An Evening With an Overnight Newborn Care Specialist
Nighttime with a newborn is exhausting— unless a pro is there to help
Photo by Lisa Helfert
At 4 a.m., Linda Lindsay woke the parents of the baby girl she was watching overnight and calmly told them the news: Their newborn’s breathing had become gradually labored and they needed to take her to the ER. After the baby was treated for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and sent home, the grateful mother asked Lindsay how she’d known to alert them. “I work with newborns all the time,” Lindsay told her. “I’ve been through this.”
An overnight newborn care specialist can be like the manual every parent wishes came with a new baby. They know the tricks for diaper rash and the perfect swaddle. “You’re there at night and need to know the ins and outs of a newborn—understanding colic, understanding reflux,” Lindsay says. The Silver Spring resident, who has two kids in college and one in high school, works from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. She helps make the early weeks with a new baby less of a sleep-deprived blur for parents, while offering moral support and reassurance that their baby is OK.
“A lot of times moms are just feeling like, I need another adult to talk to, I need to let them know what I’m going through,” says Lindsay, who works for D.C.-based Hush Hush Little Baby and is certified by the Newborn Care Specialist Association. “They can cry in front of us—we don’t want it to happen, but it’s happened.”
Lindsay, 51, grew up in Ireland and came to the U.S. to be a nanny when she was 18. After focusing for many years on raising her own kids, she started working as a newborn care specialist 10 years ago. Her clients—including a single mother, a pair of doctors and parents of twins and triplets—hire her for a few nights or as long as six months, though three weeks is the norm. Hush Hush Little Baby’s overnight fees range from $25 to $35 an hour.
Lindsay develops a system with breast-feeding moms—a knock on the door, a text—to let them know it’s time to feed the baby. (She’ll sometimes visit moms in the hospital right after they give birth if they’re struggling with nursing.) She uses an app called Baby Connect to keep parents posted on feedings and diaper changings.
One thing she always tells new parents? “Having a baby slows things down, and you have to go along with the ride.”
In her own words...
Careful With Her head
“You have to really know how to hold them and handle them. The parents are very nervous. When you have a little 4-pound baby, you better know how to support the head, you have to learn how to swaddle. The newborn is a specialty—no mom wants anybody around their newborn unless they have good experience. They want to know their baby is safe.”
“I’ve had siblings walk in in the middle of the night to check on the baby. They want to hold the baby, and I let them—I don’t send them off. I say, ‘Come on, come sit down. How about you hold her and snuggle with her for a few minutes and then we’ll get back to bed?’”
“I love swaddling. I don’t rock the baby too much because it’s not necessary. I don’t give a pacifier—babies don’t need them in the beginning. Once they’re fed and swaddled, you can watch their eyes. They get a little heavy, then I like to put them right in their crib. Clients are really looking for [their babies to develop] good sleep habits, so we don’t want to be sitting there rocking, rocking, rocking.”
What Moms Worry About
“Babies cry and scream, and moms are like, ‘Is that normal? Why is she doing that? What’s wrong with her?’ Sometimes we don’t know. Sometimes it’s a lot of different things. It’s all about getting to know a newborn, and them getting to know you.”
Sleep, Glorious Sleep
“A lot of stuff happens when you’re sleep deprived. You become forgetful, you’re not the best mom you can be when you’re not rested. And it can also lead to postpartum depression. With a lot of moms I’ve experienced that.”
Up All Night
“If it’s a preemie, I’m not gonna sleep on the job. And if it’s twins, I’m certainly not gonna sleep on the job. We’re not there to sleep. I always ask, ‘How do you feel if I close my eyes when the baby is sleeping?’ And if they are like, ‘Absolutely not, we really want you to be awake,’ I say, ‘Absolutely, I just wanted to check, that’s why I’m here.’ ”
Associate Editor Kathleen Seiler Neary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.