How to Become a Postpartum Nurse

10 Min Read Published July 16, 2024

Postpartum nurses care for new mothers and newborn infants in the hours and days immediately following birth. This guide explores how to become a postpartum nurse, including education requirements, salary expectations, job outlook, and more. Continue reading to find out if this rewarding nursing specialty suits you.

How to Become a Postpartum Nurse: A Nurse.org Career Guide

What is a Postpartum Nurse?

Postpartum nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who care for and help new mothers after giving birth. In addition to attending to their patient’s physical and emotional needs, they closely monitor their condition for postpartum issues, such as depression or complications.

Additionally, postpartum nurses provide new mothers with much-needed education about newborn care, giving them the boost of confidence that they need before taking their children home. They also provide support and guidance regarding breastfeeding (often working closely with a lactation specialist). 

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WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

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Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

What Do Postpartum Nurses Do?

A postpartum nurse's primary duty is to provide support and nursing care to new mothers. They perform a wide range of duties, from attending to the unique physical and emotional care of postpartum women to providing education and guidance for newborn care. Postpartum nurses help ease the transition to motherhood by ensuring new mothers receive top-tier care and education.

Common Duties

As a postpartum nurse, you'll care for new mothers from the time they leave the delivery room to the time they leave the hospital. Some common postpartum nursing duties include the following:

  • Assisting new mothers as they learn to breastfeed and providing lactation support.
  • 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 postpartum recovery.
  • Keeping watch for signs of postpartum depression in new mothers and signs of medical complications in their newborns.
  • Monitor 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 guidance and education on newborn care, including bathing, umbilical cord care, feeding, the use of infant safety seats, and more.

Workplaces

You can work as a postpartum nurse in any setting where women give birth. Typically, you'll find postpartum nurses working in the following settings:

  • Birthing centers
  • Community clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Physicians’ offices

>> Show Me Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Postpartum Nurse Salary

Postpartum nurses are highly respected by their peers and are appreciated by their patients. But how much does a postpartum nurse make?

According to Glassdoor, the national median annual wage for a postpartum nurse is $117,000Salary.com reports an annual average salary of $80,814, or $39 per hour. However, the salary range typically falls between $73,553 and $91,516.

Your income as a postpartum nurse will vary depending on several factors, such as your level of education, work experience, geographic location, and employer. Additionally, you can expect a range of employer benefits as a full or part-time postpartum nurse, including:

  • Certification & Education Reimbursement
  • Childcare Assistance
  • Nursing Conference Attendance
  • Maternity, Sick, and Bereavement Leave
  • Health, Dental, Vision, and Life Insurance
  • Family Leave of Absence
  • Paid Holidays & Paid Time Off
  • Retirement Options

Highest Paying States for Nurses

One of the biggest factors impacting your postpartum nurse salary is location. Postpartum nurses in the following states have the highest reported incomes:

State Annual Salary Hourly Wage
Washington $160,962 $77.39
Delaware $150,771 $72.49
Virginia $148,177 $71.24
Maryland $145,914 $70.15
New York $145,731 $70.06

Source: ZipRecruiter, Accessed 16 July 2024

Highest Paying Cities for Nurses

City Annual Salary Hourly Wage
Soledad, CA $198,051 $95.22
Richmond, CA $172,545 $82.95
Bellevue, WA $170,023 $81.74
Lynnwood, WA $166,372 $79.99
Santa Clara, CA $163,978 $78.84

Source: ZipRecruiter, Accessed 16 July 2024

>> Show Me Online RN-to-BSN Programs

How to Become a Postpartum Nurse

1. Become a Registered Nurse

Before becoming a postpartum nurse, you must earn your registered nursing license. Becoming a registered nurse requires attending an accredited Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. If you already know that postpartum nursing is your goal, taking elective courses in maternal and infant care will benefit your career and continuing education.

After graduating from their nursing program, you can earn your state license as a registered nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.

2. Gain Experience

After licensure, you can start working as an RN. Ideally, you should pursue positions in a maternity unit to gain experience. You'll need at least two years of relevant experience to become a certified postpartum nurse.

3. Earn Certifications

Postpartum nurses can pursue the Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN) certification to enhance their skills and professional standing. To qualify, you must possess a current, unrestricted Registered Nurse license, at least two years of work experience within the specialty area, and documentation of employment history.

4. Advance Your Education

Postpartum nurses who want to have the most career opportunities and earn a higher salary can continue their education, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Postpartum Nurse

Like any nursing position, there are positives and negatives. Some would assume that being a postpartum nurse is mostly all pros, but that is not entirely the case. You will sometimes be caring for mothers who have lost their babies or who have babies in the NICU.

Pros Cons

Provide support to new mothers and families

Supporting mothers and families during newborn deaths and NICU stays

Work with babies

Navigating family dynamics

Job security 

Physically and mentally exhausting

Witness new life being brought into the world

Long work hours

Never be bored during shifts

Navigating mother and baby care

Postpartum Nursing Specialty Skills

You'll need specialty nursing skills to work as a postpartum nurse. Some skills you should hone on your journey to entering this field include:

  • Strong communication skills for education and teaching
  • Confidence in your ability to handle possible emergencies
  • Empathy for families that have lost a baby or are separated from their newborn
  • Patience, especially when working with new mothers
  • Compassion
  • Strong time management skills

Day in the Life of a Postpartum Nurse

What can you expect from working as a postpartum nurse? While your duties and responsibilities will vary daily, there will be some similarities. In general, a day in the life of a postpartum nurse looks something like this:

Receive Assignments

After arriving for your scheduled shift, you will get your assignment. Postpartum nurses are responsible for the care of mothers as well as the newborn. This is considered a couplet. 

Ratios are specific to the hospital, but you can expect to take roughly 3 to 5 couplets per shift. You will start by receiving a report from the ongoing nurse, then perform safety checks and introduce yourself to your patients.

Organize Daily Tasks

After reviewing charts and determining each patient's daily schedule, you'll plan your daily tasks according to their needs.

Begin Your Shift

Once you've planned your day, it's time to complete your duties. You'll assess patients and their newborns, administer medications as necessary, and take vital signs. You may also provide lactation support to mothers and educate them on postpartum self-care and newborn care.

You may also provide emotional support and resources to mothers who suffered a loss or have newborns in the NICU. 

Once a mother and her newborn are discharged, you will get transfers from the labor and delivery side.

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 3.6 million births yearly, 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.

What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Postpartum Nurses?

Postpartum nurses are registered nurses and are subject to the continuing education requirements of the states where they work.  

If a postpartum nurse chooses to pursue either a Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN) certification, the credentials are valid for three years. Maintaining these certifications requires a current, active RN license, completion of the Continuing Competency Assessment, and a continuing education plan based on the results of your assessment.

Where Can I Learn More About the Postpartum Nurse Role?

If you believe that Postpartum nursing may be the right career for you and would like additional information on the profession, several professional organizations can provide additional information and guidance. These include:

>> Show Me Online RN-to-BSN Programs

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?

    • Several different nursing specialties attend to babies after birth. Pediatric registered nurses can care for children from the time they are newborns through adolescence, but often, 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?

    • Postpartum nurses earn $39 per hour, which is $80,814 annually, according to Salary.com
  • What is it like to be a Postpartum nurse?

    • Postpartum nursing is a highly rewarding career with plenty of variety, so you won't experience monotony. Daily tasks include patient monitoring and care, including administering medication, placing IVs, and updating charts. However, the position can be challenging, especially when counseling mothers who experienced a loss or whose children are in the NICU. 

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