Having a maternity nurse

By Annyck Bunney

When we discovered we were pregnant with twins, after the initial shock and delight, we started to think about the reality of how we were going to manage to look after two tiny babies. These were going to be our first children and neither of us had much experience of looking after small babies, other than the odd night looking after my sister-in-laws twins, which made us realise pretty quickly what we might be facing! After speaking to various friends who had experienced singleton births, plus a few who had twins, the overwhelming advice was to get as much help as we could possibly afford, with a maternity nurse being top of the list.

Maternity nurses typically work with a family from the day you return home from hospital with your baby/babies or as soon as the babies arrive if a home birth, and are hired by the week, with some having a minimum booking time – usually two weeks but it depends.

Finding a maternity nurse

I signed up with a few central London agencies, taking my lead from the Portland Hospital website, as it seemed to be the place to start if you were looking for a maternity nurse. I think a quick search of Google would probably have the same results.

We had already decided that we wanted our twins to be in a routine from very early on and so wanted someone happy to help do that, plus someone with plenty of twin experience and of course excellent references. Other than that I didn’t really know what else to ask, but the agencies asked me all the relevant questions and helped me work out the kind of nurse I was looking for.

I telephone interviewed around 7 suitable maternity nurses and found that their availability around the time of the birth of our twins was the biggest limiting factor as the good ones tend to get booked up way in advance. I took up 2/3 references for each one I liked the sound of and tried to follow up as many as possible, which left me with a short list of four nurses who we invited for a second interview at our home.

Eventually we met 3 potential candidates at our home, two of whom were younger and although they were very impressive, we finally decided to go for the third candidate, a trained paediatric nurse from New Zealand with four children of her own and over 35 years of experience as a qualified maternity nurse. Although our first instinct was to find someone who would fit in with our lifestyle (little did we know that this “lifestyle” was about to be a thing of the past!), we quickly realised this wasn’t what we needed; we needed someone who could take control.

If you find a maternity nurse via and agency they should all be CRB checked, have some relevant qualifications and had recent first aid training but you should ask to see original certificates.

How much do they cost?

Costs back in 2009 were roughly £800 – £1,200 per week depending on their experience and qualifications, paid directly to the nurse with agency fees on top, approx. 10%.

Our experience using a maternity nurse

Tricia had a wealth of experience of looking after small babies, with plenty of twin experience, and I think she appealed to us as she we just wanted someone to show and tell us what to do from day one, which she did very effectively. We originally booked her for 6 weeks but very quickly extended our booking by another 2 weeks. As I was having an elective c-section we were able to give her a very good idea of when she would start with us. Most nurses seem to take a few weeks/months off between each booking so do have some flexibility with their start dates. If the twins had arrived early I think we would have had to manage without her until she was available, plus with twins the possibility of a longer stay in hospital is always more likely, so you just have to pick a start date that is good for everyone and keep in touch over the weeks running up the birth. I think the same would apply to those hoping for a natural birth too.

Tricia was great and provided me with a list of things we would need for the twins in advance covering everything from cots to the number of muslins, which I found really helpful as I didn’t have a clue. From the moment she arrived she had everything under control, organising their room, helping me with breast feeding/expressing, ensuring the babies needs came first and making sure I took as much rest as possible to recover from my c-section.

She worked along side us 24 hours a day, preparing and helping to give all the feeds, nappy changing, bathing, baby laundry, sterilization, going for walks etc. After a fairly awful time in hospital, it was a relief to be in such capable hands. Her experience meant that, as a first time parents, we were reassured and she was able to answer many of the questions we had.

She helped to establish a routine for the babies and made sure we were confident with the many aspects of caring for twins before she left, including feeling confident being out and about with the babies and feeding them away from home. She fitted in well with our family life, joining us for the main meals but also knowing when to allow us to have time on our own. While this was perfect for us, it might not be what everyone wants from a maternity nurse so it is best to be really clear about how much help you want or think you want, in advance. But be prepared to be flexible as it can all change once the babies arrive.

Tips and hints

  • Its also a good idea to find out how they like to work in detail, for example most maternity nurses are happy to sleep in the same room as the babies, if there is space, but some won’t.
  • It is helpful if they can have a room of their own at least for daytime catch-up naps if possible.
  • Most nurses tend to have 1 day/1.5 days off a week, with some taking that day every week and others working for 12 days and then taking 2/3 days off. Some will want to go away for their days off, while others might want to stay with you but be out of the house during the day etc. T
  • The nature of a maternity nurse’s role means that they will be live-in for most of the time with you, which means sharing your house with a relative stranger at what can be a very stressful time. Before she arrived I was quite worried about this but Tricia was so professional and experienced that this wasn’t a problem. In fact I cried for a whole day when she left!

How long do you need a maternity nurse for?

We had Tricia with us for a total of 8 weeks, which I think in hindsight might have been a bit too long, although at the time I didn’t want her to go. The twins were in a good routine by 4/5 weeks and I think I could have managed pretty well on my own by then.

What other options are there?

There are other options instead of a maternity nurse such as night nannies, who stay for the night and allow you to get a good nights rest, and doulas who provide non-medical help before, during and after the birth.

If anyone would like to find out more about our experience, please feel free to email me at .