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.

In Which I Completely Lose My Cool,
Re-Affirm Spanking DOESN’T Work,
& Muddle Through As Per Usual

CHK abe

You can’t tell by looking at him (because seriously just looking at him you want to grab this kid and hug him till he fights free) but:

Pancake is a screamer.

Always has been.

Whereas his brother just needs a quick hug, knows to ask for it, and then takes a deep breath and moves on …

Pancake just DOESN’T.

I’ve talked about it before. And for a little while, THIS worked to help with the screaming.

But now it doesn’t.

For one thing, now he’s smarter.

He will not go quietly, nor be brushed off.

I love that about him.

Now, when I tell him NO, he asks WHY?

Now, when he wants something I don’t have, or don’t want to give him, he says, LET ME SEE!

He says these things at top volume.

And for long, protracted periods.

Lots of tears and snot and ruined meals and mornings while he screams and cries and throws things and the rest of us try to hear ourselves think.

He’s a passionate kid.

With a great set of pipes and extraordinary willpower.

It can make the best of us nuts. And I am way way way NOT the best of us.

  • I have experimented with extinction.
  • I have experimented with attachment.
  • I have followed basic Harvey Karp. Pancake has no interest in making a deal with me anymore. Deals are for suckers, apparently.
  • I have tried and failed at time-outs. There is simply no sure way to keep this kid still short of shutting him in his room and that does nothing but freak him out worse.
  • I’ve even tried spanking.  (Cue story of my mother telling me she never spanked us and me and my sister bursting into great gales of laughter.)

But here’s the thing:


At least not the way I do it.

I have spanked all of my kids exactly once, and they’ve all found it hilarious.

All of them. Clearly I am not doing it “right.”

This is okay with me.

Better that than THIS. I mean for CHRIST’S SAKE (and I say that with great irony as they purport to be Good Christians) WHO THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE? Someone ought to take a switch to THEM and lock THEM in a closet and hose THEM down in freezing weather. WHO DOES THAT TO CHILDREN? I MEAN, COME ON! AND IN THE NAME OF JESUS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

IMO they can go to hell.

Which leaves me with:

Now what?

Two nights ago, about 60 minutes into one of Pancake’s tantrums, I finally lost my cool and screamed at Pancake so loudly to BE QUIET AND PUT ON YOUR PAJAMAS! that  Diddy came running into his room to say this:

Mom, you have to be nicer to Pancake!

(Sometimes she’s an absolute ROCK STAR, don’t you think?)

I don’t know if this counts as nicer,  but here’s what I said next (and to Diddy’s credit, I said it MUCH more politely):

Pancake, if you don’t stop screaming and kicking RIGHT NOW I am going to throw your Ducky in the trash and the garbage man is going to take him away.

Lemme give you a little insight into DUCKY:

CHK ducky

Yep, that’s me, my four kids, my husband, and DUCKY in that caricature we sat still for on Father’s Day this year.

DUCKY is part of the family.

So the idea of DUCKY going away … welll …

I have never seen a kid shut-up so fast. His whole body stilled. He looked at me, and then he put on his pajamas and got into bed and didn’t make another sound.

Then he slept through the night.

For the first time over a month.


Umm …

I have now used that Ducky & the Garbage Man threat (which is the title of my next album of we’re really talking here) several other times, including such instances as yesterday’s morning whine-fest, last night’s dinner tantrum, and yesterday’s toothbrush fight when I took away the tube of toothpaste he was using to paint the walls of the bathroom.

No screaming. No hitting. No ignoring him or shutting him in his room.

Just threatening to take away the lovie that means most to him in the world.

I am conflicted about this.

  • On the one hand, I am thrilled to have found a way to help my kid regulate his temper – I mean, it’s pretty amazing how quickly he can stop crying and screaming when he wants to, which gives me hope that self-regulation is something he is capable of (I mean, truly, I was getting a little concerned).
  • On the other hand, I am a little worried that I am scaring him to PIECES to get him there. The look of shock on his little face the other night was … well, pretty damn deep.

But the quiet-ing response is Pavlovian to say the least.

I wonder how long it will last.








HARVEY KARP WILL SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE (And Keep You from Murdering Your Toddler, Too)

My Cavemen.

I have blogged about Harvey Karp before. His Happiest Baby on the Block and DVDare lifesavers for new parents – and of course I am a sucker for anyone who can systemize things into checklists, so he had me at first S.

(Don’t know what that means? GO BUY THE BOOK!)

But I am long past babies. I’ve done this four times, people. Every child in this house is now walking and talking (hallelujah). They eat, they sleep, they play nicely 30-40% of the time.

I haven’t needed Harvey Karp in some time.

Or at least that’s what I thought – until last week, I heard him give a TODDLER seminar at The Pump Station and Nurtury in Hollywood, built around his “Happiest Toddler on the Block” book and DVD.

I was at The Pump Station on other MomciergeLA business, I wasn’t planning to attend the seminar – I mean, come on. What more could Dr. Karp have to tell me that I haven’t already figured out (or completely screwed up) on my own already?

But when the store manager said there were a few cancellations and I could sit in if I liked, I took the seat.

Research, right? Never too late to learn a little more I can pass on to all of you?


Truth is, I have a bit of a toddler problem of my own.

Two of them, really. And I’m not talking about my twins.

I’m talking about Pancake and his dad. (more…)

Coolest. Calendar-ing. Ever.

Diddy Young Dancer

So, I read this post from Unclutterer.com at 530 this morning before heading out on my daily run (yes, I’m still running! woo-hoo!), which inspired me to totally automate my weekly schedule today.

Life around here since school started up again has been totally chaotic, mostly because (more…)

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).


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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