This essay is reposted with permission from CHAMPSBreastfeed.org
Thirty years ago, every newborn infant born in a US hospital was separated from their parents at the time of birth. Rooming-in was not an available option. We know now that that this standard practice was not optimal for the mother or the infant. As a pediatrician, I am concerned by the implications of this article. The image used by Time Magazine depicts an “unsafe” practice: several newborns swaddled in basinets on their sides sleeping. This sleep position carries more the double the risk of SIDS compared to infants sleeping on their backs. In addition, the bassinets are positioned adjacent, in a row, which is a practice that is fraught with risk for nosocomial infections, and has implications for security, and privacy concerns, especially when viewed by the public as is often the case in US delivery hospitals.
Beyond the disturbing photo the subtitle is inaccurate. It is important to note that what is changing among maternity care hospitals is that mothers are now offered the opportunity to allow their newborn to share a room with them. This opportunity is not “forced” but protected, given that rooming-in not only does help breastfeeding, it is safer than sleeping separated from mom. In the past, mothers were forced to separate from their newborn infants and required to have their infants sleep separately in a nursery setting, where they were grouped with other infants. Rooming in is the recommended environment for all mothers regardless of chosen feeding method. The author repeatedly refers to rooming-in as unsafe but with appropriate guidance and monitoring it is not unsafe and is safer than sleeping in a nursery. Both mother and newborn continue to receive the same level of care and supervision. Rooming-in does not mean that the care of the newborn is delegated to the mother, however, rooming-in provides the mother the opportunity to participate in their own newborn’s care. This permits staff to do additional teaching and observation of parenting skills before discharge. Read the rest of this entry »