In the days after giving birth at a hospital or birthing center, mothers typically have two choices during their postpartum stay: place the baby in the nursery to be cared for by hospital staff or keep their baby in their room, generally referred to as “rooming-in.”
What are the benefits of nursery care?
In some hospitals, mothers still have the option of having their baby cared for in the nursery and brought to them throughout the day for feedings or caregiving. This is especially important for mothers who don’t have a support person to stay with them at night, those who need extra help after giving birth to multiples (twins, triplets, or more) or those who experience any of a variety of intrapartum or postpartum complications such as cesarean birth, excessive bleeding, or postpartum depression.
What are the benefits of rooming-in?
Keeping your baby in close proximity during your entire postpartum hospital stay is recommended by leading organizations including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the World Health Organization.
For many new mothers and their partners, the benefits of rooming-in include:
- learning your baby’s feeding cues and early signs of hunger
- feeding at the first sign of hunger
- breastfeeding early and often, usually every 1 to 3 hours during the day and night
- soothing your baby more quickly
- more time for skin-to-skin care
- gaining confidence in caring for your baby while experienced help is available
How rooming-in supports exclusive breastfeeding
The key to successful breastfeeding is “supply and demand,” and when a newborn spends much of their time in the hospital nursery, it can limit how often and how much breastfeeding occurs between the mother and her newborn, which can make it harder for mothers to establish an adequate milk supply. It can also interfere with a mother’s ability to recognize her baby’s early signs of hunger and to breastfeed around-the-clock (on request).
Rooming-in also makes other healthy behaviors such as skin-to-skin care easier for mothers. Practicing skin-to-skin care on a regular basis has many proven benefits for both mom and baby, including improving breastfeeding outcomes. This practice also encourages newborns to initiate baby-led breastfeeding, where a baby uses his innate ability to locate and latch on to his mother’s breast. Mothers and babies who engage in skin-to-skin care are more likely to initiate breastfeeding, and to continue for a longer period of time.
Like any part of your birth plan, discuss your postpartum care options with your healthcare provider well before your expected delivery date. Even if, for unforeseen medical reasons during labor and birth, you need to be separated from your baby for a period of time, the medical staff should be made aware of your desire to initiate breastfeeding and practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as possible.