CHK night nurse

Short answer:

No one NEEDS a night nurse.

Even parents of TWINS don’t need a night nurse. (That said, holy moly if you are having twins and you can swing it, GET A NIGHT NURSE. I have done it alone, and let me tell you: NIGHT NURSE IS BETTER.)

Longer answer:

If you can swing the costs – and they are high – night help is AMAZING.

You can hire night help on a 12-hr (night nurse) or 24-hr (baby nurse) contract.

  • Night nurses are generally SLIGHTLY less expensive than baby nurses, but they all tend to charge in the neighborhood of $15-20/hr, which on a 24-hr clock can be a bit much.
  • Night nurses tend to live out, and arrive in the evenings for their shift. They feed and change baby overnight, and some do baby-related dishes or laundry overnight, too.
  • Baby nurses live in, and work around the clock, generally sleeping for a few hours in the mornings when baby sleeps. They do baby dishes, baby laundry, nursery organization, take baby on walks – basically, old school Downton Abbey nanny-with-a-capital-N care. It’s amazeballs.

In both cases, you get some sleep, so that you are better equipped to care for baby during daylight hours (night nurse), or so that you can go back to work or run errands or go out to lunch if you want to (baby nurse).

But no, none of this is necessary.

I have done it solo, and here’s what I know:

  • When I was pregnant with Diddy, I was TOTALLY against having night help. Diddy was my first baby, and I wanted to be the one providing for her around the clock, so I declined my grandmother’s kind offer of paying for night help, and hacked it solo.
  • I managed alone with Gaga, too – which was kind of hell because she was up all night every night, far more than her sister, and for many more months.  But it was do-able. Even with a toddler (Diddy) running around.

In both cases, I relied upon adrenalin, caffeine, and attempting to sleep when baby sleeps. You can too.

Then I got pregnant with the twins … and night help started sounding better.

The boys arrived slightly earlier than planned, and our baby nurse was still on another job, so I had 2 weeks to test my hypothesis that doing nights on my own with twins would SUCK.

And OMG IT WAS AWFUL. Nursing twins takes about a zillion times as long as nursing one, and you can’t just latch two kids on and fall back to sleep. You have to get up, and arrange TWO babies on the boob, and burp two babies, and then most likely change TWO diapers afterwards, and then settle two babies back to sleep.

It takes forever.

I was a wreck by the time our amazing baby nurse arrived.

The first night, every time I woke to feed the twins, she sat with me, and then SHE burped them, and SHE took them to change diapers, and SHE settled them back to sleep, and I went and pumped for fifteen minutes.

All day, I pumped post-feeds, too.

The second night, she used the bottles I’d pumped for one feed and I slept THROUGH that feed, and it made a WORLD of difference.

Twenty-four hours later I was rested, showered … and then I went out and got my nails done.

The following day I had lunch with girl friends.

The day after that I got a cut-and-color.

Maybe a week later our baby nurse woke me up because she was worried Sausage’s head cold was becoming something more serious. She told me to take him to the ER, and it turned out she was right: Sausage had RSV, and spent 2 days stabilizing in the pediatric ward thanks to HER catching what I might have dismissed as a bad cough.

Four days later, she sent me back to the ER with Pancake. He did a night in NICU.

Not only do I believe our baby nurse saved my sanity, she may also have saved my sons’ lives.

So here’s the more NUANCED  answer to DO YOU NEED NIGHT HELP?

If I had to do it all over again, I would be ALL OVER getting night help for each one of my babies.

And if I couldn’t afford night help, I’d manage. Because parents just DO.

That said:


Even if it’s just for one day a week – or even just one afternoon a week – having someone come in to do dishes and laundry and watch your newborn for a few hours while you GET THE HELL OUT for a bit is, in my mind, indispensible.

Maybe that person is your Mom, or your uncle, or your partner.

If not, start budgeting to pay for a person like that for NOW.

Because my biggest most important piece of advice to new parents is:

Don’t forget your village.

Friends can bring you meals. Family can babysit for a few hours at a time.

And even if you live far from friends, and farther from family, the village is still available to you. You just might have to pay for it. You can order in, or find a babysitter a few afternoons a week, or trade babysitting hours with another new mom.

No matter what you can or can’t afford, tap into WHATEVER variety of village that you can.

(Small Home Edition. Because MY SISTER!)

CHK champagne (1)

I hope everybody had a lovely Thanksgiving or is still enjoying a delightful Thanksgivikuh as I type. Ours was and has been NUTS — 32 people for Thanksgiving dinner, fabulous evenings out to celebrate my brother’s seemingly endless 33rd birthday (I mean, seriously, dude, THREE MEALS? I barely rate a DVD at home around here), brunches and Chanukah parties and ENDLESS leftover magic-making with the remnants of the feast for 32.

There's another table on the deck. Eek!

There’s another table on the deck. Eek!

CHK trois mec

CHK stuffing eggs

I instagrammed the whole thing like crazy (as you can tell) and I’ve even blogged all about it but as we seem to be ending the last possible moments of the leftover-cycle, I’ll save my notes and recipes for next year when people can actually use them.

Till then, and drum roll, please:

Not too long ago my sister posted THIS on Facebook:

CHK sis preggers

She’s pregnant!

I’m thrilled.

I get to be an aunt. Aunt-ing sounds LOVELY. Brand new adorable blood-related bundle of joy who is NOT my responsibility? Count me in.

Plus I’m always excited when someone I love has babies and can join me in my bitching about all the ups and downs of caring for those babies. Always need another mama at the bitch fest. And this one is getting off to a great start. I am loving getting to listen to her complain about being tired and cranky and hungry and enormously breasted … those were the days. (Ha!)  So glad it’s not me, lemme tell you. NEVER. AGAIN.

But I do love complaining about it.

But perhaps MOST THE MOST EXCITING THING OF ALL is that all those boxes and boxes and boxes of baby clothes I’ve been saving for her are FINALLY exiting my garage. I may park my minivan in there yet.

The thing is, though:

All those boxes are on their way to her charming and lovely but kinda tiny, fourth-floor-walkup, two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope.

My sister and her husband are planning to totally reconfigure their space in order to accommodate their new baby. Office equipment is moving to the living room, guest beds are being shifted about. Supposedly they are getting started on all this shortly after the New Year.

That said:

It will be better organized after all this moving-and-a-shaking, but at the end of the day it’s still gonna be a fourth-floor walk-up tiny two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.

Which has me thinking about ways to minimize baby crap in their lives for as long as possible, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

BARE MINIMUM NECESSITIES for bringing home baby and living with him awhile (SMALL HOME EDITION)

  • PACK N PLAY – so he has somewhere to sleep that isn’t her/your bed, but can still sleep nearby
  • SWADDLING BLANKETS – to encourage the sleeping
  • SWING– so he has somewhere (almost) guaranteed that he WILL sleep, for when he won’t sleep in the pack-n-play
  • BREAST PUMP / BOTTLES – gotta feed the kid
  • DIAPER PAIL – if you feed him, you’re gonna need to change his diapers
  • PLAY MAT – somewhere else to put him down
  • STROLLER / CARRIER – so you can get him out
  • CAR SEAT – so you can take him farther afield
  • DIAPER BAG or equivalent – so you’ve got what you need when you take him there
  • BABY CLOTHES – so he won’t be naked

Niceties, but not necessities, include:

  • CHANGING TABLE or DRESSER – I vote for a dresser to hold baby’s clothes, with a changing pad on top. But if you have closet space, you don’t even need the dresser. You can put the baby stuff in the closet (try to mac it out with double rails and drawers if you can) and then change baby on a pad or towel on the floor or on your bed. As you get better at it, you won’t even need the pad or towel.
  • ROCKER / RECLINER – I would have said, before the twins, that a recliner was a necessity. But I couldn’t use ours with the twins. Generally I cuddled up on a mattress on the floor with the boys, and they didn’t seem to notice the lack of rocking motion. In a small house, I might eschew the chair for a bed, mattress, or couch already in place near the baby’s bed.
  • CRIB – a  pack-n-play is generally a bit smaller than a crib, and more portable. You might even be able to get away with using a pack-n-play until baby is ready for a toddler bed. I only advocate buying a crib in a small space if your baby is NOT sleeping in your room. If he’s got his own dedicated nursery that you intend to use from day 1, then go for a crib. Absolutely. If he DOESN’T, however, as is the case in many smaller homes and apartments, stick with the Pack-N-Play as long as you can.

My kids are growing up fast – this morning Pancake explained that turning 3 next month means he’s going to be a big boy as tall as Daddy – but my sister’s pregnancy is giving me TONS of ideas for back-to-baby posts over the next few months, so if you wandered over here because you’re pregnant or just had your first baby, pull up a chair. There’s gonna be a ton of new content just for you!

In other news: I have recently changed my Twitter account from @checklistmommy to @sarahakatelevy. If you were following me @checklistmommy, please make the switch as I will no longer be using my old handle. But don’t worry — @sarahkatelevy still intends to post information relevant to ChecklistMommy readers. I just wanted a little more latitude to tweet about writing, politics, and whatever else hit my fancy that wasn’t strictly Mom/Baby/Kids news. 

(Because It Took 9 Months To Pack It On)

33+5 weeks, 175 pounds. Thanks, boys …

Apologies for the radio-silence around here (do people really say that anymore, in the age of webcasts and podcasts and satellite? Hmm). In case you hadn’t noticed, the holiday-ramp up has kinda kicked my ass. Immediately following Gaga’s 4th birthday we started planning for Thanksgiving (we hosted 31!) and certain sacrifices were made. This blog was the first thing to go … but I’m back!

And I’m here to tell you:

While I was busy eating and cooking and eating some more – as opposed to sitting my ass down in chair and WRITING –

I gained 3 pounds.

This might not seem like a big deal to some of you. Especially those of you currently growing other humans inside of you, or those of you who have recently delivered those humans and are wondering why the hell they weren’t considerate enough to take a few more pounds with them when they left the Mama-building …

For me, however, it is a HUGE deal to gain 3 pounds.

This is because it was a HUGE SLOG for me to lose the baby weight three times in five years.

Does that sound insane, by the way, choosing to lose the weight IN BETWEEN babies? It might. It would have sounded nuts to me, too, except that right before I was pregnant with Diddy I read a story in the NYTimes (and reported here, too) that basically said:

Women who don’t lose the baby-weight BETWEEN BABIES are at greater risk for heart disease.

Heart disease, mind you, remains THE number one killer of women.

So there’s that.

There’s also the fact that I live in LA, surrounded by pretty, skinny, people, and I am a) stupid-competitive (hence the four kids) and b) ridiculously insecure (hence the fact that I am suddenly getting blow-outs all the time because the Moms in Gaga’s class are impossibly young and gorgeous and I just can’t take it anymore without making an effort not to look like a hag).

I recognize that 3 pounds are a stupid thing to be worried about in light of war, and famine, and the fact that I know too many people my age who are sick, and mortally so.

I am grateful to be healthy, and safe, and warm, and that my kids are all those things, too.

I spent all last week thinking about gratitude, and talking about gratitude, and feeling grateful. Truly I did.

Then of course I stepped on the scale this morning and all I could see was THESE 3 POUNDS.

Thankfully, I went to lunch with girlfriends today and they, too, were bemoaning their holiday weight gain and I said, “Well, at least none of us have to lose the baby weight ever again,” and then I thought, I keep saying I’m going to blog about that, and I haven’t yet, so I probably should.

So here it is:


1. Get serious about the WHY: 
Think about your health (Heart disease! Heart disease!) or decide you ABSOLUTELY MUST get back into your skinny jeans or make some sort of penalty-bet that you WILL lose the weight or else, with someone who will hold you to it. There are even websites for that now. Use them.

2. Get serious about a CONCRETE WHAT: 
What is your ACTUAL GOAL WEIGHT? Pick something healthy, related to a reasonable BMI. Then write it down and put it places. Post it at your desk, over your bathroom sink, on your fridge.

Then take a deep breath and repeat, many many times:


This is a process, people. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s slow-going, but it’s do-able. You just gotta do it.

3. Get serious about HOW: 
Michael Pollan got it basically right with his three-things-thingy:


Do that. And continue doing it everyday. Like this:

This is nearly impossible. It really is. At home, this is hard, because we have a house full of kid snack crap, and it is constantly available. So I lost the last ten pounds ALL THREE TIMES by going to a health spa called Grandmere Checklist’s house. She is famous for not having ANY snacks in her home. It’s all fucking ingredients, so if you want to eat you actually need to COOK. I like to cook, but not five times a day. Three times is plenty. Voila! No more snacks.

The other, slightly-less-travel/family-stressful way to do this is cut all snacks except apples. This is another Michael Pollan-ism. Hungry? Eat an apple. Don’t want an apple? You’re not hungry. (We are militant about keeping good apples around here.)

Here’s the thing that sucks about being a girl. Girls who starve themselves to any point but anorexia don’t actually lose weight. (Anorexia is a different thing. I am not talking about eating disorders here, I’m talking about your basic, “I think I’ll skip breakfast and lunch and just have fish for dinner” adult starvation mode that doesn’t work.) Girls need calories because biology basically dictates we remain large enough to create and support new life. Which sucks when you’re done MAKING new life. But it basically means you have to KEEP EATING, JUST EAT LESS.

I recently heard a story on NPR that said the women most successful in losing weight and keeping it off were those who ADDED fruits and vegetables to their diets – not those who SUBTRACTED other items. That’s because the fruit/veg folks got full on the good stuff and didn’t have to reach for the crap. This works. I know because I do it. Executive Supermom once told me she combats the weight creep of constant business lunching by only eating salads at lunch. Genius. Now I do that, too.

I love Weight Watchers. They’re not even paying me to say that. But I love them. They assign you a points value, based on your current weight and your goals, and you get to eat that amount of food per day, and if you follow their point system, you lose 1-2 pounds a week. Done. I love Weight Watchers because a) you get to eat whatever YOU want, as long as it conforms to THEIR point system, and b) because eating to a points system rapidly teaches you how to eat better. I lost ALL of the Diddy weight and the Gaga weight using the Weight Watchers online tool. Never even went to a meeting. LOVE IT.

Here’s the tricky thing about nursing: some women shed weight very quickly doing this. Not me. Me, I shed all but the last five pounds – because I need the weight, apparently, to keep making the milk. ARGH! So for me, I actually had to STOP nursing to hit my goals. No, I didn’t stop nursing so I could be skinny. But the moment I stopped, at 14 months with Diddy and then again at 14 months with Gaga, I shed the last five pounds in a week. Caveat: nursing twins will pull the weight right off you. Truly. You can basically ignore this whole post if you are nursing twins.

I hate running. I spend every second I am running thinking, “Man I hate running.” I like, however, fitting into my clothes, and having runner’s legs for the first time in my life. I like those things A LOT. Also running lets me eat more, which I also like a lot.

Which brings us back to:


The WHY is the only thing that will make you exercise when you’re also DIETING and caring for young children and just don’t think you have anything else left in you to also make you EXERCISE.

But you do. You have your skinny clothes — or you can now go buy them! — and your hard-er body, and the fact that you WANT TO BE HEALTHY to take care of those small kids. Losing the weight and working out is how you do it.

Honestly and ultimately, that’s why losing the baby-weight mattered to me. It’s why keeping those 3 pounds off matters to me. (It’s why, honestly, any extra pounds should matter to you, too.) It’s why I watch what I eat, and I run at 500 in the morning even when Diddy’s been in and out of our bed all night – because, at the the end of the day, I’m serious about staying as healthy as it is possible for me to dictate in the face of universal life-poker, because I am serious about doing everything I can to be the healthy Mom my four growing WHYs need.


Twins Tips: 4 Simple Strategies to Save Your Sanity (Great for Managing Singleton Siblings, Too!)

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun (via lineofdeparture.com)

Here’s the thing about caring for infant twins:

It’s really not that much harder than taking care of singletons.

It’s just not. All babies have shitty sleep patterns, and need to be fed and changed and carried around enough to make you want to shoot someone (generally the person who doesn’t do as much feeding, changing, and carrying as you do).

All babies, at some point, make their parents think, “Man, it is a seriously wonderful feat of evolution that infants are so fucking adorable, because if you weren’t the cutest thing I’d ever seen, I’d probably have EATEN YOU JUST TO MAKE YOU SHUT UP by now.”

Twins just make you think that TWICE as much, because you’re doing all that stuff you have to do all day long TWICE AS MANY TIMES.

Unless you find a few ways to … umm … NOT.

So here’s what I do, to save time — and my sanity — while managing the day-to-day care of my twins (and their sisters).


How to Nurse Twins (If You REALLY REALLY Want To)

The reasons you might have for wanting to nurse twins are all the same reasons you might have for wanting to nurse your singleton — supposedly increased Mama/baby-bonding when compared to bottle-fed babies (though seriously, I do not for a moment believe THAT); some storied improvement in IQ points; and massive savings when compared to buying formula (and seriously, with twins, this is MASSIVE SAVINGS).


Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time I wanted to be a novelist in NY. FOUR KIDS LATER I'm a
screenwriter in LA who blogs about parenting, partnering, and the decline of civilization / my home.

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