I’ve now had the awesome privilege of bringing three babies into this world. My births (one, two, and three) were all at the hospital. A natural childbirth was important to me and my husband and, in two of our births, we chose to deliver with a midwife. As you mamas know, no matter where you deliver or who you deliver with, birthing a baby is a FEAT! As far as I know, there are only two ways for that baby to come out, so whether you’ve just pushed 8-odd pounds of baby through your VAGINA or had him surgically removed from your abdomen, I’d say you deserve a bit of a rest!
I knew I wanted to stay at the hospital for a full 48 hours after delivering my third baby. With two young children at home, I knew that the hospital would allow me to stay in bed, hold my new baby, and to delay resuming my full mothering detail. I knew my body would need rest, I’d need time to focus on breastfeeding, and the space would allow me not to have to worry (yet) about splitting my attention three ways.
Having delivered at two local hospitals, both of which aspire to be “mother-baby friendly,” and with my recent experience so fresh, I’d like to give my own recommendations of how to make the post-birth hospital experience truly centered around mom and baby.
A baby’s perspective
“Just give me to my mama.”
I’m not going to quote science and statistics, though I could easily do so, but a healthy baby who has just spent nine months growing under their mama’s heart really only wants one person in those early moments of life. And that would be mama. Determining birth weight, scrubbing off that free cold-cream scrub (known as vernix), and for heaven’s sake, doing things like pricking a heel or smearing goop in the eyes can all wait. Ideally, baby gets that last dose of iron from the placenta as the cord continues to pulse and then does nothing more than lie on mom’s chest as he bridges the gap from one type of world to the next.
“Every time you touch me, touch me like you would your own first born.”
Every sensation for a baby is a new one, and as a mom I take pride in wanting to provide the most loving of touches and sensations to this tiny creature who is just seeing, hearing, and feeling out-of-the-womb life for the first time. Baby-centered care means that every nurse, doctor, and technician reaches out toward my baby with the same gentle touch of a new mama’s hands.
“Help my mama.”
The better you care for mama, the better you care for baby. Nourish her with healthy food, care for her gently, and help her as she learns to mother her new baby. At both hospitals where I delivered, I really appreciated the follow-up calls from the lactation department, checking in on how breastfeeding was going after discharge. I like that care didn’t end when I checked out.
A mom’s perspective
“Fully include me in my baby’s care.”
Especially important for the first time mom, all hospital caregivers should be reinforcing that THIS baby is YOUR baby. (It is after all.) Enlisting mom in any baby-related tasks helps ensure she knows how to do them herself. If ever there is the need to take the baby away for a procedure or test, ask the mom if this is okay, or better yet, invite her or dad to come along if they’d like. Don’t leave mom and dad wondering if it is “okay” to do something. Again, this is their baby.
“Feed me healthy food.”
I remain a little flabbergasted at some of the food hospitals provide. If we know that high fructose corn syrup is not nutritious, then why would we offer products with it at a hospital? After my recent delivery, I was able to order from a room service-like menu at whatever time I chose. This ensured that the food coming to me was actually something I wanted and there was no waste!
“Let’s create a nightly care plan that prioritizes rest.”
This is, by far, my biggest suggestion. On night two of my latest hospital stay, my husband, baby, and I were all ready for bed around 10pm, but after interruptions, waiting up for promised procedures that never happened, and interspersed feedings and baby-settling, we didn’t get to bed until close to 1am. It would have been comical except that we were absolutely exhausted.
A baby will have his own nightly schedule. Juxtapose this with a hospital schedule and it leads to a situation where the mother is woken up repeatedly throughout the night. Sleep for mom is so important. A solution could be for the night nurse to sit down with the family and coordinate a care plan for that night. Any care for baby should be clustered (rather than one person coming in to do a bilirubin test and an hour later someone else coming to take baby for a hearing test) and, ideally, happen either in the early evening or during the day. Another idea would be to let mom know what needs to happen through the night and then ask her to phone when baby is up for feedings, thus aligning activity for when mom and baby are already awake.
“Phase out care over my stay.”
For moms electing to stay a second night, couldn’t care be scaled back? Since many doctors would release a mother sooner than 48 hours after a vaginal birth or 92 hours after a cesarean, help the mother ease into life at home by dialing back care on the last night or two.
Moms absolutely need time to recover from birth. Asking for and listening to the suggestions of mothers and fathers can only help ensure that this time is restorative and sets the new family up to leave ready to fully care for their new baby.