How Long Should I Book a Maternity Nurse For?
This depends entirely on your lifestyle and expectations. We appreciate that it is difficult to anticipate how long will suit you, especially if you are a first time mother, but we recommend 6-12 weeks, if you can. The absolute minimum is 2 weeks, as this will get you through the most intense period upon discharge from hospital.
While every baby is unique, and develops at their own rate, we would like to give you an idea of how a full-term baby can develop. For ease we refer to baby in the masculine context below.
The first two weeks are all about the new parents adapting to their new baby and parenthood! The Maternity Nurse will reassure and teach you how care for your baby, while encouraging you to feed as much as possible as the focus will getting your baby back to his birth weight. Your Maternity Nurse will ensure you rest, eat sensibly for post-partum recovery and drink plenty of fluids to produce milk. She will also teach you the right feeding position for baby to 'latch on' if you are breastfeeding, as this is crucial to nursing success. On the other hand, if you wish to bottle feed, she will teach you all you need to know for trouble-free feeding to ensure baby is comfortable, that the teat size is correct and he doesn't gulp air at the beginning or end of his feeds. You will be taught the basics of how to feed, wind, change, swaddle, bath and how to care for the umbilical cord.
Your baby, during this period, will mostly sleep, feed and poop, and this will pass in a blur! If you book a Maternity Nurse for the minimum of 2 weeks, before you know it, it will be time for her to leave and many clients at this stage try to extend a further 4-6 weeks which is sometimes possible. As long as your baby has regained his birth weight and you are well, your Community Midwife will sign you off.
If breastfeeding, your milk supply should now be established, and depending on baby's weight, he will be encouraged to feed every 3 hours. He will go through growth spurts and will be hungrier than usual, so the feeding routine will be adjusted accordingly. This can be a challenging time for both mother and baby, but thankfully these growth spurts will last no longer than 48 hours, after which he will be his happy, settled self once again. At 4 weeks some babies can develop milk spots (baby acne), and this is also the time when reflux, either acid or silent, can develop.
At this stage, your baby will be happy to feed every 3 hours and on a really good schedule during the day. He can have a 'dream feed' at 11pm or he can be left to wake up during the night. Every family is different and your Maternity Nurse can guide you to help you make the decision. He may start to smile at this stage and will be happy to spend time alone on his playmat or babygym which has two arches with soft toys that dangle overhead. The introduction of tummy time (laying baby on his tummy) will encourage his neck and back muscles to strengthen. Some babies will be tracking with their eyes, will be smiling at parents and will be interested in brightly coloured objects.
Baby will be happy and smiling and will lay in his pram/moses basket for longer periods of time looking at his toys and overhead mobile. Tummy time will be increased gradually. A 4-hourly feeding pattern will be introduced with him going longer between feeds. Winding will be easier, and in fact, he will be learning to wind himself as he is gently brought upright during feeding time. He will probably only need one feed at night as he will be feeding well throughout the day. You will be feeling more like your old self by 8 weeks!
This is a really nice stage where baby is settling into his 4 hourly feeding schedule. He will have a 90 minute sleep in the morning after his first feed, a 2 or 3 hour sleep at lunchtime and a short nap in the afternoon before his bath and bedtime. A small feed will be offered if he wakes up during the night. In between feeding and sleep time, he will be stimulated and happy in his cot with a baby mobile or playing under his baby play gym and will enjoy the attention he gets from family and friends. First immunisations will be given at 8 weeks and do have infant paracetamol at hand if your doctor recommends it.
Your baby will be on what is now a firmly established 4 hourly feeding pattern. The morning sleep will be reduced to 1 hour, a long sleep will be taken after lunch and a short nap before his bath/bedtime. Some, but not all babies, will be sleeping through from 10/11pm until 7/8am. To ensure they keep to their schedule, babies will need to be engaged and played with during their waking times to ensure they don't drift off! He will enjoy being read stories, spending time under his baby play gym with toys suspended above him, and listening to songs and music being played.
At 12 weeks your baby will probably be sleeping through the night on a very established 7am to 7pm routine before teething causes disturbed nights' sleep which starts from 4-5months. The second stage of immunisations will be given at 12 weeks, and again, do have infant paracetamol at hand if your doctor recommends it.
Please remember every baby progresses individually and we can only give a general guide on full-term babies.
A pre-term baby, that is a baby who is born at less than 38 weeks gestation, is less physically mature than a baby born at 38+ weeks. Your Maternity Nurse will look at the date your baby was due and his gestational age to calculate your baby's 'adjusted' age. It is important to correct a premature baby's age to accurately assess his expected developmental abilities and to give him time to catch up.
Of course all babies progress individually and we are only giving a general guide on a typical full-term baby. Please note that pre-term babies, that is a baby who is born at less than 38 weeks gestation, are less physically mature than those who are born 38+ weeks and may take slightly longer to reach the above guides.
Regarding the booking schedule, you may consider booking a Maternity Nurse who lives-in 24/6 for the first 4 weeks, who then changes to a nights-only routine so that you spend the daytime hours with your baby.
Regarding the on-going care of your baby, if you wish to employ a nanny after the Maternity Nurse finishes her booking, our sister agency, Imperial Nannies, can assist you with this process and can be telephoned on 020 7795 6220. We would recommend your baby is 12+ weeks old before you employ a nanny in order to ensure that your baby receives the appropriate care and attention.