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Postpartum Period Safety Hazards And Hospital Policies

  • Baby powder should not be freely showered on or near your baby's face. It is dangerous if inhaled and poses a threat to the eyes.
  • All paints used where children will be present must be lead-free. Brain damage has resulted when babies and older children have sucked and chewed on lead-painted surfaces.
  • Crib slats which are more than 2 3/8” apart have caused fatal injuries to babies.
  • If you are bottle feeding, be sure the formula is refrigerated after the can has been opened. After feeding the baby, discard any formula left in the bottle because harmful bacteria may have begun to form in it.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the house.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in a carriage outside a store or out of your sight.
  • Never use plastic bags (such as those used by dry cleaning stores) for the baby to sleep on or near. He or she can pull it over the face and suffocate.
  • Do not purchase dangerous pacifiers - those that are not made of one piece and are pliable and small enough to become lodged in a baby's throat. A safe pacifier is one which is one piece and has a firm, round shield which cannot go beyond the baby's lips.
  • After a feeding, it is wise to burp the baby before placing him or her in the crib, and then only in a belly-down position, so that if any milk is later burped up, it can drain out of the mouth. Lying face up there is the danger of the baby choking on whatever comes up.
  • Never leave your baby unattended on the changing table or on a bed or couch.
  • Do not place a pillow in the crib or carriage.

For the majority of mothers today, the postpartum period begins in the hospital. Your experience with that institution - the attitudes and policies of its medical and nursing staff - can influence the kind of postpartum period you will have. If your feelings weren't considered if you are treated as just another bed in Room 211, if a nurse argues that the baby she is offering you to feed “is yours!” but you know it is not and she refuses to look at the ID anklet to prove it, if you're told to stop crying because “you're not a baby and you should be happy you have a healthy child,” if you are told by a nurse that “your poor baby must be starving, so stop breastfeeding and give him a bottle” - such behavior can be traumatic and difficult to handle during the very shaky postpartum period.

If you have had a good hospital experience (i.e., if the nurses were supportive, understanding, gentle, and kind if hospital policies were “humanized”), be sure to write letter to the hospital's administrator and the director of obstetrics, telling them how pleased you were. If you were not pleased, also write a letter stating what bothered you and what you would like to see changed by the next time you have a baby.

Since it means so much for the postpartum parent to have a good start from the very beginning, look into the benefits offered by other hospitals. Join local groups working toward getting more family-centered maternity care policies adopted. Join with us, with childbirth educators, parents, and health care professionals who are calling for the hospital policies listed below which are being adopted in more and more hospitals across the country as they become responsive to consumer needs.

  • Prenatal tour of labor and delivery rooms and nursery.
  • Childbirth preparation classes available in hospital or at other certified classes - to prepare for vaginal or Cesarean delivery, hospital procedures, the newborn, and postpartum
  • Father or any other coach the woman chooses present in labor and delivery rooms
  • Wrists unrestrained on the delivery table if the mother is awake
  • Baby examined within the mother's view in delivery room
  • Eye treatment to baby delayed until attempts at mother/infant and father/infant eye contact are made
  • Breastfeeding and/or holding and getting to know the baby in delivery room or recovery room
  • Rooming-in available
  • Sibling visitation permitted
  • All-day father visitation
  • Postpartum class or rap group
  • Infant care class
  • Supportive of breastfeeding

Because yours may be an unexpected Cesarean delivery, you may want to know that the hospital you will be using is sensitive to the special needs of Cesarean mothers. The following is a list of hospital policies recommended by Cesarean support groups such as CBA and C/SEC:

  • Tour of Cesarean delivery room and nursery
  • Adequate preparation for Cesarean childbirth in standard childbirth preparation classes (including indications, anesthetics, procedures before, during, and after surgery)
  • Special classes to prepare parents who expect Cesarean deliveries
  • Father present in Cesarean delivery room
  • After delivery and if not in immediate danger, baby placed in father's or mother's arms or on mother's shoulder for contact and bonding
  • One or both arms free from restraint after delivery so that mother can touch newborn or hold him or her at her shoulder
  • Baby not routinely placed under observation for eight to twenty-four hours in a special care unit, but each baby's need for such care judged on his or her own condition at birth
  • Baby examined within the mother's view in delivery room
  • If father is not present for delivery, he is kept informed
  • Breastfeeding and/or holding and getting to know baby in delivery room or recovery room if mother feels up to it
  • Cesarean mother assigned to a room with other Cesarean mothers if at all possible
  • Cesarean mother assigned to a room as close to the nursery as possible, minimizing extent of walking
  • Cesarean mother assigned to electronically operated bed if at all possible for greater self-mobility
  • Cesarean mother is given help with care of the infant at her bedside
  • Sibling visitation (Cesarean mother usually remains in the hospital away from her other children for five to ten days)
  • Ready availability of wheelchair for Cesarean mother to visit her baby in intensive care unit on another floor
  • All-day father visitation
  • Hospital stay shortened if desired and if medically permissible
  • Cesarean couples to be referred to local Cesarean support groups for rap sessions, etc.

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