We are all accustomed to seeing rows of pink and blue bundles with matching hats and perfectly round cheeks and fathers looking in from the window at their newborn child as the mother takes a well deserved nap after hours of labor in the movies. Even though it makes for a captivating movie scene, this picture perfect nursery arrangement can actually be detrimental to the health of both mothers and newborns.
The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund are encouraging hospitals nationwide to move away from nurseries in maternity wards and instead leave newborns in the same room as their mothers, according to The Boston Globe. This baby-friendly initiative is meant to “promote breastfeeding, bonding, and parenting skills by having mothers and healthy newborns room together around-the-clock.”
Although exceptions can be made in the case of a medical emergency, the initiative is otherwise strictly enforced in 329 hospitals across the United States, the Globe reported. This shift has been underway in many hospitals for years, but it has recently become a national movement, to the displeasure of many new mothers.
“Mothers need to recover from the trauma of delivery, and if they can’t do it at the hospital, where is that supposed to happen?’’ Katie Holt told the Globe. Last June at Massachusetts General Hospital, the staff told her there would be no nursery care available for her newborn son.
The WHO and the Pan American Health Organization have attributed benefits such as higher IQs, a lower risk of respiratory infections in children and decreased cancer rates in mothers to breastfeeding, the Globe reported. This new initiative has already proved to increase the rate at which mothers’ breastfeed, and is expected to continue improving mother-child relationships.
Regardless of the obvious health benefits, skepticism from mothers and staff members continues in most hospitals. Worries about postpartum depression, increased exhaustion and lack of control over their own children have angered new mothers.
The skepticism amongst mothers is not strictly about exhaustion or fears of depression, but it is largely due to the fact that this initiative is changing what we have come to view as the norm.
A culture shift is always difficult, and it certainly never goes without criticism. In the case of a mother whose first child was cared for in a nursery but who was denied access to a nursery after her second delivery, the sudden change of protocol can add to the stress of motherhood. But in the long run, it is changes like these that can make a subtle but long-lasting impact on the lives of mothers and children alike.
The actual effects of this initiative once it is implemented are yet to be measured, but the concept seems to be one that will better prepare mothers and potentially benefit the health of babies. Although it might be a less comfortable arrangement, mothers should look at the long-term benefits — theirs and their child’s. Once the initial and inevitable skepticism passes, this could be the first major step in changing the culture of breastfeeding and early motherhood in this country.