Whether you’re expecting your first or your fifth (God bless you), chances are that you've been pretty preoccupied thinking about that whole pushing-a-seven-pound-baby-out-of-your-vagina thing. But take a moment, if you will, to think about the aftermath. Because if you deliver in a baby-friendly hospital, then your experience might be a little different from a regular hospital. Here’s what to expect.
What are baby-friendly hospitals? Baby-Friendly is a World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) initiative that now includes almost 500 hospitals in the U.S. The aim is to encourage breastfeeding, and hospitals must subscribe to ten steps in order to receive the designation (here's how to tell if yours has it). Some of these include: Promoting immediate skin-to-skin contact, helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth and practicing rooming in, i.e., allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day while in the hospital (to encourage breastfeeding on demand). Oh, and no pacifiers allowed.
What are some of the pros of choosing a baby-friendly hospital? Breastfeeding is tough (especially if you’ve never fed a human from your boob before) so having trained staff as well as lactation consultants on hand for help and support is pretty neat. And even if those first few days are a bit of a blur (which let’s face it, they will be), a baby-friendly hospital will give you plenty of information about how to get continued breastfeeding support even after you’re discharged.
And are there any drawbacks? While some moms want to have their baby by their side constantly, others would rather take advantage of a hospital’s nursery for some much-needed R&R. And while baby-friendly hospitals are unlikely to deny a new mom’s request for some alone time, they won’t just whisk your newborn away without question either (something you might not be in the mood for after a grueling labor). Some mothers have also spoken out about the pressure and guilt they felt in baby-friendly hospitals to breastfeed.
Bottom line? Baby-friendly hospitals are becoming increasingly popular across the country, and a lot of moms love them. But remember—delivering in a non-baby-friendly hospital doesn’t mean you’re delivering in a hospital that hates babies (um, it’s just a normal hospital). You do you, mama.