Intermountain Medical Center launches rooming-in program to support bonding between mothers and newborns

Mothers and babies belong together -; which is why Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City has launched a rooming-in program to support early bonding between mothers and newborns.

"Rooming-in means babies will stay in the room with their parents," said Kristie Earnhart, RN, MSN, nurse manager in Maternity at Intermountain Medical Center, which is part of the Intermountain Healthcare system. "The time together in the first days of the baby's life increases bonding and newborn health, reduces crying, and establishes healthy routines. The nursery will be available for those with medical needs."

Many women welcome the idea of getting as much sleep as possible after labor, and it can be tempting to send their baby to a hospital's nursery to get some rest. But research shows they're likely to get the same amount of rest with their baby in the room.

"Having the baby with the mother right from the beginning is shown by research to be the best way for mother and baby to rest and establish a routine," said Earnhart.

Rooming-in helps parents prepare to go home with their new baby. It provides an opportunity for parents and other caregivers to provide total care for the baby in a home-like environment while in the hospital. While rooming-in, the parents or caregivers provide all of the physical care and supervision for their infant, including giving medications, changing diapers, and feeding.

"The best advice we can give new parents is to learn how to rest when your baby sleeps day and night in the first days, and rooming-in supports that learning," said Angela Anderson, RN, nurse midwife at Intermountain Medical Center.

"Early in the newborn period, babies eat frequently and find comfort and security in being close to you," she added. "Learning how to feed your infant can be easier when you learn to read your baby's early hunger cues and sleep/wake states. Keeping baby with you helps you learn how to feed and care for them while our expert staff is close by to assist you."

Rooming-in benefits for mother:

  • Better quality sleep
  • Increased confidence in handling and caring for baby
  • Ability to learn your baby's cues (sleepy, stressed, in need of quiet time, or hungry)
  • Earlier identification of early feeding cues (rooting, opening mouth, and sucking on tongue, fingers, or hand)
  • Improved breastfeeding experience
  • Less infant crying and distress (they love to be near you)
  • Less "baby blues" and postpartum depression
  • Parents are better-rested and more relaxed by the end of the first week home

Rooming in benefits for baby:

  • Better quality sleep. Your baby will develop a more regular sleep-wake cycle earlier, and rooming-in may help ease the transition to day/night routines
  • More stable body temperatures
  • Generally more content, less crying
  • More stable blood sugar
  • Breastfeed sooner, longer, and more easily
  • Lower levels of stress hormones
  • Babies are exposed to normal bacteria on mother's skin, which may protect them from becoming sick due to harmful germs.

Intermountain Medical Center has a nursery nurse available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for infants and mothers with medical need. When a medical need is deemed appropriate by the bedside nurse, the baby can go to the nursery for up to three hours twice in 24 hours, but the baby won't be fed formula unless the stated feeding preference is formula. A baby is always welcome in the nursery while mom showers or attends the breastfeeding class.

"Rooming-in helps set the stage for the routine of home life," Earnhart said. "Habits begin in the hospital. We want to encourage parents to limit distractions while they're here. Moms can take this time to focus on themselves and getting to know the baby."

For more than two years, Intermountain Medical Center has been enrolled in the Stepping Up for Utah Babies program, along with 20 other hospitals in Utah. Stepping Up is a 10-step program designed to support moms that encourages breastfeeding on demand and rooming-in.

The practice of rooming in and allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day is one of the evidence-based practices developed by a team of global experts. Other steps include educating expecting mothers about breastfeeding, helping to initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and teaching women how to maintain lactation.

The Centers for Disease Control has documented the many short- and long-term benefits of rooming in and breastfeeding for both mothers and babies. These include lowered risks of ear and respiratory infections, atopic dermatitis (eczema), type 2 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, and childhood obesity.

Additionally, by protecting against these and other illnesses, medical costs are lowered, since babies who are fed formula tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalizations, and prescriptions.

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