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Newborn Care Specialists Swaddle Phoenix By Storm

Newborn care specialist Summer Hartman with her client's four-month-old baby.
Courtesy of Summer Hartman
Newborn care specialist Summer Hartman with her client's four-month-old baby.

A new twist on an existing profession has been helping families in the greater Phoenix area for about a decade: Newborn care specialists, who focus mainly on sleep training young children.

These specialists can earn more than $1,400 a week educating parents and children. The Newborn Care Specialist Association, or NCSA, certifies those interested in joining this field. Though the main office is in Scottsdale, NCSA employee Nancy Hamm said the claim of being a world-wide organization pertains to the destinations their certified care specialists have gone.

According to its website, to obtain an NCSA certificate, the applicant pays up to $75 in fees for training. They must also be fingerprinted, have a background check done, be newborn CPR trained, and complete a certain number of newborn care hours depending on how advanced a program they enroll in, among other requirements.

Desiree Nessline, an NCSA certified specialist, said night nurses are in such high demand in the Phoenix area, that she has to pass along clients to one of only about a dozen other women certified in that field.

“All of a sudden, jobs started pouring in left and right,” Nessline said, “and so we just made a profession out of it. It’s so common in the East, in New York and Connecticut and such to have night nannies and night nurses.”

A certificate from the NCSA is not backed by a government agency or hospital, however. Hamm, who works at NCSA and literally wrote the book on newborn care, said that clients get reassurance from an NCSA certificate that the specialist has had training, and “that [clients are] not hiring someone who learned these techniques from their grandmother, which does happen.”

Summer Hartman decided to get NCSA certified to get more knowledge while working at a newborn care agency, before she opened her own business in Phoenix in 2007, called Sleeping Sweet Peas.

“People tend to fall in love with me,” Hartman said, “because I do so much for them. They miss me and when I leave they’re mad. They’re all, ‘I want you back.’”

During the first two years she was certified, Hartman said she worked days and nights just to get her name out. She said in the past five years she “can afford to be pickier” about who she works for. Nessline and Hartman both said that past clients include doctors, lawyers and many professional baseball families.

Nessline and Hartman said they both work with more affluent families, and that 50-75 percent of clients who hire them to be there at night also have a daytime nanny or enroll their children in daycare.

Though the terms may appear to be interchangeable, Nessline and Hartman agree that there is a major difference between the title of “night nanny” and “certified newborn care specialist.” They say it all comes down to who is in charge.

Nessline said a night nanny is going to “listening to what the parents want with no real knowledge of a true sleep schedule or how a baby’s typical day should go. As a newborn care specialist, we come in and we kind of tell you what to do and what schedule to put your baby on.”

Nessline and Hartman agree the three keys to having a baby sleep though the night is to keep families on a strict schedule, use a white noise machine and to swaddle the baby when they sleep.

“There’s no way you can implement any kind of a sleep schedule when your baby is tired and flailing all over the place,” Nessline said. “If you’re not properly swaddling them, they will not learn how to sleep properly.”

Hartman said children go through three different stages of sleep training at various ages, so learning the training early is crucial. Hartman said the three stages are newborn, when the child is teething, and when the child is a toddler.

However, shelling out $25 per hour for an average eight-hour shift may not be an option for families looking to sleep train their child. Newborn care specialists recognize this and offer a consultation for around $400 depending on the specialist.

“I’ll go in and I do a two hour consultation that basically consists of teaching them how to bathe, burp, swaddle, feed, schedules, routines, holding, everything,” Nessline said. “Everything pertaining to the newborn is what I’ll teach.”

Both Nessline and Hartman concur that each specialist is different, but both believe all specialists are helping families in need.

“You’re seeing them at their most vulnerable time,” Hartman said. “You’re coming in when like a hurricane has come through, and you’re putting it back together.”