Do You Need A Maternity Nurse?

By: Carolyn Joana

If you've determined there's enough money in your budget for a baby nurse (they don't come cheap), you'll need to consider several other factors before deciding whether or not to hire one. Here are some reasons why you might opt for the help:

• To get some hands-on training in baby care. If you haven't had experience or taken a parenting class and feel you'd rather not learn from the mistakes you make on the job and on your baby, a good baby nurse will be able to instruct in such basics as bathing, burping, changing nappies and even breastfeeding. If this is your reason for hiring a nurse, however, be sure that the person you hire is as interested in teaching as you are in learning. Some won't tolerate novice parents peeping over their shoulders; one with such a dictatorial take-charge attitude can leave you as inexperienced and unsure when she departs as you were when she arrived.

• To avoid getting up in the middle of the night for feedings. If you're formula feeding and would rather sleep through the night, at least in the early weeks of postpartum fatigue, a baby nurse, on duty twenty-four hours a day or hired just for nights, can take over or share this feeding responsibility with you and your spouse.

• To spend more time with an older child. Some parents hire a baby nurse so that they can be more available to their older children, and hopefully spare them the pangs of jealousy that are often provoked by new arrivals. Such a nurse might be hired to work just a few hours a day during the time you want to spend with your older child. If this is your major reason for hiring a nurse, however, keep in mind that her presence will probably serve only to postpone feelings of sibling jealousy.

• To give yourself a chance to recuperate after a Caesarean or difficult vaginal birth. Since you probably won't know if you're going to have a difficult time before hand, it's not a bad idea to do some scouting around for nurses in advance, just in case. If you have the name of a potential nurse or two, or at least have spoken to an agency, you can call shortly after you deliver and have a helper hired before you get home.

On the other hand, a baby nurse may not be the best solution to your postpartum needs if:

• You're breastfeeding. Since a nurse can't feed a nursing newborn, and feeding is one of the most time-consuming tasks in the care of a young baby, she may not prove to be all that helpful. For the nursing mother, household help - someone to cook,clean and do laundry — is probably a wiser investment, unless you can find a nurse who will do these chores and also offer breastfeeding tips.

• You're not comfortable with a stranger living in your home. If the idea of having a non-family member sharing your bathroom, your kitchen and your table twenty-four hours a day makes you uneasy, hire a part-time nurse rather than a live-in, or opt for one of the other sources of help.

• You'd rather do it yourself. If you want to be the one to give the first bath, catch sight of the first smile (even if they say it's only gas), soothe your baby through the first bout of crying (even if it's at 2 am), don't hire a nurse, hire household help to free you up for fun with baby.

• Dad would rather do it, too. If you and your spouse are planning to share baby care, a nurse may get in the way. There may also not be much left for her to do - except to collect her paycheque - especially if dad's around full-time while he's enjoying paternity leave. In that case, the money could probably be more sensibly spent on cleaning help.

If you decide that a baby nurse is right for you, the best way to go about finding one is to ask for recommendations from friends who've used one. Be sure to find out if the nurse in question has the qualifications and qualities you're looking for. Some cook, some don't. Some will do light housework and laundry, others won't. Some are gentle, motherly women who will nurture your innate mothering ability and leave you feeling more confident; others are bossy cold and patronizing and will leave you feeling totally inadequate. Many are qualified nurses: some have also been trained specifically in caring for mother as well as baby, in mother-child relations, and in teaching breastfeeding and child-care basics. A personal interview is extremely important, since it's the only way to know whether you are going to feel comfortable with a particular candidate. But excellent references ( do check them out) are a must. A nurse hired through an agency should be registered. It's also very important that a nurse - or anyone else you hire who may come in contact with the baby - has been screened for TB. She should also be trained in CPR and child safety, as well as be up-to-date on baby-care practices (putting baby to sleep face up; keeping toys, pillows and blankets out of the cot. and so on)

Parenting
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