Bringing Back the Benefits of Rooming In

Better Living
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When Preston Jones and Sara Spivy gave birth to their son, Shiloh, they say there was no question that their son would stay in the hospital room with them.

“I wouldn’t have come to Northwestern if they didn’t let us,” Spivy says. “I feel very strongly that having the baby in the room with you sets the stage for months to come.”

While rooming in is becoming the norm in hospitals across the U.S., it has a history that dates back as far as the early 1900s. Prior to the 1900s, most women gave birth at home and therefore, the babies stayed with them at all times. However, during the 1920s, hospital births became more popular and were viewed as a way to give mothers the rest they needed after birth. Around World War II, rooming in gained popularity due to an increase in the spread of infections. Many felt that keeping a large number of babies in close proximity to each other would spread infection and disease.

In the 1970s, studies found that infant mortality actually increased when hospitals were built in developing countries. While the survival rate of mothers increased, the women were unable to lactate if they were separated from their babies and a lack of clean water meant formula often wasn’t an option.

“Nature is not so cruel as to make a woman lactate when there is no baby,” Dr. Malika Shah of Northwestern Memorial Hospital says.

As a result, UNICEF and the World Health Organization launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, aimed at encouraging successful breastfeeding. Rooming in has been gaining in popularity ever since.

“Having your baby go on your chest within the first hour of life and nurse real early is highly correlated with successful breastfeeding,” Shah says.

Below are just some of the benefits Shah says can come as a result of rooming in:

  • Higher rates of successful breastfeeding, which has been shown to lessen the risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections as well as reducing risk of obesity and type II diabetes
  • Greater opportunity for “kangaroo care” or skin-to-skin contact, which helps babies regulate things such as breathing and temperature. Bonus: babies enjoy skin-to-skin contact
  • Potential annual savings of 13 billion healthcare dollars if successful breastfeeding is encouraged and babies are breastfed for six months



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