What does a night nurse do

What Does a Night Nurse Do?

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Have you heard of overnight newborn care? The idea of professional overnight support with your baby might sound like a dream, but what does it actually look like? Parents often have an instinct that they’ll want overnight newborn care, but they wonder what it will be like to work with a night nurse. The first answer is that it looks however you want it to! Your “night nurse” [Newborn Care Specialist or Postpartum Doula] is there to help your whole family integrate and rest better. They can take over bottle feedings for a parent’s full night’s rest, bring baby to the nursing parent for feedings, or a combination of both.

Let’s explore a typical night with both options to paint a picture of the many benefits of overnight newborn care for all families:

A Sample Overnight:

At 9:55pm: Your overnight Newborn Care Specialist arrives for her 10pm-6am shift. At 9:55pm, you hear her quietly come in the front door and lock it behind her. She removes her shoes, washes her hands, and meets you in the living room where you’re nursing your 3 week old for the umpteenth time today. With tired eyes, you smile at her – it’s such a relief to see her again after a long day!

How was your day?” she asks.

As the baby finishes nursing, you explain that your baby has been cluster feeding on and off since dinnertime and you’re exhausted. You’re ready to try a bottle feed for the first night waking, but you feel overwhelmed by that, too. You explain that you were able to pump today, but the milk is still waiting in the fridge unprepped.

Your Nightingale reassures you that it’s a great age to introduce a bottle. You’ve overcome initial nursing hurdles together and you deserve a break! You point her to the clean bottles waiting in the sanitizer and she assembles one with a slow flow nipple. She pours 2.5oz of breastmilk into the bottle and sets it back in the fridge, then plugs in the bottle warmer and adds water so it’s ready to go the next time the baby is hungry. She takes your pump parts and sets them on a tray on your bedside table. 

When your Nightingale returns to your side, your baby has just finished their feeding. You pass him to her and she gently burps him. 

She gently asks you, “The bottle is prepped, and your pump parts are ready to go on your bedside table. Would you like to set your own alarm to pump, or would you like me to wake you when the baby is hungry?”

You decide to set your own alarm at 2am, and you’ll leave the milk outside your bedroom door on the tray. You make a plan for your Nightingale to use today’s pumped milk in the fridge for the first nighttime wake-up, then the fresh milk pumped at 2am for the following feeding.

At 10:15pm: You and your partner head off to bed for a nice uninterrupted rest. Your night nurse carries your baby to the nursery where she changes him and takes a quick peek at his umbilical area – almost fully healed! She dresses him in light pajamas and expertly swaddles him with a muslin blanket. She turns on the white noise machine and settles him, then places him flat on his back in his bassinet with a pacifier as he drifts off to sleep. 

Your Nightingale will always follow the most recent AAP safe sleep guidelines to keep your baby safe.

With the dim red light of his nightlight, she quietly tidies and restocks the nursery, then lays down to rest just before 10:45pm

At 11:30pm: Your baby is grunting and stirring in the nursery with their Nightingale, but you blissfully sleep through it in the next room. She observes him and gently lays a hand on his chest to reassure him that he’s well cared for. He drifts back to sleep. 

At 12:30am: Your baby stirs again. This time, your night nurse knows he’ll be hungry. Your pediatrician has advised you to feed your baby at least every 3 hours for now. In another week or so you’ll be able to start stretching nighttime feedings. 

She quietly pads out to the kitchen and pops the bottle of breastmilk into the warmer. 

When she returns to the nursery, your baby is starting to kick his feet and open his eyes. The Nightingale sets the bottle aside and scoops up your baby. She quietly unswaddles him, changes his diaper, and sits down in the rocker with your baby in one arm. She gently but confidently offers him the bottle, helping him get acquainted with this new task. After a couple of tries he latches on and she offers a paced feeding, ensuring he drinks at the same rate he does while nursing to prevent a bottle preference from developing. 

Your baby has been a bit gassy, so she makes sure to offer him several opportunities to burp. She gently bicycles his legs, then holds him over her shoulder and pats his back. He has a nice big burp and she holds him upright for a moment for everything to settle. Just as she’s about to swaddle him back up, he has a nice big poop, too, so she changes him again. 

At 1:20am: He’s drowsy but still a tiny bit awake when she lays him down swaddled in his bassinet with a full belly, clean diaper and pacifier and he drifts off to sleep within minutes.

At 2:00am: Your alarm wakes you. You sleepily sit up and reach for the pump parts waiting on the tray on your bedside table. You hook up your electric pump and set a timer for 20 minutes, then zone back out. 

At 2:20am: You turn off your pump and set the pump flanges with bottles of milk attached on the tray. You set everything on the tray and place it outside your bedroom door, then text your Nightingale “all done pumping, thank you”. She “hearts” the message and responds “he took his bottle great, sleep well!” You head right back to sleep, so proud of your little man for taking his first bottle. 

Outside your closed door, your Nightingale quietly retrieves the tray of milk. She carries it to the kitchen and distributes it into one prepped 2.5oz bottle, and the rest goes into a labeled breastmilk storage bag. If your baby doesn’t need all of the pumped milk at his next feeding, that bag will go into your freezer stash. Your overnight Newborn Care Specialist puts your pump parts and the bottle into the sink until the morning.  

At 2:40am: Your Nightingale returns to the nursery with the prepped bottle of milk. Since it will be used at the next feeding, it doesn’t need to go into the refrigerator

At 3:30am: Your Nightingale’s alarm goes off quietly on their phone. Your baby is still snoozing soundly, but your pediatrician has advised you to not let him go longer than 3 hours without eating. She slowly unswaddles him and lets him stretch his arms and legs. Then she carries him to the rocker and sits with him for his next bottle feeding. Again, she helps pace his feeding and makes sure he burps well before settling him back to sleep in his bassinet. He starts to fall asleep at the nipple so she changes his diaper to rouse him. He falls back asleep drinking but completes almost the whole bottle.

Between 4:30am-5:15am: Your baby is particularly noisy in his sleep. He grunts, grumbles, and wiggles around in his bassinet. Your overnight Newborn Care Specilast observes him and notices that he’s perfectly content, albeit active in his sleep. This is quite normal for his age, and since he doesn’t come close to actually waking, she turns up the white noise a bit and lets him do his thing. 

At 5:40am: Your Nightingale heads to the kitchen. She washes the bottles places them in the sanitizer. She does the same for the couple of used pacifiers laying about. She washes the pump parts and since you’ve communicated that you’d like to sanitize your pump parts once a day, so she puts those in too. She adds water and runs the sanitizer, then returns to the nursery. 

At 5:50am: The baby is waking up again. Your night nurse quietly knocks on your door and lets you know that you might want to nurse him now in order to get a couple extra hours of rest. She returns to the nursery and unswaddles him, changes his diaper, then brings him to you. She helps you get comfortable by tucking pillows under your arms so you aren’t straining neck and shoulder muscles. She fills your water bottle as you get your baby latched on. She asks if the latch is comfortable, and you mention that you’re a bit sore from pumping. She suggests using a nipple cream after the feeding, and rubbing a tiny bit of olive oil into your pump flanges next time you pump. 

You thank her and say goodbye. Your partner wakes to ask for a verbal recap of the night, even though your Nightingale has taken detailed notes of everything that has occurred. Your partner notices that the diapers and wipes have been restocked and the nursery is tidy. 

At 6:00am: Your overnight Newborn Care Specialist heads home.

At 6:10am: Your baby is done nursing and you settle him back down in his bassinet. Your partner takes a quick snooze, then wakes fully rested at 7:00am for an amazing hour of alone time to catch up on self-care and prepare breakfast. 

At 8:00am: You wake up fully rested and shower before your baby is ready for his next feeding. You carry him out to the living room and feed him, and your partner brings you a breakfast tray to nibble on while you nurse your baby. Your whole family is well-rested and looking forward to a brand new day as a family of three!

Sound like a dream?

It really can be! We work out overnights to best fit your needs and requests. Our team members are expertly trained and vastly experienced. On an overnight shift you should feel comfortable and supported [and ideally well rested too!]