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Risks of Newborn Nursery

Important Reasons to Not Separate Mother and Baby

There are distinct advantages to keeping the mother/baby pair together and avoiding the risks of newborn nursery use for routine care.

In 2007 Lamaze International issued a well-researched position paper on the importance of keeping mothers and babies together, entitled "No Separation of Mother and Baby with Unlimited Opportunity for Breastfeeding." References for 27 studies were given the paper remains one of their core "6 Essential Practices."

In the years since this was published, on-going research has validated the distinct advantages to mothers and babies of remaining in each other's presence, preferably skin to skin. Many hospitals have changed their practices to promote skin to skin contact and the physiologic advantages to both.

There is also a corrolary to the proven benefits of mother/baby contact: there is harm in removing the infant from the mother. There are numerous risks of newborn nursery for routine baby care. These include:
  • Increased breastfeeding difficulties and decreased milk supply
  • Lower body temperature of babe
  • Increased infant crying
  • Decreased production of maternal oxytocin (Oxytocin decreases postpartum bleeding and increases "mothering" feelings toward the infant.)
  • Decreased maternal endorphins (They decrease pain and also make the mother calm.)
  • Mothers are less responsive towards the infant's cues.
  • Decreased immunity in the infant from lack of exposure to microorganisms on mother's skin
  • Shorter breastfeeding duration
  • Decreased time in the quiet-alert state, when newborns are most responsive to interaction
  • Decrased scores on tests measuring maternal attachment to the infant
  • Infants gain weight slower
  • Increased rates of child abuse and neglect

Abuse, Neglect, and Poor Outcomes

It's important to point out that most mothers do not abuse or neglect their children whether they were separated in the newborn period or not. But it should be noted that the statistical chance of abuse, even though it is small, is more likely to occur if the mother and infant are separated.

The reason is simple. Decreasing the postive number of factors in the 20 factors of optimal childbirth outcomes decreases the overall well-being of the mother/baby pair. It prevents the two from developing the mother baby rhythm which provides the most optimal outcome for both.

Objections to Not Using the Nursery

"But they HAVE to go to the nursery sometime. You can't expect the mother to hold the baby ALL the time."

Those are comments repeated by those who don’t embrace the value of keeping mothers and babies together. Advocates of the Mother/Baby Rhythm recognize that there will be periods of non-contact and non-interaction between the two; and in fact these periods are part of a healthy dyad. In fact, as we described previously, part of the rhythm of the mother/baby rhythm is the slow but certain increase in timing of separation between the two that takes place over years (even decades.)

However, these periods of non-contact are started and ended according to the needs of the mother/baby pair. Such periods are very short in the first months of life. In contrast, hospital separation often lasts hours while waiting for hospital personnel to perform the many tasks demanded of them.

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By Karen Newell Copyright 2003 - 2012 Better Childbirth Outcomes - All Rights Reserved
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA