Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC
If you love babies and want to spend time caring for them and new mothers, becoming a postpartum nurse may be the perfect fit for you!
Postpartum nurses care for new mothers and newborn infants in the hours and days immediately following birth. They need to have the basic nursing skills of any other specialty, but more importantly, you need to have compassion and patience.
Postpartum nurses are there to provide more than just care: You’ll be watching out for complications and emergencies, while guiding and educating mothers on self-care and the care of their infants.
Thinking of becoming a Postpartum nurse? This guide will fill you in on everything you need to know. If you’re ready to take the next steps to becoming a Postpartum nurse, check out some of our featured programs.
Part One What is a Postpartum Nurse?
Postpartum nurses are Registered Nurses who care for and help new mothers after they have given birth. In addition to attending to their patients’ physical and emotional needs, they are also trained to watch carefully for issues of concern such as postpartum depression or complications.
Postpartum nurses provide new mothers with much-needed education about newborn care, giving them the boost of confidence that they need before being sent home with their child. They also provide support and guidance surrounding breastfeeding (often working closely with a lactation specialist).
Postpartum nurses can work in any setting where women are giving birth.
Typically, they will work in the following locations,
- Birthing Center
- Community Clinic
- Physicians’ office
Part Two What Do Postpartum Nurses Do?
Postpartum nurses have a wide range of duties, from attending to the specific impact that giving birth has on the woman’s body to providing emotional support and guidance on newborn care. Postpartum nurses are by their patients’ side during some of the most important moments in their lives!
Postpartum nurses are assigned the care of their patients from the time that they leave the labor and delivery room to the time that they are discharged from the hospital. Some of their duties include:
- Assisting new mothers as they learn the process of breastfeeding.
- Attending tasks assigned by the patient’s physician ranging from medication and I.V.s to wound care.
- Creating and adhering to care plans for the new mother and her child.
- Helping the mother with her postpartum recovery.
- Keeping watch for signs of postpartum depression in new mothers and signs of medical complications in their newborn.
- Monitoring vital signs for both mother and newborn -- keeping a careful eye on any changes in either one’s condition.
- Providing emotional support and reinforcement to the mother as she begins making decisions for herself and her child.
- Providing lactation support
- Providing guidance and education on newborn care including bathing, umbilical cord care, feeding, the use of infant safety seats and more.
Part Three Postpartum Nurse Salary
Postpartum nurses are highly respected by their peers and earn the appreciation of their patients. According to Glassdoor.com, the national median annual wage for a postpartum nurse is $104,022.
Salary.com reports an annual average salary of $75,265 but the salary range typically falls between $68,505 and $85,236.
Income can be affected by a variety of factors, including the level of education that the nurse has attained, the region and setting where they work, the number of years of experience that they possess and their overall performance and level of responsibility.
- Certification Reimbursement
- Continuing Education Reimbursement
Regardless of the workplace setting, full-time and part-time nurses enjoy similar benefits. While actual benefits may vary depending on the institution most include the following:
- Attendance at nursing conferences
- Bereavement leave
- Dental Insurance
- Dependent health insurance coverage
- Discounts on extracurricular activities
- Family Leave of Absence
- Health insurance
- Holiday Pay
- Life Insurance
- Maternity Leave
- Retirement Options
- Vision Insurance
Highest Paying States for Nurses
Nursing salaries vary around the United States based on regional shortages and needs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the five states that pay Registered Nurses the highest annual median wage are:
- California - $120,560
- Hawaii - $104,830
- Massachusetts - $96,250
- Oregon - $96,230
- Paid time off
- Relocation assistance
- Relocation packages
- Alaska - $95,270
Unfortunately, the BLS does not differentiate between the different nursing specialities.
Highest Paying Cities for Nurses
The five top-paying metropolitan areas for Registered Nurses are:
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA - $149,200
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA - $146,870
- Vallejo-Fairfield, CA - $142,140
- Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA - $134,350
- Salinas, CA - $132,160
Part Four How Do You Become a Postpartum Nurse?
Postpartum nurses are Registered Nurses who have gained experience in this specialized area of care, and in some cases go on to be certified and pursue advanced education. Here's how to become one!
1. Attend Nursing School
The first step to becoming a Postpartum Nurse is to attend nursing school. You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to becoming a registered nurse. Nursing students who know that they want to become postpartum nurses are well-advised to focus any elective courses on the study of maternal and infant care.
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN
Following graduation from their nursing program, nurses earn their state license as a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.
3. Gain Experience
After licensure, Registered Nurses can apply for a nursing position that will give them the opportunity to work and gain experience in a maternity unit.
4. Get Certified
Postpartum nurses can pursue two different certifications that will enhance their skills and professional standing. They are:
Both of these important certifications require a current, unrestricted Registered Nurse license, a minimum of two years of work experience within the specialty area, as well as documentation of employment history.
5. Advance Your Education
Part Five What is the Career Outlook for Postpartum Nurses?
The national nursing shortage is expected to continue for the next several years, and that has had a direct impact on the demand for Postpartum nurses.
Though the birth rate is trending downward in the United States, there are still nearly 4 million births each year, making the continuing need for experienced skilled Postpartum nursing certain.
Nurses who want to boost their career opportunities are advised to pursue both certifications and advanced degrees such as a Master of Science in Nursing, a Ph.D., or a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
Part Six What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Postpartum Nurses?
Postpartum nurses are Registered Nurses, and so are subject to the continuing education requirements of the states in which they work and are licensed.
If a postpartum nurse chooses to pursue either a Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN) certification or Electronic Fetal Monitoring certification, those credentials are valid for three years.
Maintenance of these certifications requires a current, active Registered Nurse license, completion of the Continuing Competency Assessment, and a continuing education plan based upon the results of your assessment.
Part Seven Where Can I Learn More About the Postpartum Nurse Role?
If you believe that Postpartum nursing may be the right career for you and you would like additional information on the profession, there are several professional organizations that can provide additional information and guidance. These include:
- Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses
- Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association
- Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing
- Nursing for Women's Health Journal
- The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing
Part Eight Postpartum Nurse FAQs
How many years does it take to become a Postpartum nurse?
- It will take around 4-6 years to become a Postpartum nurse. 2-4 years to earn either an ADN or BSN, and another 2 years of experience to be eligible to take the nursing certification tests.
What are the nurses who take care of babies after birth called?
- There are several different nursing specialties that attend to babies after birth. Pediatric registered nurses can care for children from the time that they are newborns through adolescence, but oftentimes when an infant is first born they are cared for by a neonatal intensive care nurse, a pediatric intensive care nurse, or a neonatal nurse.
How much does a Postpartum nurse make an hour?
- According to Salary.com, the national median hourly wage for a Postpartum nurse is $36 per hour, with the lowest 10% earning $30 per hour and the top 10% earning $45 per hour.
What is it like to be a Postpartum nurse?
- Postpartum nursing is a position that involves a great deal of responsibility. You are responsible for both the mother and the newborn baby. Postpartum nurses are generally assigned between three and six patients for whom they have to do assessments of mother’s health and condition after delivery; address physicians’ orders such as dressings, IVs and medications; update charts and care plans while taking care of admissions; and all the while providing guidance and education on newborn care, comfort and a listening ear to the new moms. Not every delivery goes as planned, and that is part of the job too.