1975, Crown St Women's Hospital (Sydney), rooming-in was practiced routinely, though nurseries were still present and thence babies could be taken if necessary (like if one's mother had to do a university exam).
1977, Royal North Shore Hospital, rooming-in was practiced during the day but babies were taken to the nursery during the night so that mothers could get a good night's sleep.
1980, Nepean Hospital, rooming-in was not practiced at all, the babies spent most of their time in the nursery and were brought to their mothers for feeding. It was the same in 1982.
Rooming-in refers to the practice of the newborn staying with and being cared for by his or her mother during their stay in hospital, instead of being cared for by the hospital staff in a nursery. It has been practiced in all the hospitals in which my children were born and is considered essential to the establishment of successful breast-feeding. Nurseries seem to be a distant memory.
I am in favour of rooming-in. I love having my babies with me. However, I am more and more convinced that there is at least one disadvantage to the current practice, and it is quite significant. It is sleep deprivation.
Hospitals at night tend to be quite noisy places. I have not, in all my experience had one good night's sleep in a post-natal ward. If I am not awake and desperately trying to keep my baby from crying, I am awake listening to the other baby in the ward cry as his mother desperately tries to keep him from crying so that my sleep is not disturbed, or listening to the dong dang ding of the "someone please come and help me" buzzer as someone begs a midwife to look after their baby so that they can get some sleep.
Sleep deprivation is par for the course for a newborn. I know that. But it is worse in hospital because you can't necessarily sleep when your baby is asleep. One might just manage to drift off to sleep in the early hours of the morning and then, the cleaner arrives... and then breakfast... and then there is the morning change-over of staff... and your resolve to stay in hospital as long as possible changes to "give me early discharge, immediately".
I just wonder about the wisdom of sending mothers home with a newborn seriously sleep deprived. Especially when sleep deprivation is a factor in the onset of post-natal depression.
I don't think the solution is a return to the nursery system, but I can definitely see the advantage in ensuring mothers had a good rest before they returned home.
What do you think?