For nine months you and your baby have been inseparable. As you walked, talked and carried on with daily activities, your baby was constantly with you, inside you. The moment of birth, the first separation may be brief or may persist for longer, due to certain circumstances. It may be difficult to imagine what it will be like to have your baby next to you instead of inside you. Often mothers are concerned about keeping their babies with them all the time after delivery, or about nursery care.
After your baby has been born, and you have been sewn up, cleaned up and perhaps enjoyed a cup of tea, you marvel at what you have just achieved and what is lying in your arms. This immediate period after birth is so very important, and is often referred to as ‘The Golden Hour’. It marks the end of pregnancy, and the beginning of a new life.
However it is not the beginning of a new relationship with your baby, but more of a continuation of something that started in pregnancy and will continue for life. Holding, touching, talking to and looking at your baby enhances the attachment or bonding process, which is something that occurs and grows over time and not necessarily immediately.
Your baby comes into this world pre-programmed with a set of reflexes that ensures her survival. She can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. She automatically searches for your face and listens for your familiar voice. Over the initial few days, constant contact between mother and child should be encouraged, as the ties that bind grow stronger.
True rooming in means having the baby with the mother constantly, thus providing an excellent opportunity for early and prolonged contact between new parents and the newborn baby. Rooming in allows the newborn a chance to get to know her parents, to see them, hear them and respond to their touching and stroking. It enables the new baby to have constant access to feeding and in this way can develop feeding patterns that synchronise with the mothers sleeping habits and routines rather than that of the hospital. New mothers have a chance to learn about and practice their newfound skills, while still under the ‘wing’ and helpful hands of the hospitals nursing staff.
Research has shown that rooming in mothers felt more confident and competent in caring for their babies than mothers who had not.
Studies show that both mother and baby benefit from rooming in. The mother has a chance to try out her mothering skills as she learns to identify her baby’s needs and cries, as well as trust her surfacing maternal instincts. She ‘tunes in’ to her baby faster and her confidence is greater by the time she goes home. The newborn feels more at ease as she hears her mother’s voice, identifies her by her smell, feeds frequently from her breast, hears the beating of her heart and has her needs met immediately.
Handling and touching her baby also promotes the release of the ‘mothering hormone’ prolactin, which helps get breastfeeding off to a good start. Mothers and babies need to get to know each other before the art of mothering starts to become easier.
Some mothers who have had long and difficult labours or perhaps a surgical delivery may want some ‘time out’ on their own before focusing their full attention on their baby. They may want to rest for a day or so before taking on the full time care of their infant. The full magnitude of becoming a parent only impacts for some mothers, in the early days, following the birth. Taking time in hospital to slowly but surely gain knowledge and confidence while leaning on the nursing staff should be encouraged.
Rooming in should be a flexible option, not an either or, or a now or never option. There are different ways of rooming in, and mothers should be allowed to choose the way they wish to do this. Women who are mothers already, may want to be nurtured, before going home to take care of her other children as well as the newborn. They may prefer a lesser amount of contact with their baby initially.
The mother who has had a caesarean or other difficulties may not feel physically capable of caring for her baby in the beginning. Other mothers may start off feeling as if they want their babies with them all the time or perhaps only some of the time and then change their minds at a later stage.
A rooming in policy should be flexible, allowing for the different needs of the family. Mothers should be allowed to have full or partial rooming in, and to be allowed to change their minds if they so desire. No one system should be forced, especially if she is struggling to find her feet. Most mothers would probably utilise both systems of care initially, taking more responsibility as their confidence grows.
What are your options?
A healthy baby may be cared for at their mother’s bedsides as soon as the mother wishes.
- Babies may stay with their mothers throughout the entire day and night. (Except for visiting hours).
- Babies may stay with their mother during the day and go back to the central nursery at night.
- Fathers are not considered visitors, and are allowed access to their family day and night. (Within reason).
- If a baby is jaundiced she maybe kept in a central nursery under constant observation and then brought to the mother for feeding. In some clinics the phototherapy lights/blanket is placed next to the mother’s bed in her ward.
As with every other issue surrounding your labour, birth and post-partum period, there are choices and decisions to be made. Take one step at a time and ask questions. You should not feel that you are losing your baby to the nursery care system if you decide on this option, and you should not be forced into making a decision that you may feel is the wrong one for you. Speak up if you wish to change your mind about rooming in one way or the other. As you come to terms with the demands of nurturing a new life, you are allowed to step back and rely on the professional help around you.