A mum of three grown up girls, Suzanne is just the type of night nanny every mum dreams about. Affectionate and warm, professional and knowledgeable, yet also very flexible and supportive of all mothers!
One day a few years ago, after a long day at her swimwear company inspired by classic aesthetics, now run by her daughter Hadley, Suzanne walked past the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. She felt she needed a change in her life.
On a whim, she decided to walk in and offer to volunteer. They must have felt the same positive energy that I was overwhelmed with the first time I met Suzanne, and they immediately matched her with babies. Since then a Friday has not gone by without Suzanne helping new mothers with breastfeeding at the postnatal ward. And she hasn’t looked back!
Suzanne, what keeps you going to the postnatal ward week after week?
I’m always amazed by how much little things, a little advice, or a little hint can change one mum’s life. You know, all mums, and especially first-time mums are so vulnerable in those early days after birth. And they really need support, because breastfeeding isn’t easy. Proper latching is so important, yet so hard to achieve for so many mums and their babies. And a little bit of help, just a little adjustment can go such a long way, and can mean the difference between breastfeeding and formula feeding. Of course, mums should be supported in any choice they make when it comes to feeding their babies, but if they are keen to breastfeed, I’m there to help them.
We don’t often see fashion entrepreneurs change their careers for night nursing. What exactly was your path from luxury swimwear to nappies?
Well, I was a Montessori teacher for many years before I started the swimwear business. And even before I had my own children I always enjoyed helping others with babies. I guess I’ve always had a strong passion for babies and children. After I started volunteering with the hospital, I’ve trained to become a birth doula. Birth doulas provide continuous support, for women and couples, through pregnancy, labour and birth and the immediate postnatal time. From there it was a natural transition to help mothers not only at birth, but also during the first few months, especially at nights.
So what exactly do you do during the nights? Do you ever sleep??
[Smile] I do. I need to. I have to be fresh and alert during the nights I work. If I’ve worked the night before, I shut down everything when I get home and sleep for at least four hours every morning. Otherwise I’ll take a longer nap in the afternoon. I’ve been working with two sets of twins lately, and you know, between feeding one, settling one back to sleep, feeding the second, settling the second, and sterilising bottles, there is almost time for the next round, because they feed every three hours. So that leaves me with perhaps two hours of sleep a night. But that’s all right, it’s a night job and I love my job!
Wait, isn’t your job to get the babies sleep through the night?
My first priority is baby’s safety and health. For the first three to four weeks babies shouldn’t have gaps between feeds that are longer than three hours, maybe four. Once they start feeding well during the day, it’s okay to stretch them for a little longer, say five hours between feeds, and then go gradually from there.
What’s your approach to baby routine?
I’m led by babies. However, I think it’s important to establish the evening routine as early as possible so that babies start differentiating between days and nights. I suggest a nice bath at 6pm, followed by a feed, and then putting them down in a dark room. During the days they can nap in light rooms, but not during the nights. They need to start learning the difference between days and nights.
What’s the most common mistake you see mums make?
They leave their baby on a breast for too long. If a newborn baby is on a breast for an hour, it means that they are either not latching properly and hence hungry, or seeking comfort. After 30 minutes, or maximum 45 minutes mums should stop breastfeeding, and if needed keep the baby on their chest for comfort. Of course, it’s much easier for me to notice when babies are sucking for comfort only, because I’ve seen so many, and I’m not as emotionally involved as a mother is. And that is why and how I can help them – I relieve them so that they too can get some much deserved rest.
The other thing I see quite often is that parents are so excited about any longer stretches of sleep, that they don’t feed the baby frequently enough. Especially during the first few weeks, assuming normal birth weight, it’s important that they feed every 3-4 hours at a minimum.
Which are your favourite baby products?
What should mums prepare for their baby before the birth?
Not much! The only thing that needs to be sorted beforehand, really, is sleeping arrangement, i.e. where the baby will sleep and what they will sleep in. So, a Moses basket or a cot, and a few sleep suits. I had never bought anything for my babies before birth because I’m too superstitious!
I also strongly recommend reading the “Breastfeeding Made Easy: Your Step-By-Step Guide to Using the Miskin Method.”
What are your plans for the future?
I’d love to work as a night nanny for as long as I can. I’m really enjoying working with babies and mums, and I like the flexibility of the job. I can travel when I need to.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love theatre and ballet! Swan Lake is my favourite.
If you’d like to book Suzanne, or another night nanny to help you during the early days, fill out myTamarin matching request.