The AAP has a wealth of information and resources for students looking to become pediatricians as well as those already established in the profession.
Assisting in the Development and Health of Newborns and Infants
Working with babies can be extremely rewarding, and those who are passionate about caring for little ones have a plethora of education and career paths to explore. Many significant developmental changes take place between birth and age 3, so qualified professionals are needed in medical and nonmedical settings alike to ensure babies are physically, emotionally and cognitively healthy. In this guide, gain expert insights from a professional newborn care specialist, and learn about different types of infant-centric careers and the various degree paths that can lead to working with babies.
15 Degree Programs for Working with Babies
- Early childhood education/development:
Early childhood education and early childhood development degrees help prepare educators to work with young children, from birth to about second or third grade. Programs include a mix of theory and practice courses focused on child care, instructional methods and curricula to help young people with cognitive, physical and emotional development.
- Child psychology, developmental psychology or general psychology:
Schools may offer degrees dedicated to child or developmental psychology, or students can take advantage of child- or developmental-focused tracks within general psychology degree programs. Studies focus on psychological development from birth through adolescence, or even through a person’s full life cycle. With a deep understanding of behaviors and the mind, students will be prepared for work in both clinical and nonclinical settings.
- Premedical program:
Though this isn’t technically a degree, many undergraduate students who want to work with babies in a medical capacity — as pediatricians, for instance — need to first enroll in premedical programs to prepare for graduate study. Students can complete their premed programs in conjunction with undergraduate majors, such as biology, education, art, psychology or linguistics.
- Health sciences:
A degree in health sciences is a great option for students who are looking for something flexible with room to explore many health-related careers and areas of study, from health education to fitness coach and more. Schools may offer different tracks or focus areas within health sciences programs, allowing students to dive more deeply into given subjects.
Associate and bachelor of nursing programs prepare students for nursing licensure and advanced study. Nursing students will gain theoretical and practical knowledge to prepare for careers in various nursing capacities, which may include neonatal and pediatric nursing.
A degree in education or teaching provides the foundational skills needed to work with young people, from infants to adolescents, in school settings. Students looking to specialize in certain areas of education while earning their bachelor’s degrees can look for programs that offer multiple tracks or concentrations within education.
- Foreign language:
While studying a foreign language may not seem to have direct applications to working with babies, many baby-centric careers, such as social worker, teacher or child care provider, can open up with proficiency in another language. Foreign language programs often include cultural education and exchange opportunities in addition to language training.
- Massage therapy:
Babies and expectant mothers have delicate bodies that can benefit from the work of well-trained massage therapists. Massage therapy degree programs provide practical, hands-on training to prepare students for careers in private practice clinics, rehabilitation centers, physicians’ offices, hospitals, health clubs and many other settings.
Working with young people can require a lot of creative thinking. Artistically minded students can further their creative skills in general art studies, or they can focus on specific areas, such as painting, photography, sculpture or digital art. Whether doing commissioned baby portraits or facilitating creative time with kids, a degree in art actually can have practical applications.
- Physical therapist assistant:
While most physical therapy degree programs are at the graduate or postgraduate levels, particularly those focused on pediatric physical therapy, students can get an early start in physical therapy careers by studying to become physical therapist assistants. The combination of theory and clinical practice in this two-year degree program prepares students to sit for the physical therapist assistant licensure exam.
- Special education:
Special education degrees prepare students to work with children who have cognitive disabilities. While many programs are designed to train prospective teachers for work in K-12 schools, those who earn degrees in special education can apply their knowledge and skills in a variety of settings.
- Social work:
Those who are interested in social justice issues and helping others, especially members of marginalized communities, may be interested in studying social work. Those majoring in social work who want to work with babies can find careers in a range of settings, from neonatal emergency wards to adoption centers.
- Physical education:
Physical education degrees not only give students comprehensive knowledge in human health and fitness, but also how to make physical activity and wellness accessible, safe and fun for a range of age and social groups.
- Family and human development:
Students in family and human development studies programs explore the way people grow and interact with one another and their surroundings. Studies span from birth through adulthood and lead to careers in a multitude of settings, including schools, child care centers and counseling practices.
Students who major in physiology will learn about the body’s functions and structures. Physiology is an important aspect of understanding medicine and health, and classes will cover various systems including respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular and endocrine. This is an important major that may lead to working with children in health care settings.
Career Spotlight: 24 Jobs Working with Babies
- Neonatal nurse:
Neonatal nurses specialize in working with newborn babies who are premature, may have birth defects or have other issues. These nursing specialists tend to work in hospitals and can help babies with severe health problems. While “neonatal” technically refers to an infant’s first month of life, neonatal nurses may provide care for longer periods of time until the patient is well. Because around-the-clock care is often needed, neonatal nurses may frequently work eight- to 12-hour shifts, depending on the nursery.
Doulas provide birth-related assistance before, during and shortly after childbirth. These professionals provide accurate information along with physical and emotional support to new and expectant mothers.
- Delivery nurse:
Delivery nurses, or labor nurses, help pregnant women successfully give birth. They not only provide encouragement and coaching throughout the labor process, but they also monitor the mother’s and baby’s health during and shortly after childbirth. This kind of nurse may also administer medications and help with the actual delivery of the baby.
Pediatricians are doctors whose focus is on the physical and emotional health of children. Pediatricians work with children of all ages, from infants to adolescents, and often work in preventative care. Effective communication and good bedside manner are essential qualities for pediatricians.
- Pediatric nurse:
These specialized RNs work with children in a variety of health care settings. Pediatric nurses typically spend some time working as RNs before getting an advanced education and specialty certification in pediatric nursing.
- Child care center worker:
Child care takes place in many settings and can involve a huge range of tasks and responsibilities. Those who work in child care centers typically work with infants and children during the day while their parents or guardians are at work or school. Responsibilities usually include feeding and playing with children, changing diapers or clothes, helping with homework and making sure children stay safe.
- Nanny/Au pair:
Nannies and au pairs are child care workers who tend to work for one family at a time. Families may prefer these types of workers over daycare centers because of the one-on-one time and flexibility it affords. Au pairs generally are live-in child care workers who come from other countries on state-sponsored exchange visas. Nannies can live on their own or with the families for whom they provide care.
Midwifery is a traditional form of health care pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth. Similar to doulas, midwives develop strong relationships with mothers during their pregnancy and help them understand and navigate the various stages of pregnancy, birth and postpartum life. However, midwives receive formalized nursing training and can perform some tasks such as physical exams, labor and birth care, health education and more.
- Infant/pediatric physical therapist:
Infant and pediatric physical therapists help children and babies who have various mobility issues. Physical therapists may address muscular development, infant growth milestones, balance problems, strength, coordination and endurance. These professionals can also provide treatment and assistance for babies with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida and autism. Pediatric physical therapists work to make treatment both fun and effective. This career usually requires an advanced degree.
- Speech-language pathologist:
These professionals help babies who have speech development issues or difficulty feeding and swallowing. These professionals assess the cause and severity of speech and swallowing related issues in infants and children, including issues caused by deformations or disabilities, and help families carry out solutions and therapies.
- Infant massage therapist:
Proper muscle development is important in infants, and gentle touch can help parents build strong relationships with babies and aid infants’ emotional development. Infant massage therapists may perform specialized massage therapy on infants or, more often, teach parents how to use gentle massage techniques on their babies.
- Baby photographer:
Baby photographers take high-quality and artistic photos of infants and children, helping families document significant moments in their lives. Some baby photographers work in hospital nurseries, taking photos of newborn babies. Others work in studios with expectant and new mothers, babies and toddlers or whole families.
Also called OBs, specialize in the care of women’s reproductive health and pregnancy. These medical professionals are trained in labor and delivery, including related surgeries such as Caesarian sections. They help women throughout pregnancy and delivery and focus on detecting and solving potential reproductive health problems.
- Infant exercise/physical activity instructor:
Physical activity is important for infant development, and parent-baby exercise groups are fun ways for babies to get active and build bonds with their parents. Dance, tumbling and swim classes need qualified instructors to ensure that babies and their families have fun and stay safe while participating in these activities.
- Social worker:
Specially trained to work with individuals, families and communities to solve a variety of everyday problems, social workers may work in adoption centers to help match parents with babies or ensure babies are well cared for. They may help families work through a range of difficult circumstances, like finding housing or other aid, getting out of dangerous domestic situations or connecting with health care resources. Some, such as Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) social workers, are highly trained to work with infants and provide support, information and resources to families who need to stay in the NICU for a period of time.
- Lactation consultant:
Lactation consultants work in clinics, hospitals, pediatric offices or private practices and help new and expectant mothers navigate the breastfeeding process. They teach proper breastfeeding techniques and help mothers get comfortable with the process. They also provide advice when mothers face challenges with latching and feeding.
- Child psychologist:
Child psychologists study the behaviors of children from birth through adolescence and use their findings to provide advice and treatment to children and their families. Child psychologists often specialize in certain aspects of the field, such as developmental or educational psychology, and help young people cope with mental, social, emotional and educational struggles.
- Family counselor/therapist:
These mental health specialists help individuals and families face psychological challenges or difficulties in their relationships. Their work centers not only on the individual experiencing problems, but also on their relationships with those around them. Family counselors and therapists generally practice short-term therapy with a primary focus of finding solutions to immediate problems, such as communication issues between children and parents.
- Baby nurse/newborn specialist:
Newborn specialists educate, assist and advise new parents. They often provide in-home care, helping with feeding, scheduling, sleep and other tasks relating to the care and safety of newborn infants.
- Special education teacher:
Special education teachers work with children of all ages who have cognitive and physical disabilities. Their specialized training helps them identify and adapt to student needs, teach and use different communication techniques, teach general education lessons and create Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for their students.
- Preschool teacher:
Preschool teachers work with children who are 5 years old and younger. They teach basic knowledge and skills, including the alphabet and color identification, and they help young children and babies grow and explore through play and other fun techniques. Preschool teachers aid in the development of language and motor and social skills among babies and toddlers.
- Nursery assistant:
Nurseries can be found in many settings, from schools to churches or hospitals. Nursery assistants make sure that the children in these nurseries are safe and cared for. They may be charged with planning and carrying out fun and educational activities, coordinating meal and snack times, cleaning or logging children’s behaviors and activities.
- Early intervention specialist:
Early intervention specialists are special education teachers with additional training to aid students one on one with developmental and physical disabilities outside the classroom. While these professionals can assist with educational challenges, their main focus tends to be delays in physical, behavioral, emotional and cognitive development. Early intervention specialists work closely with families and often conduct their work inside clients’ homes.
- School counselor:
School counselors work within schools to help ensure student success. Counselors can guide students of different ages through academic, social and emotional challenges. They may also work with parents and families to address struggles their children may be facing.
Expert Q&A: Preparing for a Baby-Centered Career
What prompted you to pursue a baby-centric career?
I never planned on becoming a full-time newborn care specialist, but once I began working with newborns, I realized there’s an incredible demand for child care professionals who can help new moms.
What are some necessary steps students should take to start working toward careers working with babies?
The first step is to evaluate yourself. It takes a certain demeanor and a great deal of patience to work with newborns. Most newborn care specialists work at night, so it’s also important to evaluate whether you’re capable of maintaining that schedule. If you meet that criteria, have a clean background check and are a nonsmoker, it might be worth exploring the NCS profession. Organizations like the Newborn Care Training Academy provide weekend courses for anyone interested in becoming a NCS.
What are some of the most common challenges of working with babies?
Every baby and every parent is unique, so experience is really important in managing both. Welcoming a newborn into a home is a remarkable change that requires everyone to make adjustments, so newborn care specialists aim to ease that transition.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
As a mother myself, it’s so rewarding to hear from moms who are thankful to get a full night of sleep. It’s also so rewarding to see child care professionals thrive as newborn care specialists. I’ve seen many NCS professionals go from making $7.50 an hour as nannies to $25 or $30 an hour as experienced newborn care specialists.
What aspects of your education did you find most useful in your career?
While my undergraduate and graduate studies were valuable, my most useful education has come from NCS training programs. Any program, collegiate or otherwise, that includes supervised experience in caring for newborns will be valuable.
Are there certain types of people who are better suited than others for careers involving direct work with babies?
Absolutely! As I mentioned earlier, it takes a great deal of patience to manage both the newborn and the parents, so newborn care specialists with calming, professional demeanors will naturally do better than those who are prone to getting flustered.
Do you have any suggestions for those who perhaps don’t fit the ideal candidate description but still want to have a positive impact in infants?
Experience helps everyone, so look for opportunities to get your foot in the door as a nanny or even help out friends with newborns.
Are there any misconceptions about working with babies that you’d like to dispel?
Yes. The biggest misconception is when newborn care specialists are conflated with “night nannies.” NCS professionals are both educated and experienced in newborn care. We’re not just nannies who work with newborns.
What advice do you have for students who are trying to figure out whether working with babies is right for them and how to map out a solid career path?
The best first step is to research the career options and explore the curricula and requirements.
Looking for more information about working with babies? These resources can get you started.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The AAP has a wealth of information and resources for students looking to become pediatricians as well as those already established in the profession.
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board – For Students
This page can help students explore different career paths within pediatric nursing, access information and research and gain personal insights from experienced pediatric nurses.
Newborn Care Specialist Association for Certification
Students and professionals can find education, certification and continuing education resources through the NCSA. The site also provides blog posts and articles to help newborn care specialists stay updated on care practices, trends and concerns.
Newborn Care Training Academy
Newborn Care Training Academy provides online and in-person training and workshops to help advance the careers and qualifications of newborn care specialists. This is the first and only accredited newborn care training program in the U.S.
International Nanny Association
The INA provides comprehensive information and guidance to both nannying professionals and families seeking their services. Nannies and newborn care specialists can find information and resources regarding jobs, workshops, news, conferences and education.
Zero to Three
This organization aims to improve the lives of babies and toddlers by supporting those who teach and care for them. Their myriad projects, tools and information can help professionals and students alike learn about different aspects of baby-focused careers.
National Student Nurses' Association
This association helps connect nursing students to education and career resources, mentorships, networking opportunities and comprehensive information about the field.
Find nursing jobs, scholarships and an extensive list of national, state and international nursing associations, including those related to infant care.
American College of Nurse-Midwives
ACNM aims to further the midwife profession and support midwives through education, advocacy and research. News, career and education resources pertaining to midwifery can be found here.
National Association of Neonatal Nurses
This professional association provides, among other things, information and educational resources to neonatal nurses and students looking to join the field. Students can find scholarships, educational programs and detailed information about neonatal nursing.
This international network of doulas provides training and certification opportunities for current and prospective doulas. The organization also has information on global issues pertaining to reproduction and women’s health and hosts conferences and workshops for professionals.
Midwives Alliance of North America
Students can explore this professional organization’s website to gather detailed information about midwifery and reproductive health.
The agency helps connect families in the U.S. with international au pairs.
International Lactation Consultant Association
Learn about the lactation consultant profession as well as global health issues, and access news, volunteer opportunities and educational resources.
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