An article released this week in the Boston Globe discusses a phenomenon that's been taking place for some time now -- many maternity wards in hospitals across the United States are doing away with the traditional nursery where babies go to be cared for while mom rests in her room. This move is based on research and the Baby Friendly initiative, which shows the many benefits of what is known as "rooming in," where moms and babies stay together unless medical issues necessitate separation.
As described in the article, the issue for some parents is that they have come to expect the service, and feel that a break from their newborn is valuable in helping recuperate after birth. So let's take a look at the practice of rooming in to understand why it's done and how it benefits mothers and babies. In fact, Lamaze has a Healthy Birth Practice based entirely around the evidence and the benefits of skin-to-skin and rooming in called, "Healthy Birth Practice 6: Keep Mother and Baby Together - It's Best for Mother, Baby, and Breastfeeding." Rooming in -- keeping mothers and babies together after birth -- has been shown by research to:
- Increase mom's parenting confidence by getting to know her baby's needs
- Improve baby's ability to sleep more soundly
- Strengthen the breastfeeding relationship by providing unlimited opportunities to feed which increases confidence, milk supply, and duration of breastfeeding
- Allow for more skin-to-skin care which helps regulate baby's temperature, improves breastfeeding, and regulate mom's hormones which helps with postpartum recovery and bonding with baby
- More skin-to-skin care also can offer protection or relief from postpartum depression
So, while some parents feel they might get better rest while baby is in the nursery, research shows that the opposite may occur. That said, it's important to note a few things. Not all birth experiences or families are created equally. Some parents give birth without a partner or support person in attendance, which means that they would not have the hands-on support and assistance from another person staying with them after birth in the hospital. And, there are occasions where birth results in extensive physical recovery or mom is dealing with a health issue above and beyond standard postpartum recovery. In these scenarios, it is understandable and critical that mom and baby receive more than the standard of postpartum care, which could include asking a friend or family member to come and help, or asking postpartum staff what the options are for help in caring for baby. You may also consider hiring a postpartum doula who would be willing to provide services in hospital after birth.
In general, the trend to remove hospital maternity ward nurseries will serve to benefit moms and babies, as research is showing us positive results. But as with any practice, there are exceptions. If you are pregnant, find out about your hospital's policy, do your own research on skin to skin care and rooming in, and talk with your partner or support person, and your care provider about your unique needs.