Q. My husband and I are expecting our first child this fall. We do not have family nearby and are planning to hire a baby nurse or post-partum doula to help us during the first few weeks. Is there anything specific we should be looking for when hiring? What is the difference between a post-partum doula and a baby nurse?
A. The joys associated with becoming new parents are boundless; however, the first few weeks of a babys life are also full of challenges. First time parents, especially, are trying to learn so much in the face of sleep deprivation. A strong support network during this time is crucial- whether in the form of friends and family or someone who has been hired to assist.
There are two main types of people available to assist families during the newborn period: post-partum doulas and newborn care specialists (formerly known as baby nurses). Generally speaking, post-partum doulas focus on caring for the mother and educating her on assuming her new role. Post-partum doulas are often knowledgeable about breastfeeding and provide teaching to mothers about newborn care. Some doulas may also assist in light housekeeping and meal preparation. Newborn care specialists, on the other hand, focus primarily on caring for the baby- allowing the mother to have time to rest. Although newborn care specialists may refer to themselves as baby nurses, most of the time they have not completed medical training in the nursing field.
A post-partum doula or newborn care specialist should be:
There are also certification programs available such as DONA, CAPPA, and NCSA that provide education for doulas and newborn care specialists respectively.
On a final note, this person is going to be intimately involved with your family for several weeks; therefore, it is important to be sure that your personalities are compatible.