Don’t settle for anything less than perfect…
For many families, the time of discovering they are going to have a child is both a joyous and terrifying occasion. If it is your first child, you know that 9 months from now, life will never be the same again, and for the repeat offenders, you start to sweat at the thought of the countless sleepless nights.
Having a baby is a huge responsibility and at times friends will helpfully comment on how ‘best’ to prepare. I gave birth to my first child in June 2015 and it was a life changing experience.
Prior to my son’s arrival I was given many nuggets of advice. “Get all the sleep you can” said one family, “Buy a nappy bin to stop the smell” said another. I spent some stressful days with my husband purchasing every ‘must-have’ item from Mothercare, the Bugaboo buggy (off road version to cope with my country estate home) and my son-to-be had possibly a bigger carbon footprint than I did by the time I had finished. But one of the most important (and life changing) decisions was which Maternity Nurse to hire.
Having worked in private recruitment for a number of years, I’d had countless clients come to me in order to find them the perfect maternity support. Words like ‘reflux’, ‘breast-feeding,’ and ‘colic’ had been bandied around, but now I had to pick my own it became a daunting experience. How do you pick a maternity nurse if you’ve never had a child? What kind of parent are you going to be? And how do you make this decision months before the little person pops into the world? Well, with all my experience in recruitment, this is what I did.
1. Find an agency you trust and enjoy working with.
It’s a competitive world. There are many agencies in London and around the globe who promise it all. Be wary of agents charging up front fees or too-good-to-be-true deals. Read the small print on the T&C and find out exactly what you’re signing up for.
A good agent should be fair, honest and open. Ultimately they want to make money as they are running a business, but they should be in the market for client satisfaction. A good agent would be happy to put you in touch with previous happy clients (even though they want to be discreet).
Avoid any agent who doesn’t let you do this. It is tempting to avoid agency fees and put an advert on gumtree but its just not worth it. By going to the agency you have peace of mind that the maternity nurses have been background checked and are worth looking at. Ultimately your new born baby needs to be cared for with total love and care and you want to have someone who is safe and trustworthy.
It sounds a bit odd as you are looking for a maternity nurse for your future child, but your choices and lifestyle as a parent will help give a better understanding of what ‘type’ of maternity nurse should be suitable for you. Do you travel regularly or are you more of a creature of habit and like to stay at your main residence? Do you have a large team around you (in terms of support and staff) or will your husband be travelling for business when baby is 2 weeks? Do you like rigid routine in life or are you more ‘go with the flow’?
These are all things you should explain to the agent as it helps them select what type of nurse you need. If it’s not your first child perhaps you already have a strong idea of a parental approach (Gina Ford/Attachment etc) and let them know this. Also let them know your due date and details about if you plan a natural birth/C-section with future breast feeding or bottle feeding. The more detail you go into the better it is for the agent to find you the right type of nurse.
The most important thing is that you are realistic with the budget. Maternity nurses are not cheap, but they are worth their weight in gold. Trust me, having one was the best decision I ever made. (I’ll go into why later).
Maternity nurses offer three types of support. 24 hour round the clock care. Night shifts only or day shifts only. This will affect the budget. Personally I am a fan of 24/5 (24 hours 5 days a week), and if you have the budget to do 24 hours 7 days a week then hire two maternity nurses.
The night support is vital. It’s when you get to the end of your tether and wonder what the miracle of birth is all about. Having that night support makes the nights bearable and keeps you sane. Remember you will pay more for overseas placements, and if you decide to travel with the maternity nurse. The more flexible you can be with your budget, the bigger scope of candidates you can interview.
It’s a time consuming process but you need to meet every candidate you are considering. Try not to get bogged down in the CV process as CVs will not give you an insight into personality, energy and approach. I always recommend interviewing around 5-6 candidates. Any more and the choice will overwhelm you, any less and you won’t be able to get good comparisons. You can of course interview more after the initial 6, but generally speaking it tends not to be needed.
During the interview let the maternity nurse know step 2 (all the information about yourselves) and then let her ask questions and ask questions in return. Look out for warning statements. For example if you know that you need your maternity nurse to really get involved in family life and she states ‘I like to be on my own and manage the baby solo’ then she probably isn’t right for you. If she claims that by week 2 the baby will be sleeping through the night then also stop and think if she is saying this just to get the job.
Try to approach it like any interview. Grand claims are probably unfounded. You want the maternity nurse to reflect your family lifestyle and energy. This is the most important aspect as she will ultimately be with you during a very emotional and vulnerable stage, so you need her to be the right fit. For my husband and I it was all about the energy and the approach. Our Maternity Nurse had the most infectious laugh. She had an easy going approach and explained that she would support me, but teach me to be the mum I wanted to be. We both felt that she would support but not interfere and luckily we were completely correct.
Once you’ve decided on who you want to hire, make the right offer. Come in too low, and it’s not respectful to the maternity nurse, come in too high and perhaps you’ve blown the budget. Be honest and open with the agent about how your budget is and let them do their job. They should be working for both you and the maternity nurse in order to ensure that all parties involved are happy.
Make sure that all written agreements are submitted to each party, and if the maternity nurse has her own agreement/contract (ours did) get hold of it in advance and make sure you are happy with it. For example, the maternity nurse might stipulate that on 24 hour contracts she is given 1-2 hours off each day in order to sleep and catch up on missed sleep from the night before. This is perfectly reasonable. However, if the maternity nurse demands a personal TV, car, flights home every weekend, then perhaps this is less so. Ultimately you have to be happy with the agreement otherwise it just won’t work.
Now it’s your turn. Take the time to focus on yourselves and make sure that mum and baby are happy. Leading up to the due date, your chosen maternity nurse should be touching base with you occasionally and making sure everything is OK. She should be on standby at least 2 weeks prior to the due date, as the second that baby arrives you need her to be ready and waiting at your home for your return.
The first nights support are vital for a good habit to be formed and good routines and patterns created. It’s personal preference but avoid asking the maternity nurse to come to the hospital. Particularly in the UK, many hospitals don’t like this kind of thing (unless you’ve gone private and then you have more flexibility). Generally speaking your perfect maternity nurse will be at home with a welcome pack and ready to greet you as you walk in the door.
You’ve done the really hard work of carrying a baby for 9 months and delivering him/her. Now comes the even harder bit BUT with the hire of your perfect maternity nurse it means it won’t be as hard as you thought! Enjoy the time with your little one and let the maternity nurse do her job. Take a bath when you need to, relax, rest and enjoy having downtime. Your body and your mind need to recover. A stress- free mum makes more milk (if you are breast feeding) and statistically reduces the chance of post natal depression. All your hormones will be on over-time and that amazing maternity nurse will stop you from crashing and burning.
I developed such a great relationship with my maternity nurse I was sad when our three months came to an end. For us the best routine was that she slept in the nursery with our son and brought him up to me every three hours for feeds (I was breast feeding). She helped with breast feeding techniques, taught me how to change a nappy, how to safely bath him and how to avoid being hit in the face with urine mid-nappy change.
It meant that between night feeds I was able to get deep and restful sleep, knowing that my baby was in safe hands. By 2 months my son was sleeping through the night and now by almost 6 he sleeps from 10:30pm to 7:30am, and this is purely on breast milk (no formula at all!). It’s been an eye-opening experience but one I really feel we couldn’t have achieved without her professional support and guidance. She has become a wonderful part of our family and is returning again soon to see our son. By picking the right candidate we ended up with the perfect experience.
So if I got a choice between a Buggy/Nappy Bin/All the baby clothes in the world and a maternity nurse – I’d pick a maternity nurse any day! So let me help you make your maternity nurse experience the best it can be. Let us know when your due date is and let’s start the search! Lucy Challenger CEO of Polo & Tweed