"You're paying not just for an extra set of hands, but for an expertise that I can only imagine will seem worth its weight in gold."
sleeping twins
Credit: Ekaterina Shtern/Shutterstock

I'd heard the term "night nurse" (sometimes called a "baby nurse") floating around for a while earlier in my twin pregnancy. It sounded luxurious, but I investigated just to be sure. When I found out the going rate was about $35 per hour here in Los Angeles, I balked. In fact, I clearly remember telling my husband, "Oh well! I guess night nurses are just luxuries for celebrities only."

And then we took a class at our delivery hospital called "parents-to-be of multiples" where one of the key takeaways was how essential such help is. I was told that a night nurse is one of the most important investments I would make as a new mom. I believe the language the instructor used was, "I'd take a second mortgage if I had to, and it would be worth it."

We heard this sentiment echoed dozens of times throughout the parents of multiples' groups we joined on Facebook and IRL. I was scared straight. (I also remember thinking how specialized was the advice being given and discussed among the patients at this hospital that is well-known to be one of the country's toniest. The patient demographic's ability to make it happen was presumed.)

I resumed my night nurse search, and I learned a lot more about who they are and what they do. For one thing, they are not actually registered nurses (for which you might expect to pay double the above-mentioned going rate). For another, hiring such a person isn't really just about the luxury of a better night's sleep—it may be an investment in your entire first year with your children, given the nurse's experience with sleep- and routine-training.

Think about it: With multiples, you may not just feed and hope to go back to sleep for two- to three-hour stretches, because you're feeding multiple babies in sequence. Your total sleep yield could equal zero without skilled intervention. You're paying not just for an extra set of hands, but for an expertise that I can only imagine will seem worth its weight in gold in those early first weeks when we are blind and batty with fatigue.

I also learned that it's possible to find really wonderful night nurses who ask less than the going rate, especially through friend referrals and negotiation. I learned that they offer whole range of personalities and philosophies, including how early and aggressively to sleep train babies.

And I learned (the hard way) that you should act fast if you find a night nurse you like and trust. Their world is one of unpredictable scheduling, especially where multiple deliveries are concerned, and they might vanish if another family delivers earlier than expected and snags the chunk of your candidate's schedule that overlaps your due date. They frequently ask for a week's deposit to secure that time period, and they include a buffer around your expected date.

By the time we made our decision and wrote our deposit check, we were thrilled to have the reassurance of a night nurse lined up. Yes, we're dipping into our savings. And yes, the whole thing makes us question every other purchase and defend its importance and its value before pulling the trigger—even for small stuff. And yes, the cost of the five-week commitment we made to her is equivalent to the cost of some of the most extraordinary, far-flung vacations we've ever taken. But I think we made the right choice. And I'm hoping it might help us be a little more present—and maybe even be able to have some fun—in those bleary, unsure, and probably terrifying early days.