What is the Difference Between a Postpartum Doula and A Baby Nurse?

While preparing to welcome your new baby into your family is an exciting time, it can also be quite overwhelming. That’s why many families plan ahead by enlisting the help of a Postpartum Doula, or a Newborn Care Specialist, also referred commonly as a “Baby Nurse”. When researching these terms, it can quickly become confusing; learning what each distinction means, and how these amazing professionals can benefit your family. Below we’ve spelled out the differences between each profession and the tasks performed.  

What is a Postpartum Doula? 

Postpartum Doulas provide mothers and partners with emotional, physical, and information support following the birth of the newborn baby. While Postpartum Doulas are primarily educators, doulas support mothers, fathers, the new baby and the baby’s siblings through the newborn transition. Families typically meet with and hire a Postpartum Doula during pregnancy. Although many families will also hire a Postpartum Doula after the baby is born to help out. The doula usually comes to the home a few hours during the day or for overnights during the first few months following the baby’s birth.  Some families work with Postpartum Doulas on a short term basis, and others for a long term basis.  

Baby Caravan Postpartum Doula, Margot Simmons adds, “The Postpartum Doula takes a multidisciplinary approach to assisting a family during the newborn period. She is a coach, a counselor, a friend, a teacher and a cheerleader- depending on the needs of the parent at any given moment. Postpartum doulas are inherently problem solvers and listen to the needs of the family and troubleshoot as things arise from a physical and emotional standpoint.” 

A Postpartum Doula is dedicated to the care of the mother and whole family. She provides evidenced based information on topics such as: 

  • Assistance with breastfeeding, pumping, and breast milk or formula bottle feeding 
  • Assist in breast feeding education and support 
  • Support for emotional and physical recovery from birth 
  • Support with parents bonding with their baby 
  • Tips and tricks for infant soothing 
  • Run errands 
  • Light house cleaning, tidying up and organizing 
  • Meal Prep and assistance ordering groceries 
  • Sibling care 
  • Offer local resources and support groups as needed 
  • Screen for perinatal mood disorders 
  • Help you achieve your short term and long term parenting goals 

What is a Newborn Care Specialist? 

Newborn Care Specialists, sometimes called “Baby Nurses”* provide solely infant care. They are trained professionals who work with new parents to understand newborn issues and development.  Newborn Care Specialists can live in with the family for a few weeks or even a few months following the baby’s birth. The Newborn Care Specialist care’s for the infant’s needs to give new parents plenty of rest time knowing their baby is being well cared for. Some specialists are also available to live out of the family’s home and come into the home to work overnights only.  

Newborn Care Specialists care for just the baby. General responsibilities include: 

  • Care of baby 
  • Bottle feeding baby 
  • Establishing a routine and eating schedule 
  • Provide overnight care 
  • Help organize nursery 
  • Can help detect jaundice, reflux, colic, and other common newborn issues that might need medical attention 
  • Bathing, diapering 
  • Bottle cleaning and sterilization
  • Sleep training

Deciding which model is best for you and your family, you may want to consider your goals and what you primarily need assistance with. Do you want guidance and confidence boosting while learning how to care for you newborn? Or do you want someone to care exclusively for your baby? This can be very helpful for moms with medical needs, or for parents who need to return to work fairly quickly.  

For families who want to be very hands on with their new baby, but would like the education, guidance and support as they learn new skills- a Postpartum Doula would be a wonderful fit for them. Even if families are looking for overnight support so both parents can sleep, Postpartum Doulas are able to help with baby care overnight, and may even help with laundry and meal prep while they are there.  

For clients who plan to breastfeed, Margot suggests families invest in hiring a Newborn Care Specialist when, “your baby is 3-4 weeks of age. At that point you’ve had 3-4 week to establish breastfeeding, and have had the opportunity to really get to know your baby. Also at this time you can certainly benefit from the overnight help and ability to sleep while the baby is cared for.”  

If your primary goal is to have a professional tend to the needs of your new baby, help you establish a schedule, and eventually sleep train your baby, then a long term baby nurse would most likely be the best fit. We hope these descriptions helps you understand the professional differences between Postpartum Doulas and Newborn Care Specialist.  

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*A note to clarify- while you will hear the terms “Baby Nurse” and “Newborn Care Specialist” used interchangeably, especially in New York City, it’s advised that “Baby Nurse” should only refer to an individual who is an RN or LPN. We place “Baby Nurse” in parentheses to help avoid confusion for those who are used to seeing that term refer to what Newborn Care Specialist do. Because there are no regulations placed on this profession, many individuals refer to themselves as “Baby Nurses” regardless of whether or not they were medically trained. 

Jen Mayer