Rooming-in refers to the act of keeping your newborn baby in your hospital room with you at all times. For parents of earlier generations, hospital nurseries were the norm. Babies were born and immediately went to the nursery and were brought to their moms for feedings. Moms get much-needed rest and nurses and hospital staff attended to the babies.
We all survived but things have evolved a great deal since then. Hospital nurseries are no longer the norm since the benefits of mother-newborn proximity are better recognized now. In fact, there is an initiative spearheaded by the World Health Organization called the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to promote the rooming-in of moms and newborns. It’s getting traction in the U.S., such that many hospitals are certified “baby-friendly” and nurseries are no longer a given. In fact, in some cases, they don’t even exist in their previous forms.
Some parents wouldn’t hear of being separated from their newborn for even an instant, while other exhausted moms in desperate need of sleep happily pass their infants off to trusted nurses to get some rest. We see both sides, but there are a lot of reasons to keep your newborn baby in your hospital room with you. A lot happens within those first few days following birth and mom and baby being very close to one another facilitates much of it.
Of course, there might be health-related circumstances that mean the baby needs to be taken away from mom shortly after birth, and these are naturally beyond any parent’s control. But here we outline several reasons why you should definitely choose to room-in with your newborn baby in the hospital, if at all possible.
15 To Facilitate Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is tough. It can take days, weeks or months for you and your baby to properly get the hang of it. Many a new mom is unprepared for this. When your baby is first born, he will need to breastfeed often for many reasons but a primary reason is to establish your milk supply.
For the first several days, your baby will take in colostrum. Colostrum is easy to digest and serves many benefits for your baby, including providing essential antibodies. The removal of the colostrum is also essential to establishing a robust and plentiful milk supply. You’ll need to feed your baby 8-12 times a day after those first few days.
Naturally, all of this is made easier if your baby is right by your side. Many newborns cluster feed within the first few days after birth. This means they may feed even more often every few hours. In fact, it may feel constant. Keeping them close is the best course of action to establish early breastfeeding.
14 So Baby Doesn’t Get Swapped
Although rare, this happens! Babies have from time to time gotten swapped at the hospital. In fact, we published an article about this very thing a short while ago. Data suggests that an estimated 28,000 babies get mistakenly switched, temporarily or permanently, every year. Switches are most likely to occur during a transfer. The term “transfer” refers to any time a baby is brought back and forth to mom over their time in the hospital. On average, transfers occur about six times over a newborn’s hospital stay.
You might wonder how a mom or dad wouldn’t notice the difference between their newborn and someone else’s, but when babies are brand new and parents are exhausted, some babies start to resemble one another.
Even if a baby swap is extremely unlikely to happen to you or anybody for that matter, it’s a parent’s worst fear. What better way to ensure that your baby doesn’t get swapped then to have them right beside you at all times.
13 Best Way To Learn
Particularly if this is your first baby, you’ll have a lot to learn. If your baby stays in the room with you, all of her care is on you--first and foremost. When your baby cries, you’ll be the first to hear it. You might not know why she is crying, but you’ll figure it out by trial and error and/or with the help of hospital staff.
Nurses are there, in large part, to help you and teach you about caring for your newborn. Your baby will have many firsts in the hospital and if you are involved in all of them, you’ll learn as you go.
If your baby is in the nursery for much or part of her hospital stay, you may not witness her first bath or be as well versed at diaper changes as you would be if she was in the room with you. Your baby also has different cries to signify different needs. If she is beside you the whole time, you’ll start to notice these subtle differences.
12 To Build Your Confidence
You can do this! Of course you can! Those first few days in the hospital with your baby at your side are like a crash course in what the future holds. Learning is facilitated in a hospital setting because you’ve got oodles of experts around, but with your baby by your side, you are still his number one responder.
If a nurse is caring for him in the nursery, you won’t have the same chance to try to sort out what he needs. If your baby needs something and you are right there, you can attend to him first. You might not always get it right but you will sometimes, which will be fabulous for your confidence.
Imagine it’s night three and you’re home with your newborn but he spent his first two nights in a hospital nursery. In this case, you won’t be as prepared as you would have been had you shared a room with him.
11 You Couldn’t Wait to Meet Her
If you’re like many expectant parents, the last 9 months passed with great anticipation about meeting your little one. Sure, you may have been anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed at times but the overarching feeling was likely one of anticipation and excitement.
Now she’s here, so keep her with you. You brought her into the world. You made it! Now you’re a mom and your new job has begun. You could hardly wait to meet her, so you might think twice about sending her off to a nursery. Keep her with you in the hospital room and revel in the joy. Study her fingers and toes, her button nose, her smell, and her gurgles. Rest when she rests.
Perhaps you tried to get pregnant for a long time and maybe you needed help doing so. Or perhaps it was easy for you. Either way, your body worked a miracle growing an entire human being over the past 9 months. Love every minute of your creation.
10 To Promote Bonding
We all know the importance of establishing that mother-baby bond. Bonding refers to that intense feeling of attachment to, and love for, your newborn. It’s that feeling that makes us go to extreme lengths to protect our offspring and it’s important for many reasons including physical and emotional well-being.
For some, bonding comes easier than it does for others. There is absolutely nothing wrong if it takes you several days or weeks to bond with your baby but regardless, the process can begin from the moment of birth. In fact, there are a lot of ways to facilitate bonding but none of them involve being away from your baby.
Integral activities for mother-baby bonding involve things like nursing, skin to skin contact, eye contact, cuddling, and general touch. Having your baby right there beside you from the beginning naturally facilitates all of these things.
9 So You Can Attend To Him Quickly
If your baby begins to cry and he is right beside you, you can attend to him right away. If he is in the hospital nursery, nurses will do their best to get to him as soon as possible but they will have many other babies to attend to as well.
If your baby is with you, there is little doubt that you will attend to him faster than others would or could. As mentioned earlier, you may not know why he is crying right away but he’ll be comforted by your warmth, your heartbeat, and your voice while you figure it out.
Again, this will facilitate the mother-baby bond and ensure that your baby’s needs are met quickly and by the person best suited for the job--you. While your first night in the hospital together will be a bit of a wake-up call (literally and figuratively), you’ll make it through together.
8 Your Baby Only Knows You
Babies know a little more when they are born than the sound of their mother’s voice and her heartbeat. You will be the single greatest and most effective source of comfort for your newborn.
Imagine the stressful experience of birth for a newborn. It’s tough to know exactly what babies experience during birth but we know for certain they are immediately exposed to lights and sounds they’ve never experienced before--not to mention a drastic temperature change!
Going from the warmth and comfort of a mother’s womb to the harsh exterior of the real world must be very stressful. But the good news is that the baby has gotten to know you before she was born. As your unborn baby was developing, she learned the sound of your voice. This is an important part of baby/mommy bonding because by the time she enters the world, she is attuned to the sound of your voice.
By about 25-26 weeks gestation, your baby will respond to noises she hears outside the womb. Mom’s voice is the clearest because of the vibration that travels down to the baby from inside your body. It has been shown that fetal heart rate slows down in response to mom’s voice, suggesting that not only do they recognize your voice but also feel reassured by it. This is another great reason to keep your baby in the room with you.
7 To Get To Know Him Too
Right after birth is your first opportunity to get to know your baby. You can’t pass that up. Every inch of his body is unknown to you before birth, so enjoy every early minute you have with him. As mentioned earlier, study his fingers and toes, his button nose, his smell, and his gurgles.
You can even start getting attuned to his cries. You might think all cries are the same, but when you really listen to them, you can hear a difference. Believe it or not, babies’ cries actually sound different based on what they need. You’ll have to tune your ear carefully to hear that underlying sound, but once you do, it becomes easier.
You’ll probably also find great joy in seeing which features your baby has inherited from you and his father. He’ll change, of course, but you can still try to figure out who he looks most like.
6 So Your Partner Can Help
If you do have your baby in the hospital room with you, it certainly doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Hopefully, your partner will be there for much of your stay and can also play a role in caring for, and comforting, your little one. Many maternity wards offer cots or reclining chairs so dad can stay, too.
Your husband may have felt a little left out during your pregnancy but he is probably just as excited as you are to meet your newest family member. Having your newborn in your hospital room means he can be hands-on, too. If you are both there, there is no reason to send your newborn to the nursery.
This will also give you an opportunity for the rest you will so crave after labor and give you the peace of mind that your baby is in safe hands with dad.
5 So You Don’t Miss Anything
A lot happens in those first 24 to 48 hours after birth. Baby will experience many things and you probably don’t want to miss any of it. She’ll have her first bath, her first diaper change, and pass her first urine and stool. She’ll also undergo several examinations and/or tests.
Both a pediatrician and an audiologist will most certainly visit your baby for examination. In certain circumstances, your baby may also require a blood test. For example, if mom was Group B Strep positive, the baby may require a blood culture.
Further, moms are also really good at picking up on cues when something is “off”. This instinct seems to be innate to a certain extent and is extremely important when raising children. Our babies come into the world helpless and dependent on mom to keep them safe, warm, and healthy. If the baby and mom are separated at birth, it’s much tougher for a mother’s instinct to kick in--that is, other than to tell mom to get her baby back to her side, of course.
4 So Baby Doesn’t Get Stolen
Earlier we said a “baby swap” is a parent’s worst fear but the reality is having a baby stolen would be even worse. Even if this is extremely unlikely to happen, it’s truly a parent’s worst fear. What better way to ensure that your baby doesn’t get stolen than to have them right beside you at all times.
Does this actually happen? Thankfully not often but it has happened. In fact, several years ago a baby was stolen from a Virginia hospital by a woman posing as a nurse who offered to take a newborn from the mother to the nursery.
In all likelihood, your baby WILL NOT be stolen from the hospital but you may, in fact, have greater peace of mind knowing your baby is right beside you. The hospital staff is obviously extremely vigilant in guarding against this as well, but if rest is possible, you’ll likely rest easier with your beautiful creation right at your side.
3 To Understand What’s Normal
Newborns are wonderful creatures but they do behave differently than you and me. Quite frankly, they can do some strange things. But even if they don’t behave oddly, you still have a lot of adjusting to do to understand what’s normal for your baby.
Why not begin adjusting right away? At least if you have questions, there is expert staff on hand to answer your questions. For example, your baby might get hiccups, sneeze a lot, have baby acne, have crossed eyes, their soft spot might pulsate, and they will cry a lot! Is this all normal? If your baby is in the room with you, you are more likely to witness some of these things so you won’t be surprised when you get home.
Further, the biggest adjustment you’ll need to make is the quantity and quality of sleep you receive. Truth be told, you’ll be tired for weeks, months, and years to come, regardless of whether or not you get a few extra hours of sleep post-birth. It might not be worth sacrificing all of these other great reasons to room-share with your newborn in the hospital just to catch a few extra ZZZZZZZs.
2 The World Health Organization Says So
The World Health Organization and UNICEF launched the Baby-friendly Hospital initiative in 1991. It was put in place as a global effort to implement best practices to support breastfeeding. A core part of this initiative is to facilitate rooming-in, allowing mothers and infants to stay together 24 hours a day in a hospital setting.
While this is a global initiative, hospitals throughout the U.S. have started adopting the practices required to get a Baby-friendly certification via Baby-friendly USA. In order to get the certification, a hospital must meet ten criteria, all of which are focused on encouraging breastfeeding. As a result, rooming-in is central to the initiative. This doesn’t mean that nurseries are being required to close, per se, but rather that a certified hospital follows 10 steps; one of which is practicing rooming-in.
Other steps include having a written breastfeeding policy, helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of birth, training healthcare staff appropriately, and not offering pacifiers or artificial nipples, among other things.
If we are to follow what the WHO suggests, there is no alternative better than rooming-in with your infant.
1 Because It’s Your Right
Ultimately, it’s your choice to have your baby room-in with you or not. Don’t assume that they must be taken to a nursery even if your own mom and grandma told you it’s the norm. While there is a lot of evidence to suggest that what’s best for your baby is to stay by your side, you get to decide this for yourself.
Take advantage of your hospital stay to soak in as much information as you can. You’ll have questions, so it’s a great time to ask them. Also take the opportunity to start to learn what’s normal for your little one. Get to know her gurgles and cries, what she looks like when she’s sleeping, and revel in your little miracle.
Those first 24 to 48 hours are important to establishing a healthy start and are very special, so enjoy them with your baby and your other loved ones. Life is forever different now and although motherhood is thankless at times, your thriving baby will be proof that it’s all worth it.