The Baby Nurse Phenomenon

Over the last few years as a newborn photographer I have encountered this phenomenon called “the newborn nurse”. For years I watched confused as these women cared for babies while the new mother was still running around the house caring for other children, cooking and picking up.

According to Baby Nurse America, an agency that places baby nurses in my area, a baby nurse is a non-medical newborn specialist who is highly experienced in infant care. Baby nurses work in private homes and care for newborns typically from the day the baby arrives home through a period of several weeks or months. Normally, they provide 24-hour care and “assist new and experienced parents in every aspect of newborn care and may also help establish eating and sleeping patterns.”

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So basically they are nannies who bathe, feed, burp, rock and swaddle the baby 24 hours a day. They are not — in case you were confused — nurses.

Sigh… for the last few years I have sat and watched new moms struggle to actually become moms and learn to care for their babies because these baby nurses swoop right in to do the work themselves. I’ve watched them give horrible and “old wives tale” advice to moms regarding breastfeeding, bottle feeding, burping, sleeping and so much more. In fact, recently at a session I finally opened my mouth when the sweet little baby I was working with was desperately rooting and obviously hungry to anyone trained in actually recognizing newborn hunger cues. I suggested to the mother that the baby be fed a bit more and the “nurse” swooped in to say she had already drank 2 ounces and wasn’t due to eat for another 3 hours! “She must need to burp” and she grabbed the baby and walked away. My ears burned, and I’m sure my face turned red. I took a deep breath and looked at the mama and said, “You know, if that was my baby I would feed her as babies do best at the age when fed on demand, their little bodies can’t do a schedule yet”. The mom looked at me sad, with her eyes glistening and you could see she was obviously upset. I said to her, “you know the nurse is here to help you learn to be a mom, but you are her mother. She works for you. If the nurse wasn’t here what would you do? What does your gut say?” She responded, “Feed my baby”, and we were both quiet. A minute later she got up and talked to the nurse and asked her to feed the baby.

I get it, becoming a mother is so SO hard and we need help! So many mothers don’t have family around to come and help or sisters and aunts that can come and lend a hand and teach you all those little things about baby care and how to become a mother. We no longer have our tribes. So what do we do?

Find a post partum doula! According to DONA international- “What a postpartum doula does changes from day to day, as the needs of the family change. Postpartum doulas do whatever a mother needs to best enjoy and care for her new baby. A large part of their role is education. They share information about baby care with parents, as well as teach siblings and partners to “mother the mother.” They assist with breastfeeding education. Offers evidence-based information on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, infant soothing and coping skills for new parents and makes appropriate referrals when necessary. A postpartum doula certified by DONA International is designated by the initials PCD(DONA)Postpartum doulas also make sure the mother is fed, well hydrated and comfortable.”

That last line right there- “Postpartum doulas also make sure the mother is fed, well hydrated and comfortable” This is what new mothers need. The most important thing a mother needs when she has a baby is to be mothered! A new mother needs someone to help her! Someone to fold and do laundry, clean, do some grocery shopping, cooking and watch out for other children and make sure she is eating herself! A new mother needs help breastfeeding and verbal support that she is doing a good job! A new mother does not need someone to swoop in and take her baby and tell her what she should be doing and how to do it and not let her do it herself. We need to be supporting new moms to follow their natural instinct, we need them to learn to read their babies cues, they need time to focus on just bonding with that baby and nothing else for a period of time. The focus needs to shift from hiring someone to take care of the baby to taking care of the mother, the mothers job is to care for the baby.

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I’m not bashing women who have gotten a newborn nurse in the past, in fact I applaud them for realizing that we can’t do this job alone, that we do need help and support. I want to help educate women on what they really need and what would be more helpful and alternative help available out there when they aren’t able to rely on family.

For more information on postpartum doulas and finding one in your area please visit: www.dona.org

Maria Fuller

I’m a former critical care paramedic with a concentration in Emergency and Disaster Management, an injury on the job led me to retire from that and manage the disaster that is my home these days, I’m lucky I had good training!

I believe in Love at first sight- I met my husband on his 18th birthday and the rest is history

I’m passionate about a women’s right to birth without fear or pressure whether that is at home or in a hospital, I’ve done it in both places.

I have two beautiful girls, Alexa and Arya, 5.5 years apart. I believe each of my daughters was sent to me to remind me of a piece of myself I have lost along the way, it has been exciting journey to rekindle those parts of “ME” again.

We live on a little River in Southbury, CT with our Rotti Beagle mix, a Crazy 1 year old German Shephard and a fat cat that won’t leave the basement, he might be to fat to climb the stairs.

I love a good margarita on the rocks with Salt but ONLY if my husband makes it with hand squeezed lemons, limes and homemade simple syrup, any other margarita sucks.

I listen to “pitbull” in the car with my daughters, they have no idea who Raffi is but Alexa knows most of the words to “Calle Ocho”

I’m the girl who will love you fiercely but is not afraid to “tell you like it is”, if I do, it means I actually care about you!

I love my girls but there are many days I don’t like them or want to be around them. Yep, I just said that, its normal for you to feel that too!

I believe that mothers a given a handbook when their baby is born, its called “intuition” and it will never lead her astray.

I am a photographer who helps women “Celebrate the Courageous journey of motherhood”

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