Borchardt Consulting

Hospitals Need To Lead By Example

Posted on: November 28, 2012

Exhausted New Mom

Every new mother has a treasured photo like this one. Exhausted from childbirth, sometimes medicated we are given our precious new baby for “rooming in”.  We hold tightly to this little miracle that has just arrived and fall deeply asleep exhausted from our bodies hours of hard work. Unfortunately, it’s a dangerous, sometimes deadly trap.

Since the early 90’s, the world health organizations have been urging parents to practice Safe Sleep techniques with their babies.  Place baby on his or her back, alone in a safe crib.  Yet, in hospitals all over the United States, exhausted, sometimes medicated women are being left with their fragile newborns to care for them in a practice called “rooming in”.

Hospitals want to encourage breastfeeding and bonding between mom and baby.  New Moms want to see, touch and hold their precious babies allowing their brains to absorb that they really created these miracles.  It’s a connundrum.  But, hospitals must take a leadership role in modeling the behavior that we want new mothers to follow when they arrive home just a short 48 hours after birth.

Even proponents of bedsharing warn that babies should never sleep in a bed with a parent that is excessively tired or on medication.  Nor should the adult bed be filled with pillows and other soft bedding.  Hospital beds can be especially dangerous.  They were not designed for infants.  The beds are frequently set up so that mom is reclining rather than laying flat.  They put the side rails up to keep a medicated mother from falling out of bed, but the side rails are not designed for infant safety.  The baby has a hospital bassinet to sleep in but mothers rarely place the babies back into it before they doze off.

Hospital policy should require doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and all hospital healthcare staff to impress upon the new mother and any of her visitors that mom cannot be left alone with the baby in her arms unless she is fully awake and unmedicated.  The new mother cannot be expected to make safe decisions when she is in the haze of new motherhood hormones and after-birth exhaustion.

As a Safe Sleep Educator, I’ve been preaching this message for years.  It starts at the hospital!  Now, unfortunately, the worst has happened and a lawsuit has been filed against the hospital that allowed a post-C-Section mother on heavy pain medications to fall asleep with her baby only to wake up to find that the baby had died due to an accidental overlay.  I am not generally in favor of law suits but perhaps this will make hospitals sit up and take notice.  You cannot be a “Baby Friendly” hospital just by withholding free formula.  You must also look out for the health and safety  of the baby.  That includes taking steps to keep baby safe while mom gets  her well deserved recovery time.

Do you agree?

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1 Response to "Hospitals Need To Lead By Example"

Absolutely!!!! I had my 2nd son (exactly one year ago today) at a “baby friendly” hospital that encourages the baby rooming in. I had a C-Section due to breech presentation and recovery did not go well in the hours after surgery. When I requested that night that they bring my son to the nursery for a few hours due to my exhaustion level from the events of the day, the nurse made me feel horribly guilty about my request. She told me that it is a “baby friendly” hospital and they strongly encourage and advise rooming in for bonding and responding to baby’s hunger cues. While I agree with this thought process, I had to be very explicit in telling her that my exhaustion was like I had never experienced before, and I was TERRIFIED I would simply pass out holding him, and risk him falling. For his safety, he HAD to go to the nursery. She finally complied, but I couldn’t believe that I had to fight for him to go to the nursery.

100% agree that hospital staff needs to remain cognizant of the exhaustion a mom experiences post labor, and there should be some sort of plan in place in hospitals to keep baby safe from these sorts of tragic accidents.

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