It’s not every day that you have to interview a maternity nurse or a night nanny, so what questions should you be asking to assess whether she’s the right match for your family, and your newborn baby?
As a general rule, we suggest focusing on subjective criteria and whether there is chemistry between the parents (and especially the mum) and the nurse, rather than on objective criteria.
Parents often default to objective criteria when assessing a maternity nurse, because these are more obvious as well as more concrete. For example, parents like to focus on the number of years of experience a maternity nurse has, and their formal education or qualifications. While these are important, the relationship between parents and maternity nurses becomes very intimate, very quickly. As a parent, you’re letting someone into your home. You’re letting them see your dirty laundry, literally and figuratively. And you’re letting some care for your most prized possession. And hence, the subjective criteria are much more important when deciding which maternity nurse or night nanny is right for you.
What do we mean by “subjective” criteria? It’s all about compatibility in parenting styles, family values and communication. We often say that finding the right nanny is much more like finding your romantic partner, rather than your next corporate associate. What underpins successful relationships between parents and maternity nurses is simply how well they get along.
So how can you use an interview to assess as best as possible whether you will get along with a maternity nurse or a night nanny? Here are our recommended questions:
Why did you become a maternity nurse / night nanny?
This is a great icebreaker! An easy and simple question to get your conversation going.
Different people have different motivations. There are no good or bad motivations per se, but they can help you understand who they are and how they work.
Many maternity nurses and nannies start working with newborns after already having some childcare experience, e.g. a few years of experience as a nanny, working with older babies and children. Some go straight into maternity nursing, and some decide to start their new career after having grandchildren. At myTamarin, our best maternity nurses have very varied backgrounds.
What do you like the most about being a maternity nurse or night nanny? And what do you like the least?
No one is expected to love all aspects of their jobs. But knowing what they like the most, and what they like the least can help you assess compatibility with your family.
Make sure you press on what they like the least. Again, there is nothing wrong with not loving your job fully. (In fact, we don’t find the answer “I love everything about it” particularly genuine.) However, if a maternity nurse tells you that she’s not fond of parents who keep changing her working hours, and you happen to be a person who likes to change plans at the very last minute, you might not be a good match.
Similarly, if a nurse tells you that she finds it hard working when grandparents are around, and you are planning on having your mother present when employing a maternity nurse, make sure you have the roles very clearly divided.
A word on grandparents; while they are typically and generally the best thing for your child(ren) and often invaluable and irreplaceable additional help in the house, they pretty much always make childcare more challenging. It’s very simple, the more adults there are present, the harder it is to coordinate and the more children (including babies) act up.
How do you like to have your food organised?
This one is important if you’re working with a maternity nurse that works a 24-hour shift or works during the day.
When they live with you, you’re responsible for their food. Different parents and nurses organise in different ways, but understanding the nurse’s preferred way can help you understand whether they are compatible with you.
You may prefer someone who is very much self-serve, or you might be happy to eat (certain) meals together. Most importantly, decide in advance what your preferences are. Then look for a nurse that can fit your setup, or can easily and happily adjust to that.
Some nurses will have dietary restrictions and requirements. Make sure you understand them, e.g. are they vegetarian but happy to be in a household where meat is eaten. You should also discuss how and when they prepare their meals, and whether they’d eat in their own room (which is typically the nursery), the same place as the family, or somewhere else.
How do you like to organise your breaks?
Nurses typically take between three to four hours of a break within any 24-hour period. That is standard. While most like to take their breaks in the mornings, some are more flexible and are also willing to break them into smaller chunks.
Again, there is no right or wrong answer. You’re looking for someone who’s approach to work is compatible with yours and your lifestyle.
Another thing to note is what they plan to do on their break. Some prefer to stay in your house to rest, while others might go out for a walk, or return to their home for a couple of hours. The same question can be asked for their days off (will they go home or stay with you?).
What is your approach to baby routine?
If you’re a first time parent, you may not even know what a baby routine is. Don’t worry! In short, there are three approaches:
- A strict, parent led routine often refers to as the Gina Ford method. This means the baby feeds only at certain times and has a very prescribed schedule around feeding, sleeping and playing. Some parents swear by this method, and some find it too strict.
- A baby led routine, which is the opposite of the above. It means baby feeds on demand, and you have far less predictability - if any - around theirs, and therefore your schedule. It works for some parents, though in general, one of the reasons you’d get a maternity nurse is to get the baby in routine sooner rather than later. In fact, very few maternity nurses will be willing to work with a completely baby-led “routine” and you certainly won’t be getting the bang for your buck.
- A mixed approach, which is somewhere in between, though still very much in a routine. It’s just that there is more flexibility in deviating from the routine.
What you’re looking for is a maternity nurse or a night nanny who’s preferred way of doing things is compatible with yours, or she is flexible to adapt to your approach.
And if you’re an inexperienced parent, expecting your first baby, you’re looking for someone who you feel will guide you well in your decisions and be adaptable enough to adjust to you as you grow as a parent.
Breastfeeding v. bottle feeding? Especially during the nights
The evergreen topic is relevant when you’re deciding on which maternity nurse or night nanny to hire as well. We find that the best of them will be equally supportive of breastfeeding, bottle feeding or a mixed approach.
In reality, bottle feeding with either formula and expressed milk is often a little easier for maternity nurses as they control the intake of milk. But you should not feel pressure into doing one or the other.
It’s always good to ask how they organise the night feeds. If you’re breastfeeding, they should bring the baby into your room, wait with you while you're feeding (and make sure neither of you fall asleep!), and when finished take the baby and resettle them back to sleep.
If you’re expressing milk, it’s important that you both know where the milk will be. If you’re expressing during the night, you will hopefully wake up fewer times than the baby, and will just be able to leave the milk on the kitchen counter or the in fridge when convenient for you.
What do you like doing in your free time?
This is a nice question to bring your part of the interview to an end. It also helps you understand the maternity nurse better. What they do in their free time is of course a very personal choice, however yet again you’re looking to learn more about the person behind the CV and how you’d feel about spending your most precious, yet also most vulnerable moment with them.
Overall, as you’re taking to them, ask yourself:
- Do I prefer a more discreet or a more outgoing personality? Introverts tend to prefer privacy, quiet and calm, whereas extraverts prefer company and chatter.
- Do I want someone who will take charge, and I will feel comfortable following their lead, or do I want to stay in charge? In other words, am I looking for an independent person, or someone who can follow directions easily?
While experience and formal qualifications matter, we find that the attitude and personality matter more when it comes to child carers.
Finally, don’t forget that the interview is a two way conversation. The nurse too will want to assess whether you are the right family for her. Don’t get offended if she decides you’re not. She’s saving you a headache down the road.