Postpartum doula, baby nurse, nanny: What’s the difference?

Black woman who is a nanny or postpartum doula holding and hugging a newborn baby.

Understanding the Difference Between Baby Nurses, Postpartum Doulas, and Nannies

When expecting a new baby, parents often seek additional support to ensure a smooth transition into parenthood. Among the various options available, baby nurses, postpartum doulas, and nannies are three of the most common. Although these roles may seem similar, each provides distinct services tailored to different needs. Understanding the differences between them can help you make an informed decision about which type of support is right for your family.

Baby Nurses

What They Are:
A baby nurse, also known as a newborn care specialist, is a professional trained specifically to care for newborns. Newborn care specialist is the more modern term for the role, as many states have laws in which someone cannot identify as a nurse if they are not licensed or registered by their state as a medical nurse. Most baby nurses are NOT registered or licensed nurses, although some can be. Those who are medical nurses often care for babies who have serious medical issues and can benefit from having a medical professional in the household. A night nurse is just a baby nurse who provides overnight support so that new parents can rest after they come home with their new baby.

What They Do:

  • Provide newborn care, including feeding, diapering, and bathing.
  • Assist with establishing routines, such as feeding and sleeping schedules.

When to Hire a Baby Nurse:
Baby nurses are ideal for parents who want more hands-off support after the birth of their baby so they can rest and recover.

How They Work

Most baby nurses work either 12-hr or 24-shifts. During an overnight session with a baby/night nurse, parents would have limited interaction with them and their baby. This allows for ample time for all parents to rest and take time for themselves.


What They Are:
Postpartum doulas serve as companions to provide emotional and physical support to new parents and their babies during the first few weeks or months postpartum. Repose offers postpartum doula services for families throughout NJ and NYC.

What They Do:

  • Postpartum Doulas: Support families after the baby is born by helping with newborn care, establishing daily household and sleep routines, breastfeeding support, and the adjustment to parenthood. We focus on the wellbeing of the entire family, providing holistic care that encompasses both physical and emotional needs.

How They Work:

Most postpartum doulas work between 8-10 hours a night. During an overnight session with a postpartum doula, the first hour or so would be reserved for the doula to learn more about how you are adjusting to new dynamics as parents, answer questions about what’s normal vs not so normal about childbirth recovery and/or the baby’s behavior, and provide counseling on breastfeeding.

When to Hire a Doula:
Doulas are designed to be short-term support systems. Although we can care for your baby overnight so that you can rest, we feel most accomplished when we help families implement strong routines so that your baby is sleeping longer stretches at night and all parents are well-rested, budding with confidence about their new role as a mom or dad.

At Repose, all of our postpartum doulas are trained or certified in the profession, have been vigorously vetted, receive ongoing mentorship, and are up-to-date on evidence-based research and ACOG & AAP recommendations.


What They Are:
A nanny is a childcare professional who provides ongoing care for children, from infancy through school age. Nannies can be live-in or live-out and may work full-time or part-time, depending on the family’s needs.

What They Do:

  • Provide day-to-day care, including feeding, bathing, and supervising playtime.
  • Plan and engage in age-appropriate activities and educational experiences.
  • Assist with household tasks related to the children, such as meal preparation and laundry.
  • Offer long-term care and consistency, often becoming an integral part of the family.

When to Hire a Nanny:
Nannies are suitable for families seeking long-term, consistent care for their children. They are especially helpful for working parents who need reliable childcare during the day or those who prefer personalized, in-home care over daycare options.

Choosing the Right Support for Your Family

Deciding between a baby nurse, doula, and nanny depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you require hands-off support or plan to primarily formula-feed your baby, a baby nurse may be the best choice. For holistic support during childbirth and the postpartum period, a doula can provide invaluable assistance. You can learn more about our postpartum doula services at Repose by clicking here. If you’re looking for ongoing, personalized childcare, a nanny might be the right fit.

Each of these professionals brings unique skills and expertise to their roles, helping to ensure that you and your baby receive the best possible care during this exciting and challenging time. By understanding the differences between them, you can make an informed decision that meets your family’s needs and supports your journey into parenthood.

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