But the second time, Scharf says, she hired a different baby nurse, with disastrous results. "She was more concerned with what we could do for her, like sightseeing and a spa day. We knew within the first five minutes that it was not a great arrangement," she says. Her advice: Get multiple recommendations and try to interview the baby nurse in advance, so you know what kind of baby nurse you're hiring.
Despite the risks, Eileen Wolter, blogger behind asuburbanstateofmom.com and mother of two, recommends that new parents explore all their options. "Even though you think it's going to be easy and magical, the first two weeks post-delivery are traumatic," she says. That's why she paid about $1,000 for two weeks of nighttime help from a baby nurse, who also showed the new mom how to bathe, diaper, and dress her newborn. "It was worth every penny," Wolter says.
The more affordable option, of course, involves convincing family members to help. "You can get a pediatric nurse with a degree for $30 to $40 an hour, or you can get your mom on a plane for a $200 or $400 plane ticket," says Adam Cohen, founder of dadarocks.com, a site for new dads.
"My mother stayed with us for a week, helping with nighttime feedings, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and helping us get on a schedule as a family. Her wisdom from raising three kids was invaluable," says Beth Anne Ballance, founder of the popular Heir to Blair blog on being a new mom.
Chelsea Gladden, co-founder of breezymama.com and mother of five, says an even better option for new parents is taking baby-care classes before birth so they feel more prepared to care for their infants. She used a home doula after her first child was born, but says it just delayed the inevitable process of learning how to care for her baby. "Having a doula with me in the beginning was nice, but really I needed to figure out how to do it all on my own eventually, so hiring one ultimately prolonged that for me personally," she says.
Baby development guidance:
After Sara Lise Raff, an educator in New York City, led a workshop on how to "connect and play with your new baby" for a new moms group, she found herself faced with requests from other moms for more individualized help. Moms invited Raff to hold one-on-one sessions as well as "mom salons" for groups of friends, to help explain milestones in infant development and what types of games and play help them most. While private lessons range from $165 to $250, groups of moms can split the cost and pay far less.
Parents' interest in activities to help them engage their newborns is one reason Elaine Fogel Schneider, psychologist and author of Massaging Your Baby, created massage techniques for babies and toddlers. As a therapist working with children and parents on communication skills, Schneider asked herself, "How can I really help parents connect with their babies?" Her answer was to develop massage techniques for babies and toddlers. "It's so simple … you need to be present with your baby and your own fingertips," she says. She also suggests using a natural oil so fingers glide smoothly over the baby's skin.
Massage benefits include greater understanding of babies' cues, bonding, and possibly even boosting babies' immune systems, she says, since massage releases "good" hormones. Her technique starts with what she calls the ABCs: First, being "attune" to your baby and asking if he or she wants a massage, then "breathing," and "communicating." She recommends starting a daily massage routine as soon as the umbilical cord falls off after birth.
Susan Mandel, a marriage and family therapist in Encino, Calif., created First Attachments, a program that helps moms respond to their babies to help create a "secure self." She describes her program as similar to a playful "Mommy and Me" class with the latest on child development thrown in. Babies, she explains, need to feel safe and understood, and responsive moms can help foster these feelings. The groups talk about common issues, such as sleep deprivation and feeding, as well as "how including conversation and playfulness can enhance attachment security and the lovely closeness between them," says Mandel.