In a personal column in the health section of Ynet, clinical psychologist Yair Tzivoni describes his experience in the hospital after his wife gave birth. While she went with a friend to the maternity ward, he brought the new baby to the nursery to await washing, blood tests and immunizations. His own daughter slept, but others screamed. The babies were supervised by one nurse, busy with her routine tasks. She completely ignored the crying babies.
Tzivoni was especially distressed by the cries of one tiny baby attached to a monitor. He cynically suggested that no one was concerned because the monitor didn’t register a problem. Finally, Tzivoni approached the nurse and pointed out that the baby had been crying for forty minutes. The nurse adjusted the position of the baby, who calmed down and fell asleep. Tzivoni also noted that none of the tasks were lifesaving and could have waited for another time (although health authorities might disagree–a blood test could uncover an urgent medical issue).
This morning on Channel Two radio show Seder Hayom, host Keren Neubach interviewed Tzivoni along with a nursing coach and former midwife named Orna Dan. Dan refused to say how many children she had, just that there were a lot and evenly distributed between ages 3 and 24.
Tzivoni strongly objected to the conditions in the maternity ward, where he and his wife had asked for full rooming-in (where the mother and baby stay together day and night). The room contained only an uncomfortable chair next to a narrow bed. He pulled the curtain and slept next to his wife, near the baby in the bassinette. It was like scout camp, because every time someone went to the bathroom or made a slight noise Tzivoni and his wife would wake up.
Tzivoni and his wife left the day after the birth for the “malonit,” a private, hotel-like arrangement right in the hospital. Neither Tzivoni, Dan nor Neubach pointed out that hospitals have a disincentive to improve conditions in maternity wards, because they will lose business for the malonit.
Neubach asked whether full rooming in was encouraged in the hospital. Tzivoni replied that the rooms are not suitable for rooming in as there is no place for a visitor to sit, or for father to stay overnight. Neubach pointed out the conflict between the father, who wants to be with his wife and baby, and the other women in the room (in this case two). She said the system held an anachronistic view of the father’s role.
Dan said that 90% of mothers are not aware of the situation in the nursery, because the baby is washed, calm and sleepy by the time he gets to his mother. The mother wants to nurse, but baby is tired from crying. Neubach pointed out that mothers don’t have energy to go to the nursery and collect the baby, especially when the staff may resist. She herself recalls a nurse telling her to go back to bed, and promising to bring her the baby later. (In my experience the memory of these incidents stay with a mother for many years.)
Dan noted that having the baby nearby does not take a lot of energy, and that mother and baby can rest together. She finally understood the situation after her first home birth when she took the baby to Tipat Halav at three days old for a blood test. The baby cried and cried during the long minutes while the nurse struggled to collect the blood, even though Dan held him the whole time. The baby then slept for eight hours straight. Dan now knows why her older children were so exhausted in the hospital.
Tzivoni quoted a nurse from another hospital, who said that mothers don’t want rooming-in even though the babies are more relaxed and cry much less. [Do mothers know this?]
Dan maintained that mothers rest better with the baby nearby. Newborns sleep so much at the beginning, and caring for the baby is not so difficult that it will prevent her from resting.
Neubach mentioned a mother who approached a nurse because her baby had cried for several hours, and the nurse said to give her 20 milliliters of M* formula–and everything will be okay. She promised to address breastfeeding on a future program.
When Tzivoni asked about the medical procedures, a doctor told him that the newborn doesn’t register pain. Tzivoni claims that the system ignores the baby’s emotional needs, and is only concerned about immunizations and blood tests.
Neubach read a response by email from a woman named Dorit. Before the baby was born, she requested permission for her husband to hold the baby during all of the procedures, and not lay the baby in the bassinette. The hospital granted the request. Dorit wrote that parents need to remember that the baby is theirs, not the hospital’s.
The health ministry’s response was that “hanosei nimtza bebedika,” i.e. the subject is under review. Tzivoni said they are looking into his specific situation, but this situation exists throughout Israel. The ministry did not appoint someone to appear on the program. I can’t really blame them–they would have been lambasted.
Link to Haloscan comments