Lack of sleep and guilt are two constants in the lives of parents. It starts right away. Should parents have their babies in the nursery or have them rooming in? This was the topic of discussion in a recent Boston Globe article.
The issue is deeper than a few more hours of sleep while at the hospital. The essential question is: how do we most effectively support families at the hospital and in the first weeks at home?
Let’s start with the “trauma of delivery”. Trauma means ‘suffering’, ‘ordeal’ and ‘distress’. Certainly, we could do more to relieve that. No eating or drinking during labor, no place for a partner to comfortably sleep makes both parents especially worn out by the time the baby is born. It’s important to consider the support during labor, before postpartum.
Though birth is, naturally, a disturbance in one’s adult life, parents need guidance to re-establish a balance. Let’s review what support a mother (and her partner) would need for postpartum.
In one example from the article, a mother described needing a break because she was “in pain from constantly nursing two infants”. Wait. She was in pain? A nursing mother needs focused support for breast-feeding as soon as she feels pain. Hopefully, an experienced IBCLC can sit with her. Just as importantly, she will benefit from follow up when she returns home.
Another mother had a history of postpartum depression. She tried to be proactive for sleep by requesting nursery time for her infant. Sadly, the rules were rigid and thus unhelpful for her. I wonder what happened there, was any one else able to be with the baby while she slept? And beyond the hospital stay, what help was available when she goes home? Again, continuing support is important.
Let’s move beyond the nursery vs. rooming-in issue. In all of these cases, reliable, daily support in hospital and at home would be profoundly helpful. Sadly, insurance doesn’t cover home care and often limits access to necessary support. Some parents pay cash, some search for free services in their area.
In other words, families are winging it. We could do better than that.
Consider this model: Next to the hospital is a place for new parents and baby, sort of like a bed and breakfast. The new family has privacy (no hospital bells, lights, noise) while they recuperate for three or four days. They also have assistance. The midwives (or nurses or doctors) visit daily to see that feeding is going well, mother is recovering and both parents are resting. If there’s a problem, the hospital is nearby. After three or four days, the parents have received early guidance, privacy and time to recuperate. Imagine how much better they feel when they actually do go home.
Is this just my imagination? Actually, this happened in Copenhagen. This goes beyond the Baby Friendly Initiative.
We need Family Friendly initiatives. More than a nursery for a few hours of sleep, parents need compassionate assistance, a village of caring help, in the first month. That’s how they recover and handle the transition to parenthood.