Bye-Bye Hospital Nurseries, An Update

Me, Marie & Baby Olivia!
Me, Marie & Baby Olivia!

Back in September I wrote a post about how it seems like more and more hospitals are either getting rid of their nurseries or are strongly discouraging new moms from using them. I only discovered this issue because I went to visit my friend and fellow blogger Marie at a local hospital and she told me that when she asked to send her daughter to the nursery for a little bit, she was informed that they no longer had a nursery and encouraged 24/hour rooming in. I was really struck by that and wanted to know why this was happening. Was it for financial reasons or because of something else?

I reached out to the CT Hospital Association for answers and they looked into this for me. Turns out that yes, most hospitals in CT either have a 24 hour room in policy for new moms or are moving in that direction. And the reason isn’t because of money, it’s because hospitals want a baby-friendly certification from Baby-Friendly USA.

Baby-Friendly USA is a pro-breastfeeding organization that created a Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, which is backed by the World Health Organization and many other heavy hitters. There are specific requirements that a hospital must meet to receive their certification and enforcing a 24/hour room in policy is one of the major components. In fact, within their guidelines they state that parents receiving pre-natal education should be informed of the benefits of rooming-in.

The guidelines go on to say:

“When a mother requests that her baby be cared for in the nursery, the health care staff should explore the reasons for the request and should encourage and educate the mother about the advantages of having her infant stay with her in the same room twenty-four hours a day. If the mother still requests that the baby be cared for in the nursery, the process and informed decision should be documented.”

Excuse me, what? If a mom asks to use the nursery she has to be re-educated about the benefits of rooming in (essentially meant to deter her from using the nursery)? If she then still insists (and really who would after being made to feel bad for asking in the first place), her request has to be documented, like she’s doing something wrong?

I’m sorry but to me, that’s not very mom-friendly. New moms should be able to make the choices best for them, not be deterred from asking for help. If a mom wants to room-in, she should. If a mom wants to send her baby to the nursery so she can rest or simply have a break, she should be able to do so too. It’s about women having choices and those choices being supported, not discouraged or shamed.

Birth, even the most wonderful, easy birth, can be hard on a woman’s body. Birth can also be hard on a new mom’s brain – many women struggle with feeling overwhelmed or develop postpartum depression and/or anxiety. If a mom who is tired/overwhelmed/not feeling well has the courage to ask to send her baby to the nursery and vocalize her needs, she should not be turned down and she most certainly should not be made to feel like she’s a bad mother for her request. And in my opinion, telling a mom again why she should keep her child in her hospital room is doing exactly that – making new moms feel like crap for asking for what they need.

Heavily discouraging women from using the nursery or taking away the nursery entirely, is doing a disservice to new moms. I believe in choice and I believe in supporting new moms fully without judgment. Breastfeeding or formula feeding, rooming in or using the nursery – these are personal choices and the only person who really knows what’s best is mom.

Unfortunately I’m not sure what can be done about this other than calling the hospital you plan to give birth at and confirming what their rooming-in policy is. It seems this trend has taken off and there might not be any stopping it.

We all know that when things get bumpy, moms are told to put their oxygen mask on first and then take care of their child. Well isn’t having a policy that is baby-friendly but not 100% mom-friendly, doing the exact opposite? A healthy, happy mom who feels supported is the most baby-friendly thing I can think of.

I’m sure that there are hospitals in CT that do a good job at individualizing care and supporting moms who ask to use the nursery (if they have one). But more & more moms are being advised against using the nursery and that’s alarming. Lastly, just for clarity, I’m not talking about the NICU, just the healthy infant nurseries. 

31 thoughts on “Bye-Bye Hospital Nurseries, An Update

  1. I found a very interesting article in the Boston Globe that listed breastfeeding rates at these hospitals. I find it very interesting that with the exception of Beth Isreal and Dartmouth (note that Beth Isreal is NOT Baby-Friendly and Dartmouth IS), breastfeeding rates remain in the 50-60% range, even when the hospitals were designated “Baby-Friendly” AND had rooming-in rates in the 90% range. The onlyl reason rooming-in rates were in the 90% range is because these women are being forced to keep their infants. Also note that Darmouth’s rooming-in rate is only 73% (below the 80% rooming-in rate you’re supposed to have to be designated Baby-Friendly), and they still have a 90% breastfeeding rate. All these “Baby-Friendly” hospitals still have low breastfeeding rates. They’re probably very similar to what they were before they received this ridiculous designation. Surprise, surprise. You can’t convince me or most RNs that this initiative will raise breastfeeding rates. RNs have argued that this designation could actually do the exact opposite, decrease breastfeeding rates. If you force moms to room-in, prevent them from using pacifiers, and prevent them from getting the rest that they need between breastfeedings by eliminating the nursery, and breastfeeding rates will probably even go down because Moms are just too exhausted to breastfeed. These moms are going to actually want to give more formula so that they can get a few hours of solid sleep. RNs are also warning that post-partum depression rates will probably go up. Anyone remember when insurance companies were discharging moms and babies 24 hrs after they delivered? I certainly do. And it was ridiculous and insane! However, that changed once people made enough of a fuss and proved that it was dangerous to these moms and babies! Check out these stats and help us by speaking up. Fill out those hospital surveys and write to hospital CEOs. Help us help you!

    Rooming-in at area hospitals

    A look at rooming-in and breastfeeding rates at local hospitals.

    Deliveries (year)
    Rooming-in rate
    Breastfeeding rate
    Baby-friendly designation

    Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston
    No, working toward it

    Boston Medical Center
    Yes, 1999

    Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
    No, plan to seek it

    Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH
    Yes, 2012

    Emory University Hospital Midtown, Atlanta
    Yes, 2015

    Good Samaritan Medical Center, Brockton
    Yes, 2013

    Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
    Yes, 2015

    Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
    Yes, 2015

    Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven
    Yes, 2011

  2. Yes, I agree with the previous NBN post. And what the above article says is absolutely true. All these ridiculous changes are happening to gain the “coveted” “Baby-Friendly” Designation. And it’s completely ridiculous to the point where it’s unsafe! First of all, we’re treating ALL women and ALL babies like they’re all exactly the same, which is the dumbest thing that RNs have ever heard! Some women’s labors and deliveries are easy. However, a vast majority of deliveries are hell, go on for days, or end in c-sections! Babies that are born by difficulty labors and deliveries can absolutely have difficulty transitioning to living outside the uterus! Hence, they may need to be watched in the nursery for a few hours, or rooming-in may actually be dangerous for these babies. They may actually choke on mucus, sometimes they choke silently. Infants swallow amniotic fluid and spit it back up as mucus. This is especially true with c-section infants.

    When our poor moms and dads are absolutely exhausted, they can easily fall asleep holding an infant, which could lead to an infant drop. Or they may not hear their infant choking on mucus. Asking for help is not a weakness or does not mean that these new mothers are bad mothers, that they’re not going to bond well with their infants, or that breastfeeding won’t be successful. Let’s stop making these mothers feel bad for asking for help by sending their infants to the nursery for a few hours. These women are brave, amazing, and strong simply for growing a human being inside their bodies and delivering him/her. Let’s give these moms the rest and help they need. It’s amazing how much better breastfeeding goes after resting for a few hours too. All I can say is I want these male CEOs of these “Baby-Friendly” hospitals to be forced to keep a screaming infant that they have to feed every 2-3 hours in their hospital rooms while they’re recovering from an abdominal surgery. This would be a great little test for them to see what they’re forcing these women to do!

  3. Please ,please speak up moms! I’m a NBN RN in Virginia . They are expecting new moms to keep baby 24 /7 . The new mother needs rest . My coworkers and I have tried to talk with administration about how this is NOT mommy friendly. We as women and mothers should have a choice . If you get rest and take care of yourself then you feel confident to breast feed and take care of your precious little baby when you are discharged . Keep the conversation going .

  4. I’m surprised (and disheartened) to read this. I really had no idea this was happening. With my first, born in 2011, the nursery existed, but when I asked the nurse to put him in there so I could get a few hours of sleep, she brought him back about 3 minutes later because he was crying. Apparently if the baby cried, they were instructed to bring him back to the mom. With my second, he (luckily) slept a lot in the hospital so I just put him in the bassinet next to my bed and was able to get a few hours of sleep that way. This is really disappointing and I agree, this is NOT mom-friendly at all. I’d like to think it was proposed with all good intentions, but the reality is that taking the nursery option away from new moms is the exact opposite of mom-friendly.

  5. This is an old post, not sure if anyone will even see this. I delivered a baby in march 2014. The sister hospitals all encourage in rooming and one actually did “get rid” of the nursery. I was expecting them to discourage me sending my son down to the nursey, they actually did the COMPLETE opposite. They encouraged me to send the baby so I could get some rest and assured me they would bring him in for feedings. They finished it off by letting me know if he stayed in the room with me the lights need to stay on. I asked why and they said “so you can see if his color changes” lol so i guess i should I have slept with my eyes open too. Needless to say baby boy spent 2 nights in the nursery. We all survived and are bonded and all that good stuff.

  6. I was really nervous about this. I delivered at Umass memorial in Worcester and there’s not a nursery. But things worked out well, probably because of the wonderful nurses. I had some minor complications after a relatively short labor, but I wasn’t able to move around much for the first 2 days (I couldn’t even walk across the room to the bathroom without a nurse’s help), and the nurses were in my room almost constantly to help me (and didn’t wake me if I was sleeping, unless they needed to). And they took the baby 12-6am so I could sleep, and just brought him back once in the middle to eat, and waited til I needed a nap to take him to do whatever they needed to. I cried when we went home because I knew I’d miss the help! I felt like their care for the mom was really increased to make up for the lack of a nursery.

  7. I was really surprised by this. It really is about individualizing care and supporting choice. I appreciate this post and the comments.

  8. I appreciate the benefits of rooming in and breastfeeding, but the Milk Nazis need to back off. I roomed in with my son, but I called the nursery the second night and asked them to take him for a few hours. Better for him to take a break in the nursery than for me to be deranged and grouchy from lack of sleep just two days after giving birth. Shouldn’t the idea be to offer support for new moms instead of pushing them into instant self-sufficiency?

  9. i was just talking about this with some other moms and we think they still charged us for the nursery on the hospital bills in spite of claiming the nursery is ‘closed’.

    my 1st went to the nursery 3 of the 4 nights by my request, no problem.
    my 2nd the nursery was ‘closed’ (new brit) but a tech got scared by something she saw (maybe he gagged? i’m still not sure what freaked her out) but that made them want to keep baby in nursery overnight (hmm suddenly ‘open’?) after that i milked it a bit and got another night in there too. and by night i mean short stretches between feedings.

    i feel forcing the rooming in will actually DISCOURAGE breastfeeding because you’ll exhaust moms right away (when a lot of times they’ve been up for 2 night laboring) and they’ll be more willing to give up breastfeeding to let dad help more right away with night feedings so they can get some sleep.

  10. Yes, a surprise. There are so many issues as moms recover from childbirth. I had a c-section and great difficulty nursing. The nurse insisted on taking my son into the nursery around midnight, 5 hours after he was born. It was delightful to wake up 3 hours later and want to try the task again. Post partum set in immediately and I remained hospitalized for another 3 days because of complications.

  11. Thank you so much for the follow-up information. I agree with every opinion you stated, and with Kate that this has gone too far. Baby1 was delivered at Middlesex (a “baby friendly hospital”) in 2009, and the nursery was never offered — but I didn’t ask either. BFing was pushed, but they made me supplement right away because of issues — I was very suprised. Baby2 will be delivered in June/July 2014 at Middlesex as well – I will certainly be contacting them and asking what has changed, what their room-in policies are, what happens if I need a break and ask for one, etc. And you can be damn sure if they give me grief for asking for a rest I will ask for a patient advocate, tell them how un-mom-friendly they’re being (and blame the hormones if I yell 🙂 ) and be back to report to CTWM about the treatment. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen 🙂 Sheesh!

  12. I labored for 20 hours before having an emergency c-section because my baby was in distress. The only thing in my “labor plan” was that I wanted immediate skin-to-skin. I didn’t get that due to the c-section and I STILL used the nursery. I was beyond exhausted and needed to recover from something that was extremely difficult both physically and emotionally. I breastfed and held him all the time. He just went to the nursery to sleep and the nurses brought him to me as soon as he woke up. This allowed me a few precious hours to rest while knowing that he was in good hands. Go nurseries! And nurses! And choice!

  13. As moms and women we should protest! An organization should not dictate what they deem as acceptable blanket policies for each mom and baby. As patients, we need to be evaluated and treated as an individual. While rooming in may be okay for some, it may not be for all.

    I don’t care about a certification from this organization, if asked a hospital should be allowed explain that they treat t the individual needs of each mother and child. Petition? Anyone?

  14. I had my first baby last January and was definitely pressured to keep him in the room 24/7. As a new mom, I would have loved some time to rest and heal and get some sleep, but there was such pushback that it was best for the baby. When/if we have our second I will definitely be more forceful that mom needs just as much special care, and a few hours break will do everyone some good!

  15. This was totally surprising to me! I’ve never heard of this! I can only say that nurses seem to really have their fingers on the pulse and if they’re crying BS, then they probably speak for a lot of mothers.

  16. The pendulum is swinging WAY TOO FAR to the other side. This is asinine. A detriment to mothers AND their intuition. Totally pisses me off. I can only imagine that Mothers and families will need to continue to complain about it before some balance is actually found. Thanks for addressing it, Michelle.

  17. I delievered at the same hospital (Hosp of Central CT) for all three of my children. I actually enjoyed my hospital stay with my first two children and in fact, I left RESTED after the birth of my second son. When I was expecting my third child in the summer of 2013, I actually looked forward to my hospital stay after delivery. As a c section mama, I am in the hospital for at least 5 days. Well, let me tell you, my experience this time around was totally different and not in a good way! While I enjoyed seeing the nurses give my baby her first bath, between the CONSTANT interruption by the staff checking on me and baby and nursing her every 2 hours it was nearly impossible to get any rest. Granted interruption is a necessity to some degree while staying in a hospital, but if there was a nursery, a lot of the baby checks would have been done there. Not only were we “strongly encouraged” to have baby room in, we were also explicitly told that we could not sleep with baby in the bed. I don’t know about anyone else’s children, but mine were not born sleep trained. Thankfully, the night time nurses did take her into a “quiet room” for short spells. No nurseries, not cool!

    1. I had the same comment about not allowing co-sleeping at the hospital after the birth of my second in 2010 at Mid-state. I politely informed the nurse on duty, at 2 am, that she should avoid checking on us for a few hours.

  18. Our hospital does not have a nursery, but with both births I was advised that I could ABSOLUTELY have her spend some time at the nurses’ station if I needed a break. With my second child, we kept her in the room the whole time. However, we sent my first baby to the nurses’ station because she was vomiting a lot and we were so worried we wanted a nurse to be near her at all times (and we needed a little break from freaking out about the vomiting to get a little R&R). Our hospital and the nurses were great and did make us feel guilty about this at all.

    1. I’m happy to know you had a good experience. It’s great that they were able to accommodate you but if they have multiple requests from moms to send their babies to the nurses station it seems that someone would have to be told no (in fact I’m pretty sure that when I looked into this, a hospital told me that exact thing). Did the hospital you gave birth at use to have a nursery or have they always not had one? Just curious.

  19. Baby-Friendly USA is now on my list of WTF organizations (Ok I don’t have an official list, but I should!). Really not a very holistic approach to maternal/infant care as far as I’m concerned but given the state of health care in general, not surprised. Great follow-up Michelle.

      1. Thank you. When I received my survey in the mail I made sure to let them know how disappointed I was. Both my husband and I were born in the same hospital I delivered at and I never had any problems even with other departments but the L&D was not very good. I even has a manager come see me and I told her my unpleasant experience. Thankfully I am home and have a beautiful daughter.

  20. I had my second baby at Hartford Hospital in early May, a few days after they implemented their 100% rooming in policy. I had a hard time with this. Although I understand the benefits of nurturing and close contact those first few days, a mom needs some respite from the rigors of labor, cluster feeding, and a newborn who doesn’t sleep a wink. One sweet nurse took the baby off our hands for a little bit, and under her breath agreed that the initiative is bogus and totally does a disservice to the moms.

    1. Shawna this is so upsetting! Thank you for commenting although I’m sorry you had this experience. I fear that your experience is becoming all too common.

  21. After my c sections I needed the hospital nursery big time! It doesn’t make me a bad mom, just a mom trying to recuperate from surgery. I am disheartened hospitals are going down this path!!

      1. I immediately thought about my c-section. I had some complications, so while I was desperate to do more, I really could not.

  22. I am so glad the place I am delivering still has nurseries, and since this might be our last it won’t be a problem. I would literally switch hospitals if they don’t offer a nursery, lets see if they like their special title then, LOL

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