Women’s Hospital Center Devalues Mothers

My friend, visiting a relative in Beilinson hospital in Petach Tikva, saw a series of posters promoting the women’s center there. Each poster contained a photo of a patient along with a quote from a staff member. Under the photo of a newborn baby, with an adult’s hand placing a pacifier in its mouth, the following caption appeared: תני לא חום ואהבה ואנחנו ניתן את השאר. “Give him warmth and love and I will take care of the rest.” The quote is from Bracha Gal, head of the nursing department.

How exactly is a mother supposed to give warmth and love to a baby when she is separated from him? The head of the nursing department should know that pacifiers for newborns interfere with breastfeeding and are against the recommendations of the Israeli Health Ministry and the World Health Organization. How much warmth and love can one or two staff members give to a nursery full of screaming babies? Babies, especially newborns, belong with their mothers.

As a breastfeeding counselor, I deal with the aftermath of poor hospital policy (to be fair I don’t always hear the success stories) and everything the baby has been “given” by the hospital staff including unnecessary formula, pacifiers, denial of access to his mother, and poor breastfeeding advice. The results are often jaundice, low milk supply, engorgement, sore nipples, and worst of all –exemplified by the poster’s caption–loss of a mother’s confidence in her ability to nurture her baby.

Now is time for Israeli hospitals to get on board with the UNICEF/World Health Organization’ s Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Here are the ten required steps:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half-hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants.
  • Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice rooming in – that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

No Israeli hospital currently meets these standards.


  1. I experienced a great deal of inconsistency on nursing when I had a premature C-section birth 11 years ago. The baby was in the NICU for a while and was not able to nurse at the beginning. I pumped milk to be fed her in bottles, but once she got a bit stronger I came in to actually nurse her, too. The lactations consultant nurse would let me sit with her for as long as it took. Other nurses, though, insisted on sticking to a schedule that would not extend the nursing time. Their preference was for the quicker bottle. That was in Einstien, which offered pretty good care.

  2. SephardiLady says

    Sorry to hear about the Israeli experience.

    I have had only good experiences with nursing. I had a c-section and wasn’t able to nurse until many, many hours later when I awoke from the gases and was semi-recovered. The hospital sent lactation consultants to my room and gave me brochures and info, including a number for county consultants. And, my pediatric office has a lactation consultant on staff.

    The hospital brought the baby into my room at every cry and made sure to wake me for feedings.

    Fortunately, baby and I were naturals and didn’t have any issues. But, the support was fantasic!

  3. mother in israel says

    Thanks for sharing your story. I can only imagine how traumatic that NICU experience must have been for you. Too bad that the staff’s support was uneven.

    Ideally, the baby should be with the mother and not brought for feedings because babies should eat as soon as they show early feeding signs. Crying is a late sign of hunger.

    A c-section makes it more difficult because the mother often needs help to care for the baby, but there are hospitals that offer rooming-in after c-sections. I know of people who had a family member stay with them to help. There are a lot of factors that affect breastfeeding success and many women overcome them, as you overcame the feeding delay after birth to have a positive experience. It sounds like a big factor for you was the support and encouragement you got at the hospital.

    There are a few lactation consultants in hospitals here and a few who work in health funds, but most women need to hire privately if they want one.

  4. SephardiLady says

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t get out of bed or walk. So, rooming in was not a great option since I had to call support staff just to lift the baby. It seems like the baby always arrived asleep and was placed in my lap.

    Fortuantely, everyone took to nursing so naturally that it was miraculous.

  5. mother in israel says

    In Israel most hospitals want the babies to be in the nursery at night, and they won’t bring the baby to the mother at all. So if the mother can’t get up and walk, and it might be some distance, the baby usually gets formula at night despite the mother’s wishes. Ideally there should be enough staff to help a mother after a c/s take care of the baby in her own room, if she chooses.

    In some ways the situation in Israel is better than in the US in that mothers are expected to nurse their babies in the hospital, and there is a very high initiation rate.

  6. I wish hospitals were pro-motherhood too! Is it only the hospitals though? In a country where mothers are practically forced to work out of the home, infants and toddlers are dropped off at massive daycare centers from morning til evening and kindergartens run until 3:30 in the afternoon…. and kids are still schlepped off to daycare after that until 5:00…

    Makes me sad.

    I have rooming in at Hadassah Ein Karem when I give birth and no one touches my baby!

  7. mother in israel says

    In my town all the public ganim end at 1:20 each day, although more and more of them are then shlepped to after-school care. The trend in the elementary schools is to have after-school programs, but they’re only till 4PM around here. Grandma picks them up, I guess, if the parents aren’t home yet.

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. Oy, that’s so sad.
    I don’t know if you have done this or not, but maybe you could start an awareness group and little by little change things for the good.

  9. mother in israel says

    Thank you Malka for stopping by and for your comment!

    I do support breastfeeding mothers and lead a support group in my community. There is always more to do though!!

  10. I know this was posted a while ago but I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to put in my 2 agurot:)
    When my first child (now 11) there was much less awareness about breastfeeding in general in this country and unfortunately I myself knew little about it and got ZERO support from the hospital. Breastfeeding was only given lip service – it’s “the best” but only as long as it is completely problem-free. As soon as the tiniest glitch appears, they all whip out the Materna. I had many many (unnecessary!) hurdles, but did manage to breastfeed til 14 months!
    I now have 4 children TG and I see with each baby how the situation is slowly improving, especially among mothers’ desire to breastfeed, which in turn drags the reluctant medical establishment into the modern era. Unfortunately a mother still has to put up quite a fight to get what she wants… but I have discovered, if you are stubborn, it’s possible.
    I will not be separated from my baby after birth. Babies #2 and 3 were born in Misgav Ladach, which was wonderful. They were truly the model birth hospital. When they closed down I was so distraught; I had no idea where to have baby #4! I had to pick another hospital, but they only had rooming-in during the day. Despite all the staff telling me “there’s nothing you can do” when I was there for the hospital tour, I was adamant—after all, this is MY child, and I should have a choice! I faxed the head of the department, explained that I did not want to be separated from my child at all, and requested special permission that the baby stay by my bed at night as well as during regular rooming-in hours. As a result I eventually received a letter with this permission granted (stating as long as everything is OK medically with me and the baby), which I brought with me to the hospital and which was attached to my medical folio.
    It is a shame that this is considered “special treatment”, but nevertheless is a viable option every mother should be aware of. I learned the hard way that every patient has rights and in the end, the hospital wants my “business” as well, which can be used as a bargaining chip. When the hospitals catch on to this is what mothers demand, things will improve.

  11. mother in israel says

    Welcome Anonymous,

    Kol hakavod to you for doing the right thing and we can all learn from your experience.

  12. I stumbled upon your blog while googling for a place to donate my expressed breast milk. I have six bottles (each with no less than 100 ml, some with as much as 140) that are no more than 6 weeks old (some only a week) that I can;t use because we figured out my baby’s colic/diarrhea/vomiting were in response to my eating dairy. Any advice where to donate it? I’d hate to waste it.

    Secondly, I gave birth in Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. They were fantastic. They really encourage rooming in. In fact, during the day the babies have to be with their mothers (unless you need a quick break) and outside the nursery they have a huge poster with the results of their study on how much better babies do with full rooming in.

    The nurses were all knowledgeable on breastfeeding, many were lactation consultants in addition to nurses, and lactation consultants circulated throughout the day checking on the new moms. All moms basically have to attend a lecture on breastfeeding (they do it in the heder ohel, during breakfast, so if you want to eat, you need to hear the lecture).

    Anyway, I guess some hospitals here in Israel are good in that department.

  13. mother in israel says

    Hi Noa,

    I’m glad you had a good experience at Meir. I believe that at one time they had the Baby Friendly designation but they lost it.

    A lot of mothers advertise on parenting forums (Tapuz, Ynet, starmed etc.) when looking for somewhere to donate their expressed milk. Be sure to say that you were eating dairy as a good number of babies needing expressed milk are also allergic.
    I hope your own baby’s symptoms have disappeared!

    Hag Sameach and hope to see you again.

  14. I had rooming in at Ein Karem, and it was great. My cousin had it for her first, but for her second, there was no room in the rooming-in section, and they were separated.
    Anyone know of a way to ensure this doesn’t happen to me next time?


  1. […] separation between mothers and babies in Israeli hospitals. If the hospitals would introduce Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative policies, with mothers and babies together 24 hours a day, the health system would save money. Being left […]