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. Thank you for writing this. i recently gave birth to my third child. After my first almost 5 years ago, the nurses whisked my son to the nursery insisting I get my rest at night. They brought him to me every 2 hours to breastfeed. I was grateful because I had a 4th degree episiotomy… Ouch.
    Fast forward 2.5 years and the birth of my daughter. I assumed the nurses would take her at night, instead I was told it was best for bonding if she stayed with me. I did it with very little supervision from the staff. They did take her to the nursery for blood work, etc. I was able to sleep during those periods. Meantime, something is wrong with the thermostat leaving me in a room with a newborn at 60 degrees!! Wasn’t fixed til the next day.
    Fast forward 2.5 years…. The birth of my son at a hospital with no nursery. I went into labor at 10:30pm…. In labor all night. Gave birth at just before 5 am!! As the doctor is stitching me up they put the baby on me. They didn’t look at him or wrap him up. Instead they left him naked on me for 2 hours!!! Finally a nurse came back in and wrapped him up and put him under the heat lamp saying his temperature was too low!!!
    Then he stayed in the room with me until we were wheeled to our private room. He stayed with me the rest of our stay. Again, the thermostat in my room is broken. Another 60 degree night!! I complained but they said it couldn’t be fixed til the next day. So I spent the night holding my newborn baby all night because he was too cold to sleep in his bed. It was ridiculous.
    I have successfully breastfed all of my children and have bonded with each one… I think it’s Inhumane to expect a new mother to get zero sleep after she gives birth, sometimes overnight as in my case!!
    What other surgery/hospital stay can you think of that the minute you’re done you’re expected to take care of a 7 pound person on your own!
    Also, neither of my.first two who spent time in the nursery were jaundiced, but my third child was jaundiced and I think it had to do with the lack of care from medical staff. The only good thing I can say about it is I was able to be present for my son’s blood work and thank goodness because they were going to give him the same blood work twice except I asked as the nurse was going yo stick him a second time. She checked and it turned out the nurse hadn’t marked the original blood test on his chart!!!

  2. Wonderful post! I’m currently pregnant with my second and have had every intention of asking for her to spend a couple hours in the nursery between feedings at night.

    Someone gave me that advice with my first child and I was so smitten and wanting him around that I never took advantage of the option.

    What that led to was three straight days with no sleep. Adding in the physical pain and exhaustion from a long delivery and severe episiotomy and massive amounts of stress from trying to figure out breastfeeding for the first time….. I had a major panic attack on my discharge day.

    Followed by several more in those first two weeks at home. Yes, I was able to power through it thanks to my wonderful husband and family. But it was the most miserable two weeks of my life. My exhaustion took the most wonderful event and turned it into a nightmare.

    So if my hospital still has a nursery this time around (which I think they do) I will 100% be taking advantage of it.

  3. Oh Ashley, Ashley, Ashley. You just come back and re-read this post and all of the comments again about 2 weeks post-partum and let us know how things went in the hospital for you. For an OB nurse it sure seems like you’ve missed a lot.

    I would love to know what hospitals these are that have gotten rid of nurseries. That is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of. Delivered both of mine at St. Tammany. Wonderful experiences, wonderful nurses, wonderful nursery.

  4. I strongly believe that the best thing I can do for my baby while I’m in the hospital is recover from giving birth! I’ve stared down nosey nurses who think I should feel bad for needing to sleep five times now. That sweet baby that I love needs a Mama who can think and function. Sleep is a necessity!

  5. Thought I’d weigh in as mother of 3 babes 4 and under and currently one week postpartum. From personal experience, I feel that the exhaustion issue is huge – particularly around allowing mother rest. If there is to be no nursery, then hospitals need to have some sort of plan for allowing mothers some solid blocks of -hopefully – night time rest without disturbances. I delivered at the hospital described in this post for my first two, and recently delivered at a – yes – baby-friendly/no nursery, but also slightly more mom-friendly hospital, and my recovery has been immensely better this time than with my first two.

    Here’s the difference- like most of you all, I always entered the hospital exhausted, labored over night, then stayed two more nights in the hospital. At the first hospital I delivered at I was awoken every hour at night to have bp checked, baby taken for tests, etc. (in the middle of the night!) or just to have a nurse ask/chart how many minutes baby had nursed on each side reminding me that baby must be awoken every two hours for bfing to work (?!#). All I wanted was to get. out. of. the hospital, and like most moms, left emotionally and physically exhausted as I headed home postpartum with a newborn + to care for. THIS time, though nurses still had to check my vitals the first night, I begged the nurse to leave us alone the second night. I told the lactation consultants no thank you (i.e. I’ll figure it out so as not to be bothered or awoken). This time the nurse tiptoed in at night to do her checks, tried not to rouse baby or I imbetween sleep stretches, and hence I left with a few hours of uninterrupted sleep behind me, making postpartum recovery 100x easier – and thank God bc I came home to a houseful of younguns that needed me. Sadly, the only reason I got rest was bc it was my third time around, I knew what to expect, and I was extremely assertive. I understand the hospital staff is busy and have protocols to follow, but hospital policies could definitely be arranged to try to allow mom this kind of rest -Thanks for bringing this topic up, Meghan!

  6. I thought I would tend to my newborn without sending him to the nursery… as a first time mom, I had no idea how exhausted I would be. They left him there with an aspirator and instructions on how to clear his airway should he begin to choke. Exhausted, I dozed off. I’m sure I wasn’t out long before I woke in a panic! I quickly realized he would be better off with a conscious staff to watch over him since I could not stay awake (no matter how hard I tried). The staff was great and brought him back every couple of hours for a feeding.

    Even though I wanted my newborn by my side, I didn’t judge others who had already been there and done that. I was glad to have the input of experienced moms. Turns out, they were right when they told me to not hesitate to use the nursery. And thank goodness I didn’t have people shaming me into a potentially dangerous situation for my child.

  7. It seems you have found a few people who agree with you Megan. I however, could not disagree more!!! I’m sad that you and a few others that posted say they kept the first baby in the room and didn’t want to part with them, but happily send away the second and third babies. They are individual babies and just because you have done this before, it’s their first time being born and they crave to be with their mom!
    It is human nature…. Babies need/want to be with their moms…ESPECIALLY the first 24-48hours after birth. They have been inside of you for 9 months! You are all they know and you make them feel safe. You may have the misconception that they peacefully sleep being cradled by nurses and lulled by soft music in the nursery while you recover. That is so wrong…. They are bombarded with bright lights, noises, other babies screaming and your newborn will lay there screaming crying too. Eventually, they give up and shut down and sleep. Not peacefully feeling safe and loved like they want.
    Hospitals do things differently now because they have studied and learned what is best for baby!
    There are ways rooming in can be done safely and when you feel like you can’t do it safely, hospitals have policies in place to help.

  8. I totally agree that being well rested is of utmost importance when you have a newborn baby. I’ve had 2 babies in less than 2 years and both times I cannot express how badly I wanted to get out of the hospital because of lack of sleep! (felt like I was in prison!!) However, my problem was not with my children who I requested NOT go to the nursery, it was with the constant traffic in and out of my room. My nurse, the baby nurse, med assistant taking my temp and bp like every hour, tons of unnecessary testing, tons of paperwork, constantly turning on all the lights… all of which seemed to happen right as I was dosing off. I had a very quick and easy labor and delivery (don’t envy me I had HELL with breastfeeding both times) with both kids and felt ready to go home in less than 24 hours. I wanted to be released early both times. I NEVER felt as though my kids being in the room with me prevented me from sleeping/when I was tired I just placed them in the bassinet next to my bed and slept, when they stirred I woke to feed & care for them…. So, I have to ask a few questions in regards to your strong desire to send the baby to nursery… Do you think you’d be kept up by your baby crying? If they were crying wouldn’t you want to be the one to take care of them? If they wanted to be held, wouldn’t you want to be the one to cuddle them? It honestly never crossed my mind the send my daughters to the nursery-I felt like it was my job to care for them 100%. There are countless studies that have proven the science behind skin-to-skin contact being vital to breastfeeding success as well as stabilizing moms and baby’s hormones after birth. I’m not saying you are wrong for wanting to send your baby to the nursery, but the facts simply are the facts… Babies have always needed to be close to mom following birth. And unless medically impossible, babies should stay the majority of the time with their moms in my opinion.

  9. I agree the amount of traffic in and out of postpartum rooms is ridiculous – as is the total disregard for when a mom delivered and how long they’ve been up. A lot could be learned from midwives postpartum care of home births – they don’t do constant vitals or interrupt 50 times a day, it’s one lengthy home visit and a number to call with concerns. I’ve worked on postpartum after having spent 10 years on other units and I was utterly gobsmacked by the amount of interruptions and people entering rooms.

  10. This was an interesting article and even more interesting comments section. As a mom of 2 and an OB nurse I think it is important to weigh in. Nurses are highly trained and paid professionals that are there for the safety and wellbeing of the mom and baby. A hospitals primary function is to provide around the clock nursing care. Research shows babies are happy and safe with their mommas unless something unforeseen happens. Rest assured if there was a medical reason you could not take care of your child after delivery the hospital would staff a nurse to care for him/her. The hospital is not a rest zone. It is an expensive healthcare treatment area. I, for one, left at the 24 hour mark after both my babies because I agreed that it was a healthcare area. Not a convenient place to recover. Vital signs all the time, people coming and going, etc. I went home and enlisted my support network to help me with the baby(s) and recover.


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