Newborn Care Specialist Vs. Postpartum Doula, What’s the Difference?

There is so much new information to absorb even before your newborn arrives in your life, and in those busy, precious early days with a baby, two new terms you may hear are “newborn specialist” and “postpartum doula.” If the names of these two professions have joined the overwhelming soup of brand-new concepts swimming around in your head, you are not alone. 

These two parents’ helpers serve important but distinct roles; each goes through a unique certification process and many childcare professionals even have both certifications. And choosing between one or the other is all about your specific needs and how these amazing people can make your life better.

All in the Name

Both newborn care specialists and postpartum doulas join families during the exciting early days of a baby’s time at home, and they both seemingly do it all—these are expert multitaskers. But the simplest key to what makes these roles unique is right in the title: a newborn care specialist’s duties are focused mainly on the baby, while a postpartum doula is focused mainly on all the changes the entire family and home go through post-birth. Let’s break that down a little further. 

What a Newborn Care Specialist Does

A newborn care specialist (NCS) joins families for a brief period of time, whether parents have just given birth, adopted, or had a child through a surrogate, and makes sure all of the baby’s needs are met day or night (or both!). As any new parent quickly learns, baby care is a special process of continual adaptation and learning. An NCS will provide educational and hands-on support in everything including swaddling, feeding and lactation, sleep training, and any special challenges that may come up. They will also help take over baby care and light household duties so that exhausted parents can get proper rest.

Families with special circumstances such as multiples, preemies, and babies with special medical needs may often turn to an NCS to help build their confidence and knowledge as they get to know their little one. Some newborn care specialists have nursing certifications as well, to provide more knowledgeable care to families with unique needs.

What a Postpartum Doula Does

While your children are always the center of your world, a postpartum doula knows that parents need some attention too—especially in the months following birth. A postpartum doula’s job is to think about the well-being of the entire household, and they’re equipped to provide emotional and physical support to parents, newborns, and siblings. Like an NCS, a postpartum doula will assist with infant care and education for parents as well as taking household duties off parents’ plates. (They know what a gift it is to be allowed to forget about the dirty dishes in the sink while bonding with the baby!) But they also provide guidance and assistance to ensure that parents are taking time to recover, as well as providing advocacy and referrals for extra support in all things baby. 

Parents who already have children may further appreciate a postpartum doula as they can help older siblings adjust to having a new little one around. A postpartum doula can also help parents who have had difficult births or challenges transitioning to post-birth life ease into this exciting time, feeling cared for and rejuvenated. 

How to Decide Between the Two

The basic difference between newborn care specialists and postpartum doulas can be summed up with the question of who would benefit most from the majority of professional support: the parents or the child? Families looking to ease the overall transition of a newborn into the home may appreciate a postpartum doula’s broader focus on parental education and household support. Parents with postpartum complications or special family situations may be particularly appreciative of this kind of help. Families hoping to get focused support in newborn care will love an NCS, and they’ll be superheroes for any parents of newborns with special circumstances or needs as well. No matter which professional you choose to join you during these exciting early days, know that you’re in good hands and there’s one more person on your team helping you enjoy every minute of it.