Do we need to care more for first-time mums and their babies?

November 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

There was a time – 20+ years ago – when first-time mums were encouraged to stay in hospital for 5 to 7 days.  As a midwife, I couldn’t wait to get off the ward and back home, but looking back I think I gained a lot by being there for 6 days when I had my first child.  I was on a four-bedded ward and we were shown how to bath a baby – in a relaxed manner.  There was also help and support with breastfeeding and salt baths run as often as you liked to help heal those who had perineal stitches.  There were plenty of pillows and foam rings for those who were sore and a general sense of camaraderie on the ward.  The downside was the restricted visiting – I think it was 2 to 6 pm.  How things have changed!  It’s certainly true that childbirth is not an illness, so many more births could take place at home.  I think the main problem for mothers today is that there is not enough support in the first 10 days.  Midwives have a heavy caseload in the community, and just don’t always have the time to help establish breastfeeding, to demonstrate bathing, and to reassure a mother with a fretful, crying baby.  Maybe we should have a proper system of postnatal care – so those who lack family support in those first few weeks can be helped by a doula or some other trained person.

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