After what can be endless hours of labor, what a new mother often wants is some time to herself (to sleep, let’s be real). While many new mothers prefer to keep a new baby in their rooms with them, others feel comfortable letting the baby spend some time in the hospital’s nursery under the care of the nursing staff.
For new moms delivering at certain hospitals around the country, this will no longer be an option. According to PopSugar approximately 355 “baby-friendly” hospitals have eliminated the nursery room entirely, and the number will reach 530 by the end of 2017.
The idea behind this is to encourage mothers to keep their babies in the room after giving birth. If the baby is close by, the mother is more likely to be the one who will meet her child’s needs. This initiates parent-child bonding at the earliest possible stage.
“The research is abundant,” Lori Pugsley, the newborn family units nursing director at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston—one of the hospital’s that’s done away with the communal nursery—told Today. “It shows the benefits of keeping a mom and baby together in a room really creates an environment that’s the healthiest for the baby and the healthiest for the mothers.”
Not Everyone Is Thrilled With This Change
As you could have guessed, not everyone agrees. Christiane Boezio told Today that she was in labor for 48 hours with her second child, and she had entered delivery already exhausted from the care of her toddler at home.
“I asked the nurse if she would take him to the nursery for a few hours so my husband and I could get some sleep and she said no,” Boezio said. “That it was policy that the baby stay in the room.”
The decision to eliminate the nurseries adds fuel the breastfeeding debate. Having the child in the room encourages mothers to breastfeed because nurses will not be caring for the child. On the other side, some women’s rights activists are saying that the mother should have the right not only to choose whether to nurse but also whether to keep her baby in the room with her.
Cord Clamping Policies: Another Shift In Maternity Wards
Many doctors now support the practice of “delayed cord clamping,” which leaves the umbilical cord attached for at least 30 to 60 seconds after birth before clamping and cutting it. This is because a growing body of research has shown that there are benefits to leaving the umbilical cord attached right after childbirth.
Until recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) hadn’t endorsed this practice, citing insufficient evidence. However, in December 2016, ACOG officially changed its position and issued a new set of guidelines, recommending that doctors and midwives hold off on clamping the cords of all healthy newborns for at least 30-60 seconds. This update to their 2012 guideline is based on recent research that not only do preterm infants benefit from delayed cord clamping, but that full-term infants do as well.
For babies who don’t require immediate cord-cutting for a health reason, delaying the cutting of the umbilical cord increases hemoglobin levels at birth and improves iron stores for several months, which helps prevent iron deficiency during the first year of life, according to ACOG. For preterm babies, delayed umbilical cord clamping improves transitional circulation, facilitates better establishment of red blood cell volume and decreases the need for blood transfusion.
“While there are various recommendations regarding optimal timing for delayed umbilical cord clamping, there has been increased evidence that shows that the practice in and of itself has clear health benefits for both preterm and term infants,” said Maria A. Mascola, MD, the lead author of the Committee Opinion in a press release. “And, in most cases, this does not interfere with early care, including drying and stimulating for the first breath and immediate skin-to-skin contact.”
ACOG did note in its findings that delayed cord clamping is associated with higher incidence of jaundice. Because of this, the organization recommends that doctors pay close attention to the need for this and to have phototherapy—the standard treatment for jaundice, where babies are placed under lights—at the ready.
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