The Complete Guide to Managing Night Shift with a Newborn

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Truth be told, parents who work night shifts are superheroes! From the outside looking in you are all crushing it, but I can imagine it might not always feel that way when you are in the thick of it. Balancing work with the demands of having a newborn at home cannot be easy.

Surviving night shifts with a baby at home is all about finding a balance between work, baby care, and self-care. Consider; seeking help early such as 24-hour daycare, setting boundaries with your other children, having honest discussions with your manager whilst making time for your own health.

To be fair, I am not a working mom and have never faced these struggles personally, but I see you out there and I want to use my platform to support you and encourage you whenever I can. That is why we have put together this guide filled with helpful suggestions, tidbits of advice, and useful strategies collected from working moms and dads who have been through it.

Planning Makes Perfect With A Newborn

Sometimes it feels like we preach a gospel of planning, but it really is a super useful thing to help you set up a strong foundation for a shift-working family.

A number of the source we tapped when researching this article mentioned the need for planning ahead when it comes to introducing a baby into your shift-work lifestyle.

If you have a future-tense baby on the way, there are some questions you should probably ask and answer to help establish a good work-life-baby balance.

  • Who will provide childcare during your night shift? Is it going to be your spouse? Grandparents? A 24-hour childcare center?
  • Who will give you breaks so you can take care of your needs? Your partner? Your best friend? Your sibling? A mommy’s helper?
  • Is your company family-friendly? Unfortunately, even in 2021 workplace discrimination against moms is still a thing, it’s called the “maternal wall.”
  • What support systems or community resources do you have access to? It’s good to know what kind of local support systems are in place to help you and your family.

We are going to address each of these questions and hopefully you will feel confident answering them by the time you finish reading this article. 

Related: 7 Tips for Surviving Night Shifts Whilst Pregnant

Strategies for Managing Night Shift with a Newborn

Based on some of the tips and suggestions we collected from working moms and dads, we compiled six highly recommended strategies that you can use to help you manage the demands of both the night shift and your infant.

Strategy 1: Sleep When Your Baby Sleeps

This tip comes from Jamie, a 911 dispatcher who worked 2nd shift when her son was a newborn. Shift workers and new parents are at a high risk of sleep deprivation, and as a night-shift-working parent that risk increases even more.

Babies sleep more than adults, so take cues from your baby and doze when they doze throughout the day, or at the very least lie down and rest.

If you have an older child too, encourage them to play in their rooms while you nap on the couch with the baby, it will give you a chance to bond with your newborn and get some shut-eye in. Chances are, they will want to snuggle up too and may join you in a big, group nap.

To help facilitate your ability to sleep when your newborn does we recommend investing in one of these co-sleeping bassinets. These were recommended by another shift worker who loves them for their versatility. Alternatively, this co-sleeping nest will also allow you to safely snuggle up with your infant.

Strategy 2: Set Boundaries with Older Children

When you introduce your oldest child to their new baby-sibling they may have a hard time learning how to share your attention and may even revert to “bad habits,” like wetting themselves, or lose their sense of independence in order to gain back your attention.

This reversion may be subconscious, but you can nip it in the bud by setting clear boundaries.

It is okay to have boundaries with your older children, you know what they are capable of. If they can clean up themselves after a toileting accident, or help themselves to a snack, lovingly instruct them to do exactly that.

You may feel guilty doing this at first, but it will help reduce your stress-load and defend your sleep, which in-turn, will increase the quality time you will have to spend with your older child. Not to mention, modeling healthy boundaries with your kids will set them up to be more stable, have better self-esteem, and feel more secure in their relationship with you.

Strategy 3: Find a Routine and Stick to It

Having a set routine can help the whole family run like a well-oiled machine. Kids thrive on a certain amount of routine because it gives them a sense of stability. Parents benefit from routines because it lessens the emotional labor of trying to figure out what needs to happen on a daily basis.

Ideas for routines that you can implement to help you balance work, life, and baby include:

  • Have a chore routine, split up house work so you don’t have to do it all at once and set a weekly-routine to follow. This will keep you from having to spend your whole day off doing housework. That said, you should always prioritize sleep over chores if needed.
  • Have a weekday meal rotation set, this will help speed up grocery shopping and cut out the guess work when it comes to deciding what to cook.
  • Make play-dates into a routine for your older child if you can set it up with other parents. That way you know every Tuesday at 4 Sally will be at Jenny’s and you can limit your turn to host play dates to your days off.
  • Morning and bedtime routines are also useful to establish, especially if you have an older child that needs to get ready for school. Routines will help them gain some independence since they will know what is expected of them.

Naturally, you should be creative and flexible with your routines, so you can adapt them to your family’s changing and growing needs.

For more ideas, check out this day-in-the-life schedule of a shift-working mommy.

Strategy 4: Have a Village

You’ve doubtless heard the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” meaning that parents and children benefit when they have help and support from a close-knit community comprised of trusted friends, family, and even the reliable babysitter. 

Having a village to support you as a parent when either you, or your partner, are shift workers is great for a number of reasons.

  • It helps you manage your parenting-work load so the shift-worker(s) in the family can get some much-needed time to practice self-care or sleep.
  • It is a great way to gain wisdom from veteran parents, and to share knowledge.
  • Children raised by a “village” tend to be more empathetic and have a stronger sense of security.
  • It can decrease the loneliness of being home alone while your partner is working nights, or the loneliness of being a single parent. 

Related: Shift Work and Family. A Practical Guide for Busy Parents.

Strategy 5: Bust Down the Maternity Wall

You’ve heard of the glass ceiling, but when it comes to the workplace discrimination that women unfortunately still have to put up with, there is the maternity wall too.

The maternity wall appears when women become pregnant or try to return from maternity leave only to discover they are being discriminated against.

If you are trying to juggle night shifts and caring for an infant, the last thing you want is for your workplace to make your life harder.

You can start dismantling the maternity wall even if you aren’t a working mom, (shift-working dads, we’re looking at you!). Here are a few ways to help:

  • Have open conversations with management:
    Sometimes managers do bad things with good intentions. For example, a manager might not put a pregnant woman up for promotion because they don’t want to add to their stress loads. They’re being empathetic to the demands of being a working parent, but they didn’t ask the woman what she wanted. Calling out this behavior when we notice it, is key to breaking down the maternal wall.
  • Advocate for flexibility for families and normalize it:
    A friend of mine shared that she once had to have her husband swing by her workplace, so she could breastfeed her son who just would not fall asleep. It was a last-ditch effort to help her desperate husband and it was frowned upon by her manager, even though it took less time than the cigarette breaks many of her colleagues are afforded.
  • Use FMLA:
    This one is for our US-based readers, but if you happen to work in some transportation industries (like the airlines) you can still qualify for FMLA even after your parental leave. This way, if your baby is sick you can call out and not get slapped with a punitive attendance penalty. This works for both working moms and dads in aviation, and may be true of other industries, just check with your union.

In general, by advocating for working moms, you are also supporting working dads since parental privileges are usually extended to all parents once the rights have been won.

Strategy 6: Have a Strategy for Pumping at Work

This one is for shift-working moms, having a strategy for pumping at work is crucial. Going back to breaking down the Maternity wall, it helps to know that you do have a protected right to pump at work.

Flight attendants: You are allowed to travel with your pump in the United States.

The first step towards developing a stress-free pumping strategy is investing in an efficient pump. This hospital strength pump is highly recommended by motherhood experts at What to Expect. The great thing about this pump set is, it comes with everything you need for on-the-go pumping.

The second step is to create a space at work where you feel comfortable pumping. You may need to involve management to see if they have a space for moms already set up. Nursing ponchos can help you when pumping also.

Other considerations for pumping at work include:

·  Where will you store pumped milk while you are at work?

·  How will you clean your pump while you are at work?

Related: 8 Survival Tips for Single Shift Working Parents.

Check out this mom packing frozen breast before her shift!

Everything You Need to Know About Childcare

Securing childcare is one of the biggest challenges we heard about when talking to night-shift parents.

Day cares are generally exactly that, day cares, so it can be challenging to find someone who can care for your baby overnight. For single shift-working parents, this is a challenge of dire importance.

Hopefully, you have options to consider including family, friends, hired caretakers, and childcare centers. In this section we will briefly go each option.  

Family & Friends

Your family and friends can be a great resource if you are close with them and chances are they will probably be more than happy to take turns babysitting overnight, and they probably won’t even charge you for their services. 

They are likely going to be familiar to your child, which will help sooth separation anxiety. Not to mention you are more-likely to trust them with the well-being of your baby, so you will be more at ease at work. Not to mention, if you can arrange for your friend or family member to babysit in your home, your child is going to get better sleep since they will be in a familiar environment.

That said, you have to be intentional about communicating with and appreciating your friends and family, so they don’t get burnt out, and so you don’t put strain on your relationship.

Related: Most Effective Way to Communicate as a Shift Work Family.

Hired Caretakers

Hired caretakers come in a variety of forms these days, they can be live-in nannies, babysitters, or au pairs. Finding one that suits your needs, budgets, and lifestyle is key to striking a work-life-baby balance.

There are a number of pros to hiring a caretaker for your baby:

  • Hired caretakers, especially live-in nannies and au pairs will really get to know your infant allowing them to provide stability and consistency.
  • They often have first-aid and emergency response training.
  • They’re not as likely to become burnt out.
  • You can delegate other household chores to them.

Unfortunately, it can be expensive to hire a caretaker for your infant. To help alleviate the cost-burden babysitting services like are starting to set-up babysitter co-ops or babysitter sharing arrangements. This could be a fantastic option if you happen to work with one, or two, other single parents who need childcare.

Before hiring a caretaker for your baby, you should:

  • Ensuring that whomever you hire has background checks or comes from a trusted source.
  • Have a clear idea of your house-rules, boundaries, and expectations as they apply to the caretaker.
  • Make sure you have a trusted back-up person designated who may not be able to babysit but would be willing to step-up in an emergency.

24-Hour Childcare Centers

The availability of 24-hour childcare centers has increased in the last decade to help accommodate the growing number of parents working in shift-oriented careers.

Pediatricians and child-development experts are quick to caution parents against relying on these types of centers, because sleeping away from home can be unsettling.

That said, Dr. McAteer a Pediatrician at Indiana University, says they are sometimes a parent’s best option and in this case special attention should be given to the quality of the center.

In the United States, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) will accredit high-quality childcare centers, so it is best to look for centers with this certification, although some states will use their own accreditation systmes. That said, when it comes down to it, your gut instinct is probably right, if you feel good about a center, it will probably be a good fit for you can your child.

The Importance of Self-Care

As RN Adela Ellis makes clear, you have to make self-care a priority to minimize the negative effects of working night shifts. Self-care includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and taking time to do things you enjoy.

If you don’t prioritize self-care you will get burnt out which will make it harder for you to show-up in healthy ways for your family and baby.

Related: How to Work the Night Shift and Stay Healthy.

Sleeping Tips for Night Shifters with a Newborn

We have tons of resources on our site to help night shifters get high quality sleep, but there are some tips for new parents that will help you get quality sleep with you baby. In addition to the strategy we discussed above, here are some ideas to help.

  • Arrange to have a day-time helper. Since you’ll be home too, this does not necessarily need to be a full-fledged babysitter and some pre-teens will be willing to come help occupy your baby for a few dollars an hour to help them build a babysitting portfolio.

Self-Care Ideas

Self-care means different things for different people, but here are a few ideas we collected from working moms and dads to help you incorporate self-care into your new parenting lifestyle. These things are mean to help boost your happiness, confidence, and energy levels.

  • Engage in retail therapy and buy scrubs you feel comfortable and confident in, if you wear scrubs to work, that is.
  • Exercise creatively, turn playtime into a workout, do squats while you wait for the microwave, there are ways to sneak exercise into your day without setting aside a large amount of time for a “real” workout. Plus, once you have a toddler that will be workout enough…
  • Try micro self-care: write in a prompted journal during your break, listen to a podcast while you commute to work, and throw a shower bomb into your shower routine to feel indulgent.
  • Fill the gaps in your health and nutrition by drinking SuperGreen TONIK. It’s a powdered green juice that is soo much better than any other green juice I’ve tried in the past. It tastes good and actually gives me the natural lift I need without the nasty, unnecessary ingredients. I did a full review here which features a 10% discount code for The Other Shift readers.
  • I realize this may be a wild idea, but how is date night going? Nonexistent I assume!? There is a company making this easy but fun and could be worth looking into. They are called Night In Boxes. They send you a box filled with everything you need for the perfect date in. From food to music to activities, they have thought of everything!

There are lots of little ways to look out for yourself and strike that work-life-baby balance.

Supports and Resources for Working Parents

There are a number of non-profit organizations in the United States that will provide no, or low-cost support services to parents. We apologize for excluding non-US based parents, but hopefully you can get some ideas from this list and look for similar services in your country.

  • Head Start: Head start is a national non-profit that helps support early learning. There are head start childcare centers and home-based options. Pennsylvania shift-mom, Heidi Kaufman, enjoys having a head start teacher drop by to work with her kids.
  • Zero to Three: This non-profit is all about helping parents with babies and toddlers. They have tons of resources and services that are designed to empower parents.
  • Family counseling: Parenting is hard. Attending family counseling can be a great way to get support when it comes to processing all the demands of parenting.
  • The Snore Reliever: You don’t need a crying baby and a snoring partner. Though it could be annoying to get used to in the beginning, this VitalSleep Anti-Snoring Mouthpiece could save the day.

You can also check to see if your local university has an early childhood department. Sometimes the faculty there can connect you to wonderful resources and programs in your area. They may also be happy to give you expert insights if you have any burning questions.

[VIDEO] – As I don’t have a baby I can’t really make a video with me working nights and looking after a child. However, I did find this YouTuber below who did just that. It’s an interesting, real look at somebody in the same/similar situation to you!

Final Thoughts: Managing Night Shift with a Newborn

We hope this guide is helpful to shift-working moms and dads who have to balance working nights shifts with tending to the needs of a newborn. Whether you yourself are a shift-working parent or your partner is, we hope these tips, strategies, and resources will help you feel empowered.

Emma signature |

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.


  • Mason, Newman Kelli. “Mom Blocking: 12 Tips to Ensure Your Company Doesn’t Build a Maternal Wall.” The Riveter. Web.
  • Shafer, Tara. “Finding Child Care for the Night Shift.” Esme. Web.
  • Stephanie. “Shift Work as a Mom.” Kansas City Mom Collective. Web.
  • Byrne, Courtney. “What We’re Missing When We Repeated ‘It takes a Village’.” The Chirping Moms. Web.
  • Ceder, Jill. “An Overview of Daycare.” Very Well Family. Edited by Andrea Rice. Web.
  • Peachman, Rachel Rabkin. “Extreme Daycare: Would You Put Your Child in a 24-Hour Facility?” Riley Children’s Health: Indiana University Health. Web.
  • Ellis, Adela (RN), “3 Helpful Tips for Parents Working the Night Shift.” Mother Nurse Love. Web.
  • “5 Tips for Juggling Night Shift Nursing and Parenthood.” American Mobile. Web.
  • Nazish, Noma. “Five Totally Doable Self-Care Tips for Busy Moms.” Forbes. Web.
  • Squillace, Mary. “Your Guide to Pumping at Work.” What to Expect. Web.
  • Schoech, Samantha. “Secrets of successful moms: Raising two under 2 and working the night shift.” Baby Center. Web.

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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