Babies might be small, but planning for them can seem like a mighty feat. We do plenty to get ready for their arrival - we take the hospital tours and birthing classes, decorate the nursery and assemble the crib, throw the baby shower and hire the family photographer. But sometimes we do so much to plan for the arrival that we don’t adequately plan for how to cope once the baby is actually here to stay.
Sam Dogen, of the Financial Samurai website, wrote a piece recently about a conversation he had with a woman who was pregnant with her second child and planned to hire significant postpartum help in the form of daytime and nighttime doulas (birth coaches) and babysitters.
Among the many reasons she’d decided to hire help, she told Dogen, was that she and her husband didn’t have any family in the area to help, her husband would get very little time off from work, the pregnancy had been a difficult one, and she’d suffered from postpartum depression after her first child was born and anticipated suffering from it again.
Here’s how Dogen breaks down the couple’s costs (these prices will vary widely by location and service):
Birthing Doula: $2887 (one-time cost). The birthing doula’s job is to help the mother have a more comfortable birthing experience.
Day Doula: $58/hour, $4619/month. The day doula’s job is to care for the newborn baby while the mother recovers and/or looks after the toddler.
Night Doula: $72/hour, $13,856/month. The night doula works eight-hour shifts a minimum of five nights a week.
Babysitting: $36/hour, $1732/month. The babysitter’s main job will be to care for the toddler while mum recovers, rests and/or spends time with the baby.
Over three months, that’s $63,509. Most people don’t have anywhere near that amount to spend. And yet, many new parents find themselves in a similar position as this couple; one or both parents may have little or no leave available, they may experience a complicated delivery, postpartum depression or anxiety, or have a child who requires special needs.
So while you probably don’t have $60K lying around to hire three types of doulas, it’s worth planning for some kind of strategic help in those early weeks and months.
Consider what type of help you’ll really want
If you do plan to hire a postpartum nurse or a doula, be sure to interview them about what specific services they’ll be able to provide. You may want someone who is very hands on with the newborn at night; or it might be much more helpful for you to have someone come in and entertain the toddler for a few hours in the afternoons. One mum in our Offspring Facebook Group wishes she had made a different choice:
“We hired a night nurse when we had our daughter - in hindsight I wish we used a doula instead,” Jamie Lee says. “Doulas help the mum; nurses or newborn care specialists focus on the baby. What I wanted was a tutor to walk me through the basics; what I got was a person who took over entirely, basically keeping me helpless and dependent on her.”
Think about where your pressure points are likely to be throughout the day or what your own personal challenges might be, and harness your hired energy in that direction.
Stagger the help you’ve got
Your village may want to flock to you en masse five minutes after you’ve arrived home with the baby, but if possible, spread out the visits. Offspring group member Lauren says she pushed for her husband to take the little time he had off of work right at the beginning—at the same time her mum was there to help.
“While I liked that he was there to help figure out the first bath or share a few diapers, my husband wasn’t actually that much help,” Lauren says. “So after our second, we delayed his two weeks of leave until after the family help had run out (which ended up being closer to 3-4 weeks after baby). All to say, if budget is an issue, it can help to be careful not to double-book family assistance.”
Maybe you hire a doula to come for a week or two, and then your parents visit, and then your in-laws, and then your spouse takes their leave. It may be hard for both you and your family members to delay visits, but having the help spread out over weeks, particularly if they’re coming from out of town, can make it less hectic and more useful.
Think about the “extras”
Maybe you’ve got lots of family and friends nearby and other than expecting to wander around in a state of exhaustion for a while, you don’t really see a need to hire anyone to help with the baby. Or maybe you wish like hell that you could keep your doula all to yourself forever and ever, but you’re just not swimming in that kind of cash. In either case, you still may want to budget for a few extras.
Hiring a semi-regular cleaning or laundry service in those first few months could mean the difference between actually “sleeping when the baby sleeps,” or simply laughing when someone suggests it. Or maybe you suspect that the well of frozen meals is going to dry up long before you will have the energy to cook again, so stashing away some money for takeout is more of a priority.
Consider whether you can budget to take one or two of these household chores off your shoulders until you come back up for air.