I’ve been critical of “baby-friendly” hospitals for years, writing about them first in a piece titled, Bye-Bye Hospital Nurseries? back in 2013, with a follow up piece in 2014, and then in 2015. It’s now 2019 and this issue is not going away. As I scrolled my Facebook feed last night I saw a friend posted an article titled Backus Hospital Named ‘Baby-Friendly’ Birthing Center by International Health Group and I felt that fire light up in me once again.
If you don’t know who is behind the baby-friendly hospital movement, it’s an organization called Baby-Friendly USA which is a pro-breastfeeding only organization. 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. Their rationale for this is that it encourages a better breastfeeding relationship.
Here’s the thing, we are all about loving more and judging less here. That means, at it’s core, it is a mother’s choice if she decides to breastfeed or not. Furthermore, removing well-baby hospital nurseries, which most “baby-friendly” hospitals do in order to meet the requirements for this certification, does a disservice to new moms who need a break while they recover from birth. Let us not forget that childbirth can be an intense, physically draining experience. If a mom needs a few hours to herself during the night to rest, she darn well deserves it. After a traumatic (for me) childbirth and my new baby crying all night long I NEEDED access to the well-baby nursery, and thankfully back in 2011 it still existed in the hospital I gave birth at (although I hear they too have now gotten rid of it).
The issue here is with the forced rooming in policy. If you want your baby to be with you 24 hours a day, more power to you! But the choice of sending your baby to the nursery should not be removed for those who need more rest and recuperation.
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, the guidelines actually 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.”
That feels a lot like penalizing a new mom for making a decision that she knows is best for her. Let women determine what is best for them. Let women have bodily autonomy. Let new mothers decide how they can be best supported after giving birth instead of just taking away our choices.
When you see this “baby-friendly” designation being touted as a positive thing, please be critical and don’t fall for their marketing. The best way to be baby-friendly is to be mom-friendly, and that doesn’t seem to be the priority behind this movement.