In the news, many hospitals are announcing their new policy that laboring mothers are not allowed to have a support person(s) in the labor or recovery rooms, or at all during their hospital stay. I want to say I am very concerned with this virus spreading and I wholeheartedly believe we should all practice social distancing and good hygiene. With that said I don’t think that forcing mothers to give birth completely alone makes any rational sense.
With the increase in COVID-19 cases, many nurses and doctors are severely overwhelmed. Nurses on labor and delivery units would be better served if their laboring patients have support, this lets them focus on critical tasks while the mother’s support person can provide companionship and comfort. There is abundant evidence that birthing mothers need support. Continuous support during labor supports positive outcomes for mothers and their babies. This will also increase the number of mothers who decide to birth at home. This isn’t inherently bad but this may lead to hasty and un-thought-out plans that could put some mothers in unsafe conditions. I am a huge advocate for homebirth but I do not think mothers should have to choose between planning a last-minute homebirth and pushing their baby out into the world completely alone. Allowing mothers at least one support person would be a net positive for all of us as a society. Here is a blog I wrote about the benefits of continuous labor support
Separating Mothers and Their Newborns:
The best way to support a new mother’s ability to breastfeed is a “golden hour”, which means an hour of uninterrupted skin to skin. Many hospitals are considering a separation of moms and babies for up to two weeks. Many hospitals are saying they’d show mothers how to hand express or pump but that is not good enough. Rooming-in is best for moms and their newborns. The WHO agrees that mothers should be able to room in and nurse their infant.
Here is more information from WHO showing more information on pregnancy and breastfeeding in relation to COVID-19. It is undeniable that separating mothers and babies is cruel and traumatic for both parties. This separation will wreak havoc on many mother’s mental health. If you are concerned about meeting breastfeeding goals in this time of uncertainty please reach out, I am offering pay what you can virtual consults.
Lack of Support During Social Distancing:
So let’s play out how this scenario might go: You deliver your baby alone and spend the first two days separated from your baby, now it’s time to go home. You happily embrace your partner and head home. Now you’re looking at weeks of no support from anyone beyond your partner. This is a bleak scenario for sure. Again I think following social distancing is important but we need to look after our new moms and their families. We have to find a way to help support new mothers, at a distance of course. So how can we do this? Here are a few ideas:
- Set up a time to regularly check in with the new family prior to baby arriving-think google hangouts, Facebook or facetime. Keep checking in regularly for at least the first 3 months
- Give the new family gift cards for grocery delivery or offer to run errands/grocery shop for them, leave their items on the porch and wave from the car
- Cook meals and drop them off, the family can leave a cooler out front and thank you from a distance
- Send a gift, like diapers or wipes from amazon
- Get your loved one virtual support, talking with a professional who understands is so valuable and helpful
- We have to find a way to rally around our new mothers while also keeping everyone safe and healthy. Let’s do our best to focus on the evidence on these policies and make choices that benefit the people bringing new life into the world. Let’s do better. Let’s keep moms and babies safe too.
Amber Ginn IBCLC, IYCFS, CD