It’s All About the Baby… But What About Mom?

BabyFriendly2Sometime in the next 9 weeks, I am going to have another baby. Even though it’s only been 2 years since I had Fern, it might as well be a lifetime. Yes, all of the baby gear has changed, and now there are all sorts of shiny new strollers and car seats. But I am mainly talking about the hospital experience and what I am supposed to expect.

When I had my first, I was just so happy she was here that I didn’t want her to leave my sight. Fast forward 2 years, and #2 came. The hospital had a nursery where I asked that she go so I could get a few hours of sleep. The nurse was not the nicest and very reluctant to adhere to my wishes, almost shaming me for not wanting my baby with me 24/7. Apparently, bonding and helicopter parenting has to start immediately, or it doesn’t count.

Now, with baby #3 coming very soon, I find myself in an odd situation. I recently found out that the hospital I’ve been going to no longer staffs a baby nursery. They say this is part of the hospital being designated “baby friendly.”

But here is my question … what about me?

When I asked my doctor about this, she laughed and said most first time moms love the idea of the baby being in the room with them at all times. She then went on to say, though, that by the time you have a second or third, the idea of rooming in loses its luster. I know for me, rooming in is not ideal. With my second, my husband was there for the birth and after, but then when dinner time rolled around and my adrenaline wore off, he had left to go home to care for my other child. The same will happen this time. That is just life with more than one kid.

But it was night time when the true exhaustion kicked in, and I felt like I had nothing left to give. I had been in labor since about 2:00am the previous night. I’m pretty sure I had barely slept for the week leading up to having the baby. And now here I was, ready to collapse but having to care for a screaming newborn who just wanted to be held. So I held her and nursed her. But I ended up falling asleep with her in my arms. When I think back to that time, it frightens me.

  • The baby could have fallen out of my arms.
  • She could have been smothered by the bedding.
  • She could have stopped breathing while I fell asleep, and I would not have known.

Apparently my thinking isn’t way off because I recently read a study that examined infant deaths during the years of 1999-2013 in “baby friendly” hospitals across the United States. There were 18 cases of death or near death due to bed-sharing at the hospital. New mothers are exhausted. You just brought forth human life! New mothers are also usually sore due to having pushed out a baby or having a c-section. Yet, instead of letting us have a break for even a few hours, we are now forced – or “strongly encouraged” – to have to jump into the game immediately. It’s breastfeed as soon as the baby comes out. If you don’t have skin-to-skin contact, you won’t bond with your baby. Why not give mothers a break for the precious few hours they have in the hospital, with a trained staff around to care for their newborn?

There is a lifetime to deal with the judgmental looks and comments. Why does it have to start the second the baby is born?

The baby friendly initiative was started by the World Health Organization to promote higher rates of breastfeeding. That’s great, but not every mom wants to breastfeed. And not every mom gets the hang of breastfeeding right away. Even those who plan on breastfeeding are feeling unneeded and unwanted pressure. It seems that in their campaign to push breastfeeding, hospitals have forgotten all about the mother. It’s an extreme focus on the baby and baby only. And here is what really boggles my mind … the World Health Organization makes guidelines and recommendations based on the world, including many 3rd world countries where there is a lack of clean water and other resources we take for granted. Of course, breast would be best in those areas. But last I checked, the United States is not the 3rd world. We have access to FABULOUS medical facilities and other resources such as nurseries. Would it really be such a bad thing to use them for the first 24-48 hours after life? I think not.


  1. sounds like that nurse is less medically educated than educated by judgement and good ol fashioned religious zealty. Reminds me of the same awful women who judge one another for various other things like initial gender dissapointment or hard feelings about learning of your baby’s disability in utero. No one HAS to be thankful for the “miracle of birth.” Geez. Get a grip, lady. Thanks for posting this article. it is 100% correct. there is no argument against it unless it comes from personal judgment due to your own baggage. studies DO show how a baby is safer in a nursery with medical staff watching while a new mom rests than in an sleep deprived mother smothering the infant in her hospital bed. i am insukted and sigusted at the nurse’s response. I PRAY she is not working out the hospital i am due to deliver in this June. I PRAY her employer reads these comments and chooses to counsel her because I personally would avoid care there based on her judgment alone.

  2. Thank you and thank you again!!! As a women who stayed awake for 36 hours and gave birth to an infant that screamed for 18 hours a day for the first three months, I must give you a huge round of applause. When I was in the hospital I couldn’t wait to leave. The pressure and the guilt they inflict is too much for someone with raging hormones, and a new baby. I would like to start a new campaign called, “Let Us Sleep (While We Can)!”

  3. All of you who are dissatisfied with these “baby-friendly” initiatives, please KEEP COMPLAINING! Complain to the hospital, IN WRITING! Contact the hospital CEO and ask him/her to share your letter with the Director of Nursing and the nurse manager of the mother/baby unit! Speak your mind on the Press Gainey Surveys that the hospitals are sending out! Tell them you as a patient NEED a nursery to receive adequate care! If you delivered in a hospital that had a nursery, write comments about how you appreciated the nursery and how it was essential to your care!

    As a postpartum nurse of 11 yrs, I’ve worked at 3 different hospitals. One hospital did not have a nursery. We had a physical nursery, but it wasn’t staffed with a nurse. The thought was that all patients would be required to keep their babies at all times! Well, we all know that doesn’t work! Most of the babies ended up in the nursery that didn’t exist between feedings overnight. Nurses would take turns in the nursery so that a nurse was always present to watch the infants. I have since worked at 2 hospitals that have nurseries 24/7, and I can tell you there is no comparison to the amazing care that these hospitals with nurseries give to the mothers and their babies. First of all, these hospitals are actually MORE baby-oriented! I’m sure some people won’t believe me, but that first hospital I worked in, newborns fell through the cracks, and they weren’t assessed nearly as well, carefully, or as often as they should be! I learned how to be a good newborn nurse from the next hospital I worked in that HAD a nursery! Nursery nursing is a specialty, just like Labor and Delivery! If you deliver at a hospital where you have the same nurse in labor and postpartum, I can tell you that L&D nurse probably isn’t nearly as experienced in catching problems with your newborn as you might believe! It takes time to gain your skills in assessing newborns and detecting subtle problems! And your postpartum nurses are your most skilled nurses to pick up these problems!

    News flash, some women almost die giving birth, and some babies almost die as well! Not all newborns transition well! Some need extra monitoring in a nursery where a qualified nurse is watching them constantly and can respond to problems that they might have! If that newborn is in the room with mom during this difficult transition, we can’t do our job as a good nursery nurse! It’s actually more dangerous for the newborn to be with mom at this point! And we ONLY separate moms and babies if they want a break or the infant is unstable! We actually encourage 24 hr rooming-in. But, I’m telling you at ALL THREE hospitals I’ve worked-in, MOST moms need breaks to sleep, especially at night, although our nursery is utilized by moms around the clock. Most patients want nurseries!

    We also catch many problems in the nursery that we may not have caught if the infant was with mom constantly. Or perhaps we caught the problem sooner rather than later! All newborns aren’t stable or normal! Parents won’t always know there is something wrong with either, especially if they’re sleeping! We’ve caught cardiac defects, lung defects, seizures, brain bleeds related to clotting disorders, bowel obstructions, metabolic disorders recognized by the fact that the infant could not suck, and so on! Newborns just are not always stable. They also choke on mucus and turn blue sometimes! Exhausted parents aren’t going to hear a silently choking infant!

    The last time I checked, this is also America! Moms shouldn’t be shamed into anything, including breastfeeding! Bottle feeding is completely acceptable! And don’t let any mean nurses shame you into rooming in if you had a rough delivery and need sleep! YOU are our patient as well! A patient that needs to rest and recover! Dads are tired too, and believe me, they don’t always hear that crying baby over by Mom in the crib! Many of them snore right through it, and the Mom then rings for us to take the baby because her support person is dead to the world! Not all women have a support person! Dad’s sleeping away, it’s mom who just had surgery that can’t get any sleep! To assume that all women have someone who can stay overnight to help them is also stupid and rude! They are in OUR care! It’s our job to care for them in a way that’s best for each individual mom/baby couplet!

    Exhausted moms also drop babies while breastfeeding or holding them! It has happened SEVERAL times in our hospital! And we don’t allow co-sleeping either. We tell them and reinforce that they CANNOT sleep with their infants, here or at home! It’s just way too easy for our moms to nod off and drop the baby! They’re exhausted! Luckily, none of our babies have been seriously hurt! A skull fracture could be a fatal injury! We’ve had near falls where a mom caught baby by a foot also before he/she hit the floor. We’ve had babies turn blue doing skin to skin as well! Babies come to us cold and with low blood sugars after skin to skin in L&D frequently as well!

    It’s kind of ridiculous to act like skin to skin and breastfeeding will solve all of our problems and make all of our newborns, including our late pre-term infants stable! We’re just starting our baby-friendly journey, and I can tell you our nurses are absolutely pro-breastfeeding, but we think many of the 10 “baby-friendly” steps are ridiculous and not even backed by research! There is research that shows that there is no such thing as nipple confusion. And eliminating supplementation has sometimes decreased breastfeeding rates once the patient was at home. RNs have also seen pacifiers help infants learn to suck and breastfeed! Tell me why a gloved-finger is ok to suck on but not a pacifier! A finger looks much more like a pacifier than a breast to me! Your nurses and pediatricians LIKE pacifiers! They reduce SIDS! It’s these crazy lactation consultants that have gone too far with the whole pacifier thing that don’t like them!

    Also, not all lactation consultants are nurses! The ones who are not tend to be the most abrasive and offensive to our patients. They’ve made them cry on numerous occasions! Our patients have even thrown them out of their rooms! They have no responsibility to that mother /baby couplet other than to push breastfeeding, even when the patient says no. If you say no, they’ll try to strong arm you into pumping at least. Here’s the problem, when a baby gets sick….has a low blood sugar, looses too much weight, is , develops a dangerous level of jaundice, because in some cases colostrum is NOT always enough……that lactation consultant is not legally responsible for your baby. Your RN is the one responsible for keeping your baby alive! So that LC really isn’t concerned about your babies issues. And believe me, she’ll try to convince your RN that skin to skin alone will bring that blood sugar up! But, your RN will know better!. Because your RN has experience caring for babies in this situation. Your LC who is NOT an RN on the other hand, has no experience dealing with sick infants! She may not even be that great at helping you breastfeed believe it or not! Many of your nurses will have more hands-on breastfeeding experience! But, she might be very good at harassing you and making you feel like an inadequate mother from day 1! NOT what you need!

    Just some things to keep in mind when you’re a patient on a postpartum unit! As RNs, we’re fighting hard to keep 24hr nurseries! Help us! Make your opinions and experiences known to the higher-ups in your hospitals! We want to be able to take care of you the way you want us to! We can’t do this alone!!!!

  4. Also, for all you moms who are judging moms who don’t breastfeed and calling them selfish! Another NEWS FLASH….not all women are able to breastfeed! Also, many women return to work in SIX weeks. Not all of them work for employers that qualify for Family-Medical Leave. Not all women can afford to take Family-Medical Leave! It’s rather unfair to compare women in the US to other countries when many of them get one year PAID maternity leave. Perhaps you were lucky enough to be able to take FMLA. Perhaps you have a husband who makes enough money for you to stay home. However, most women in the US don’t have to option to stay home and lactate for a year like many other countries. You can’t judge others until you know their situation! Please just be concerned with your own lives and stop shaming other mothers! You know nothing about these women! I can’t stand when mothers attack each other because someone else’s preferences aren’t what YOU want! Mothers have enough to feel guilty about. Can we stop making mothers feel like their horrible parents the moment their child is born? Bottle feeding is ok! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

  5. There has been a large push from the administration in all the local hospitals to go “baby friendly”. I am not going to surprise anyone to say that there are financial incentives for the hospitals to do this. While studies may show that, overall, it is best for a baby to room in with its mother, my experiences both working in a nursery and having had a rough delivery (48 hours), has been that this may be great for the baby, but it is NOT always great for the mom. The mom is the forgotten patient. THIS is the part that can impact long term bonding, truth be told. You just labored for hours in agonal pain, and now you get no rest period! I never thought I would send my child to the nursery but once he arrived after that long 2 days, I needed it! It did NOT impact my breastfeeding one bit (he nursed until he was two) but it would’ve been a miserable experience had I not had the ability to catch a little rest. And realistically, how “bad’ for the baby can it be? The baby hasno knowledge of whether it is in the mom’s room or not. As long as the nursery nurses aren’t plying it with formula if it is a breastfed baby, there is no harm done! As an employee, I have to go along with the hospital’s plan but to be honest, I think it is completely ignoring half of the equation of the mother-baby experience much to the detriment of the mom, especially if she needs a few hours to recover from her delivery process!


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