One of my friends is a lot like Kirk from "Gilmore Girls" in
that she is always wearing a million different hats. I’m not kidding. She
recently told me that she realized four jobs is the most she can handle at
once—and she regularly walks that line.
So when she told me she was working as a night nanny (on top of
her full-time career, her many volunteer obligations and her highly involved
political activism), I shouldn’t have been surprised. Except, I was. Mostly
because I had never heard of a night nanny, and I was immediately intrigued by
My friend, and countless others like her, go into other people’s
homes and take care of their newborns while mommy and daddy get a full night’s
rest. And this can go on for months!
This friend’s full-time career is actually in public health, so
I naively assumed at first that this was simply an extension of her regular
job—maybe some kind of program being launched or tested to help mothers at risk
for postpartum depression. Because you can see the numerous practical applications there,
But, of course, a night nanny is an expense that probably
wouldn’t ever be paid for by any insurance company or government agency—it was
silly of me to even think that for a second. Instead, night nannies are a
luxury, a benefit afforded to those capable of paying $20 to $40 an hour for
I’ve had clients that don’t make
eye contact, that essentially throw their baby at me and shut the door. It
doesn’t feel good to be treated like a lower class.
Which got me thinking, what kind of people hire night nannies?
And what stories could those nannies tell?
It turns out, there are some doozies. I spoke to a handful of
night nannies on the condition of anonymity, and these are the stories they
“Most of the time, I
show up to work with no makeup on, in sweats, simply comfortable and ready to
spend a night waking up with babies. I’m also a new mom myself, so … there is no 'cute' happening for me.
"There was this one
father of triplets who was trying his best but was clueless. He would spend a
lot of time after his wife went to bed asking me questions about the babies.
Rare, because most husbands crash immediately once we get there, but like I
said, he was trying.
"This job lasted
several months, and eventually it transitioned into his offering me alcohol. I
always declined, stating I wanted to be professional and all-there to care for
his triplets. But then, it advanced to him making actual passes at me.
"I ended up having to
tell him that his behavior was out of line. I said, ‘I’m going to chalk this up
to you being sleep-deprived, so you should probably go get some rest. But if you
ever start acting sleep-deprived toward me again, I’ll have to tell my boss
and your wife.’
"Thankfully, it never
happened again, and he suddenly seemed to have a newfound respect for his
marriage. I know things can get strained between a couple right after a new
baby, and I’m sure that’s even more true after three new babies. But hopefully
he turned things around and started being the husband his wife needed him to
Ugggggh! Right?!? You want to know the worst part, though? This
wasn’t the only story I heard like this. One nanny revealed she had a client
who tried to slide into bed with her, explaining that it was a “straight-up
So, apparently you don’t have to be a good person to hire a
night nanny. Night nannies are earning their wage, not only by spending all night
waking up with someone else’s baby, but also by putting themselves at risk of
having to deal with creepy husbands in the middle of the night.
Here’s to hoping you can trust your husband with the night nanny.
Still, most of the stories I heard were more positive. Some nannies talked about really starting to care for the families
they were helping, and even being hired on as long-term day nannies after their
night nannying gigs were over. One even said:
“I had a couple
thank me for preventing their divorce. They said that their marriage was
falling apart when their twins first arrived, but that letting them sleep
helped return sanity to their lives, and even helped the mom with her
Of course, there were also the complaints. Like this one:
treated like ‘the help’ is hard. It rarely happens, but when it does, it sucks.
I’ve had clients that don’t make eye contact, that essentially throw their baby
at me and shut the door. It doesn’t feel good to be treated like a lower class.”
And this one:
“The company I work
for is really clear about what is and is not included in our services. I am
there to care for the baby throughout the night, and when he/she/they are
sleeping, so am I. I had one client who simply could not accept this. She kept
saying that she was paying me for every hour I was ‘on the clock,’ and that I
should be working, even if the baby was sleeping. She wanted me doing her
laundry and her household chores, even though our contracts explicitly state
that’s not what we’re hired to do! She would also always try to keep us (me,
and the other nannies who worked for her on different nights) late, and would
threaten to get us fired if we spoke up. Thankfully, the couple who owns the
business I work for is amazing, and when I went to them, they immediately had
I asked one nanny what the worst type of clients to work for
are. This was what she said:
“The houses where
grandparents are staying for an extended period of time are usually the
hardest. Mom and Dad are tired, and they’ve usually paid for the service, so
they’re going to bed. But Grandma will often stay up all night, hovering over
us, criticizing diaper changes, telling us how to apply diaper cream and even
swooping in to take crying babies from us. It’s hard because we’re hired for a
reason and then completely stifled in trying to do our jobs. I get it, it’s
Grandma and she wants to help. But, that may not be the best time to hire a
Wanting to end on a positive note (because, really and truly,
most of these women seem to love their jobs!), I asked another what the best
part of her job is. She said:
“Sometimes we are there seven
days a week from birth, and then the babies start sleeping through the night
and your job is done. It can be really hard to walk away from a baby you’ve
snuggled almost every night since it was born! We keep in touch with the
families and love getting new pictures and updates from them! It’s so amazing
to watch those babies transform before your eyes!”
OK, you had me at baby snuggles. If I weren’t such a fan of
sleep myself, this might be a job I would even consider taking on.
Then again, I already kind of did that once—spending countless
nights getting up with my own newborn as a single mom. But I wouldn’t have
traded those nights for the world. I loved those quiet moments in the dark that
were just for us. I loved being the person who was there to soothe and comfort
That said, my daughter was adopted—so I wasn’t dealing with
healing from labor or a C-section, and my hormones weren’t all over the place.
Plus, my daughter was actually a pretty great sleeper—averaging 6-hour spurts
by 6 weeks old and sleeping through the night by 8 weeks.
clients just want to do what is best for their
family, and sleep is an important part of functioning normally!
So, I wanted to know a bit more about the business of
night-nannying, and who can be most helped by the services offered. To my
surprise, I found that there are many, many night nanny agencies around the
country. There’s even an agency up here in Alaska, where we tend to be a bit
behind on the times with this kind of thing. I decided to reach out to Lindsey
Kruse, owner of Denali
Night Nannies, to learn the ins and outs of the business.
Can you tell me a bit about your clients? What type of parents use night
need sleep! Medical professionals who can’t afford to come to work tired, new
moms who want to show their bosses that they can be moms AND productive
workers, stay-at-home-moms who need a chance to take time to
themselves, parents of multiples, and parents that just need a break and need
help getting their child to sleep!
Is there an age range where this is most common?
We primarily work with infants, but
we have worked with children up to 5 years old. One of the services we offer is
sleep coaching. We start with a lot of our clients within the first few
days/weeks of their child’s life. Some have us start when their babies are 3–10
months old, maybe when they are returning to work and really need to start
sleeping through the night.
What would you say the main benefits of hiring a night nanny are?
My goal is to return the parents to
sanity. I want to reduce the stress in their lives so they can enjoy the time
they have with their children. Being postpartum, trying to heal, learning to
feed your baby—all of that is so hard. We aim to make some of it easier.
For the majority of our clients, that
means introducing our sleep coaching program into the equation. I think a lot
of people know how damaging it is when THEY aren’t sleeping, but what about
that poor baby? It’s desperate to sleep and it NEEDS you to learn their sleep
cues so you know when it’s time to put your baby down for a nap and so you can
figure out the best bedtime. We help a lot with that.
Have you faced (or witnessed) any pushback to your services? The mommy
wars are brutal, after all. Have any of your clients expressed a fear of
judgment from others because they are using your services?
As far as the mommy wars go, the
clients that hire us don’t seem concerned—they are contacting us so we can help
return a balance to their family. They just want to do what is best for their
family, and sleep is an important part of functioning normally!
Sometimes we will face a bit of
pushback regarding sleep coaching. Sleep coaching gets a bad rap because people
often think of cry-it-out, but that’s not a method we use. What we do is teach
the parents how to listen to their baby and how to help their baby sleep.
Babies that don’t sleep through the night cry more, they are more irritable …
it’s a health thing, and their sleep needs to be a priority too. (We’re talking
older babies here, obviously. Newborns still need to wake up every few hours to
Parents desperately want to help
their baby and do what’s best for them regarding sleep, so we teach them how.
I’m not concerned with people who don’t see the benefit to what we do. If
they’ve got great sleepers and babies that nurse quickly, that’s awesome! But
that’s not the reality for many parents.