidates. Leave time at the end for them to ask any clarifying questions or address topics they see as relevant; remember that interviewing a night nanny is a two-way street, and they are also looking for a family that they are comfortable working with!

4. Welcome them into your home!

After you’ve interviewed candidates, agreed on contract terms, and hired your night nanny, it’s time to welcome them into your home! In many cases, the first shift a night nanny works will be your first night home from the hospital. You’ll want to let them know when you go into labor, and keep them posted on how things progress leading up to discharge. 

To help the first shift go as smoothly as possible, consider giving your night nanny a quick home tour, detailing anything they might need to make themselves or your baby more comfortable. This includes:

  • Which bathroom they should use, if any are off-limits
  • If there are snacks they can help themselves to 
  • How to operate the TV if they can watch it while baby is asleep
  • Where key light switches and noise machines are so that baby’s room is dark and quiet
  • Anything to know about diapering stations, laundry, and bottle washing and storage

Keep the tour focused to anything specific to your home: remember that night nannies are infant care experts, and you can trust that your little one will be in good hands!

More FAQs about hiring a night nanny

How much does it cost to hire a night nanny?

On average, it costs about $35/hr to hire a night nanny. The exact hourly cost will depend on the professional you engage; night nannies with more experience and certifications, or those who live in higher cost of living locations, may charge up to $50/hr. Some night nannies also offer lower hourly rates, especially when you guarantee payment for longer or more frequent shifts. Ultimately, the cost will depend on who you book, and for how long. 

Cost is often top of mind when it comes to hiring a night nanny; if you are worried that night nanny care will get expensive, consider that even one night a week of nanny care can make a significant impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. 

How far in advance do you need to hire a night nanny?

Especially in cities like Chicago or Houston, night nannies can book up quickly. If you know you want to hire a night nanny, it’s a good idea to start the process as soon as you know you are pregnant, or in your second trimester at the latest. If you wait until closer to your due date, you might find that many of the best night nannies near you are already engaged.

Can night nannies help with sleep training?

Because night nannies are typically hired to support families in the early newborn period, babies are generally too young to be sleep trained by a night nanny. Night nannies can help support sleep-wake cycles by ensuring babies are feeding to fullness and not eating just to be soothed. This helps to start to stretch the length of time newborns will sleep for, eventually leading to a full night’s sleep once circadian rhythms are established.

However, every family is different; if you decide that you want to wait to hire a night nanny until after the newborn haze, or continue the contract when the baby is 4-6 months old, then a night nanny can absolutely aid in sleep training.

Do night nannies sleep?

Most night nannies will not sleep while on a scheduled overnight shift; they are on-call to take care of the baby, and complete light household chores when the baby is asleep. That said, there are exceptions to this, such as if you hire a nanny for both day and night infant care. It’s a good idea to clarify your expectations during a night nanny interview to avoid potentially uncomfortable conversations down the line.

There is no shame in proactively seeking support to help care for a new baby: we’ve yet to hear from any parent who regrets the decision to hire a night nanny. If you’re having trouble finding the right night nanny for you, contact our team at Partum Health to get started.

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