Over the last decade, in an effort to provide best care for mothers, babies and families, care after delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital has evolved to support universal “rooming-in” for healthy mothers and babies. The major benefits of rooming-in include:
- Increasing safety and health: Rooming-in decreases the risk of infection during the hospital stay. Separation of baby from mom also can increase the baby’s stress response and the associated risk of hypoglycemia and hypothermia. In addition, keeping mother and baby together helps a newborn feel more secure.
- Promoting communication and attachment: Babies are born with attachment-promoting behaviors and features that draw the mother to her baby. A baby’s cry is a powerful communication tool, which stimulates the mother both physically and psychologically. Mom has a biological urge to pick up her newborn when she hears her baby cry, and when picked up her baby stops crying. This communication is repeated until mom learns her baby’s pre-crying behaviors (squirming, cooing, grimaces) and picks up her baby before crying begins. Over time the baby learns to cue better, and the mom learns these signals by tuning in, responding and being present. Mom and baby cannot learn this harmony if separated.
- Gaining confidence: Rather than taking babies to the nursery for care, our nursing staff spend more time in the mothers’ rooms, providing care at the bedside to support new and experienced mothers as they learn and relearn aspects of infant care. Rooming-in allows families to bond and learn each other’s voices, smells and cues for feeding, diaper changes and other needs. In addition, staff are right there to respond to mothers and fathers who are concerned about certain behaviors or have questions about care.
- Establishing breastfeeding: Rooming-in enables the majority of women who choose to breastfeed to more effectively to establish this practice and allows our staff to more effectively support the choice before mothers and babies leave the hospital.
- Responding to preference: Before rooming-in was widely practiced, we had heard from many families who wanted their babies with them and did not want staff to take the newborns away for care.
Massachusetts General Hospital is proud to have recently been designated a Baby-Friendly Hospital, an initiative of the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Baby-Friendly status recognizes those hospitals that have adopted and adhere to a number of evidence-based best practices for newborns. One of these practices involves rooming-in. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has supported the Baby-Friendly effort and has been working to increase the number of Baby-Friendly hospitals throughout the country.
Learn more about breastfeeding and the Baby Friendly initiative
We are aware, however, that some women are concerned that they may not get needed rest if they don’t have an opportunity to send their newborn to the nursery for awhile. This is not necessarily true. Studies have shown that for most women, rooming-in actually increases the duration and quality of maternal sleep. Research also has indicated – and we have seen firsthand – that babies who room-in cry less and sleep deeper and longer. In fact, as rooming-in became more widely embraced over the past decade at Mass General, nurses noticed that the units were much quieter as babies were crying less.
Ultimately, our goal is to support the mother-infant pair while meeting the needs of both newborn and mother. Rooming-in is now the model of care at Mass General, but we recognize that each patient and family has specific needs and expectations. We do have a nursery available 24 hours a day. If a medical, emotional or other reason arises and the best decision for the family is to have the newborn be cared for in the nursery, we are able to accommodate that situation. We are committed to delivering individualized care to families based on their circumstances and desires to ensure that each family has a positive, nurturing and satisfying experience.