24 January 2023

The problem is not rooming-in but the loneliness of mothers

After the sad story of the baby who died next to his mother at the Pertini in Rome, for some the solution is to keep the babies in the nurseries and not in the room. But rooming-in was strongly advocated by women who used to be separated from their babies in hospital. It is, if anything, a question of allowing new mothers to have a spouse or wife to assist them. Especially in times of understaffing
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Starting with the painful affair of the dead baby at the Pertini hospital in Rome -probably accidental suffocation, the judiciary will ascertain the causes: it could also be 'cot death' or something else- many and many conclude that rooming-in is a dangerous and wrong practice and that children should stay in nurseries.

I do, however, recall that in the past, women have struggled a lot to get rooming-in and for more than obvious reasons: not to be separated from the newborn after the long nine months, not to hinder the development of attachment and the possibility of breastfeeding right away as was the case when women gave birth at home and the newborn stayed with them with the assistance of grandmothers, sisters and friends. I did not have rooming-in when I gave birth, and I am still furious about the separation.
Also breastfeeding in bed, which is considered a dangerous practicefor homebirths -who were not 'lifted' immediately and remained immobile for days- was the norm. What would not be normal, and still is not, is to leave mother and child alone and without adequate careWhen my brother was born, I myself, who was still very young, was in charge of providing the minimum support.

It is the mothers' loneliness that is the big mistake, not rooming-in. A woman who has just given birth needs care, closeness and affection, even if everything has gone smoothly and she is well. The baby must be taken out of her arms when she needs to rest and think about something else. What is needed then are not nurseries, but a person to stand beside them -the child's father, grandmother, aunt, friend- especially in a dramatic situation of shortage of medical and paramedical staff like that experienced today not only in obstetrics wards but in any ward, starting with emergency rooms.

In Lombardy, for example, a provision was recently approved that allows relatives of patients admitted to emergency room astanterie -where unfortunately one often stays for a long time-.to stay close to their loved one, particularly if elderly or frail. This is the direction in which to move: obtain the possibility of a relative being able to stay in the ward next to the new mother and provide her with all the necessary assistance. The Covid issue cannot stand in the way any longer: with swab and mask there are all the necessary safety conditions.

Then there is the -huge and general- issue of midwifery violence, today aggravated by staff shortages. But here let us limit ourselves to this aspect.

Marina Terragni


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