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By Jessica T

The truth about night nurses

Uploaded: Oct 30, 2013

After I revealed that I was pregnant with twins, countless colleagues and neighbors provided recommendations for night nurses. Over the past several years, I've been surprised by the number of my friends who have voluntarily opted out of one of the hallmarks of newborn life (indeed the anthropological necessity of getting up throughout the night) by engaging a night nurse. And for a steep $200 per night...

I have fond memories of waking up with my first daughter. For the first time ever, I was a 24-hour creature. I got to bear witness to every aspect of day and night, and while sleep deprivation did cause me to warp a stock pot - a wedding gift we have to this day - I didn't regret getting up in the middle of the night at all. Indeed no other choices were economically viable to us.

Fast forward 10 years later - I suppose we could spend a load of cash on a night nurse at the expense of a year of college for one in our brood. My friends and neighbors created urgency around their recommendations by assuring me to book them in advance to guarantee their availability. One neighbor even revealed that she flew her baby nurse out from New York to live with the family for the first twelve weeks!

No doubt, everyone has their own very legitimate reasons for what aspects of childrearing, housekeeping, etc... they choose to outsource according to their means. They may not have family nearby, other young children in the house, or they may be working parents without flexibility in their schedules. Maybe they are even sitting on loads of cash.

But my husband and I scratched our heads for a while over whether we needed a night nurse for our twins...Is a night nurse the Tesla of newborn care? Or is it a necessity for those who can afford it? Did these people know something about newborn twins that we didn't? Would our constitutions be so different 10 years later, that we ought not disturb our sleep repeatedly? I began to scratch the surface a little more with friends and neighbors and here are some of the reasons they gave:

"I'm just not a very happy person, when I'm not getting enough sleep."

"When I was so sleep-deprived that I dropped my baby, I knew I needed one."

The truth is, if you are breastfeeding, a night nurse isn't going to save you that much sleep. She may diaper your babies and put them back down, but you are still feeding them. And if that's the case, isn't she just a stand-in for your husband? I'm sure that night nurses have unique value propositions I haven't listed here and may not be aware of.

But what I actually uncovered was that many of my friends' and neighbors' husbands were sleeping soundly in a guest bedroom undisturbed by newborn care while the wife (OR night nurse) were left to take care of the baby(ies). That may very well be a necessity, prescribed by society's woefully insufficient paternity leave benefits. (Although in several cases, the husbands in question had professions at least as flexible as my husband's.)

I am lucky to have a husband who is a professor and on sabbatical, so his help has been invaluable - particularly with twins. While we don't have an extra square foot to spare for guests in our house, he's never considered allowing me to go the nights alone. At 3 am, we crack our best jokes and get our day's dosage of silliness in. At 4 am, when we are headed back to sleep we nuzzle against each other, express our appreciation of the other, and make empty promises about future intimate moments we'll have when we catch up on our sleep.

I get the night nurse thing now. It is certainly for people of means, people who have an excess of cash who'd rather not spend it on something else. It's also for couples who don't have the same 50/50 bargain my husband and I do. After 17 years together, we shouldn't have doubted what we knew instinctively. Having additional children was something we worked at for years, we weren't about to outsource the early months.

What has your experience been with night nurses? What factors contributed to either hiring or not hiring a night nurse?