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Hospitals Scrap Nurseries in ‘Baby-Friendly’ Move

Imagine you’ve endured a long, harrowing birth and have been awake for nearly 40 hours straight. Now imagine asking the nurse to take your baby for an hour or two so you can get a little bit of rest before plunging into motherhood — and the nurse tells you there’s no nursery anymore because it’s not baby-friendly.

Say what?

Yes, there’s a growing trend in hospitals to scrap nurseries completely. The move is being hailed as the baby-friendly initiative. But is it mom-friendly?

More: 7 things you won’t learn about postpartum healing in birthing classes

Post-birth, many mothers do want their babies to stay with them. But many also count on nursery time to recuperate emotionally and sleep for a few hours here and there — especially if they already have small children at home and will now be returning to the usual chaos with a new family member in tow. Sounds reasonable, right?

Apparently not. Now doctors and staff at 355 designated baby-friendly hospitals in the U.S. will refuse a mother’s request to take the baby off her hands for even an hour unless it’s urgent.

More: My postpartum intrusive thoughts were terrifying

We kind of think postpartum sleep is an urgent matter. But hey, we’re just moms — many of whom are at risk for postpartum depression. What the hell do we know?

The objective of the new no-nursery policy is to presumably encourage breastfeeding and bonding by keeping moms and babies together around the clock, which is lovely if you want that, but not so lovely if you are struggling in the aftermath of giving birth.

By the end of next year, there will be approximately 530 baby-friendly hospitals in the U.S. (That works out to be 1 in 4 births here in the States.) One of these hospitals is Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where Lori Pugsley works as the newborn family units nursing director.

“The research is abundant, and it shows the benefits of keeping a mom and baby together in a room really creates an environment that’s the healthiest for the baby and the healthiest for the mothers,” Pugsley said.

There is no doubt that babies and moms go together like Oreos and milk, OK? But taking away a woman’s one shot at a couple of hours of sleep postpartum sounds about as healthy as, well… eating only Oreos and milk.

One (brave) dad went on record with Today to say, “We always have her here, and anything that she needs she has right here.” (Um. That “anything” is your weepy, sleep-deprived partner and her increasingly painful breasts, thrilled dad. You’re not the one who just squeezed a bowling ball out of your private parts and you’re not the one at risk for cracked, bloody nipples for the record.)

Some moms are understandably upset by the growing shift to no nurseries.

More: My “baby-friendly” hospital made my birth experience pure misery

“I asked the nurse if she would take him to the nursery for a few hours so my husband and I could get some sleep. And she said no,” one mom, Christiane Boezio, told Today. “That it was policy that the baby stay in the room.”

Boezio, who had endured 48 hours of labor and zero sleep and had a toddler waiting back at home, said she desperately needed a rest to regain “mental sanity.” We feel you, Christiane!

There are some doctors who fully disagree with this policy. Amy Tuteur is one of them.

Tuteur, who trained at Harvard in obstetrics and gynecology, is the author of Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting. She believes this trend of no-nursery hospitals is terrific for breastfeeding advocates — but not so much for infants and their sleep-deprived mothers.

“If the mother wants to send the baby to the nursery, then she should have the choice to do that,” Tuteur said. “Absolutely women should have support in breastfeeding. But if a woman decides that it’s not for her, it’s not for us to tell her she has to do it.”

Thankfully, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists backs up Tuteur. The organization told Today they’re in favor of breastfeeding but firmly believe that “all providers should respect and support a woman’s informed decision.”

The takeaway? If you’re pregnant, you might want to ask your local hospital about its nursery policy. That’s if they still have a nursery.

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