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Postpartum: A Good Night’s Rest?

Postpartum: A Good Night’s Rest?

My toddler son was fooling around on the iPad this weekend when the strangest thing happened. He inadvertently started a slideshow of photos from his birth and first few days as a newborn baby. I almost didn’t recognize him with his arguably chubby thighs on the scale in the delivery room. Within a week he would more closely resemble a chicken. But seeing that photo brought out what must have been a deeply seeded resentment I harbored over a guilt trip I received in the hospital when he was first born.

infant sleeping in the hospital

When my kids were born, I was given a choice in the hospital. They could sleep in my room or in the nursery where a neonatal nurse would care for them and feed them (or bring them in to nurse, though that wasn’t the situation in my case). When my firstborn arrived, many people, including our childbirth class teacher, suggested we have her sleep in my room the first night and in the nursery the second night. It’s the last good night’s rest you’ll get, other mothers advised. But I couldn’t do it. And didn’t really need to. I had had a good night’s sleep the night before, and she was born at a very civil 2:20 p.m. She was our only baby. My husband slept in the hospital room with us, and we were pumped with adrenaline.

When my son was born, it was a different story altogether. I had a scheduled induction and had to arrive at the hospital at 7:30 a.m. In part because the hospital pharmacy was slow, they didn’t even start anything until after noon. My son was born at 1:15 a.m. Let me tell you, that stinks. If your baby is born in the middle of the night, you will not sleep for 48 hours straight. Between all the postpartum care, transferring you to another floor of the hospital and all the other stuff that happens, you’ve just thought about closing your eyes when your first visitors arrive. My mother and daughter were the first to come, and then in the evening my many sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews followed. They stayed well beyond the time my husband left to be home with our daughter, and I could barely lift my eyelids to bid them farewell. My son stayed in the room with me that night because I felt it was the “right” thing to do. After he woke for the third time, I just brought him into the hospital bed with me that night, where, in a move that I am guessing is against all sorts of hospital policies, we co-slept. It probably wasn’t the safest choice, but it was the only thing between me and insanity. The next night it was clear my son would be sleeping in the nursery.

It was close to midnight when I sent my son to sleep in the nursery. The nurse asked what time I wanted them to bring him back. I told her 8:00 a.m., but if I was awake earlier, I would come get him. I knew my husband wouldn’t be back to the hospital until 9:30 a.m. or so, and I was desperate for sleep. The nurse was lovely, and I was comforted by her as she took my son for the night. Then, at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, a different nurse practically shoved my son’s incubator, with him inside, into my room, and said with an annoyed attitude, “he cried all night,”  and then she promptly left. Never have I been so wracked with guilt or felt so shamefully judged. Clearly, I thought, women who choose to send their babies to the nursery are considered to be second-class moms, and those whose babies are fussy are pains in the a** to boot.

Later that day we would find out my son had a large hole in his heart. After the shock of the news wore off, bizarrely enough, the next thought that went through my head was this,”Would that nurse who was so ticked off that my son cried all night feel any different if she new he was about to be diagnosed with heart disease?” All that guilt she loaded on me turned to virtual daggers coming out of my eyes. I had been a mom for four years by that point, and this was my first lioness moment. Luckily, I never did see that nurse again. But I also never again felt an ounce of guilt for my decision to have him sleep in the nursery that night.

How about you? Would you, could you, did you have your baby sleep in the hospital nursery? Was, or is, guilt a factor in your decision?



  1. Mary

    Mary November 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

    The first time I delivered, I planned to send my daughter to the nursery. My sister had given me similar advice as you received… let them take her for at least a few hours so you can sleep. (She was born at 6:30pm). Unfortunately, at the hospital I delivered, the nurses response to this request was “sure we will take her but understand we will give her formula. If you plan to breastfeed her exclusively, she can’t stay in the nursery.” Ugh!!! I was exhausted and since formula was not in my “plan” she stayed with me. Like you, I too ended up co-sleeping with my daughter. It was probably about 3 in the morning when I put her in my bed and not exactly my first choice. My daugther had been crying all night and I had no idea what to do. It was the nurse that put her in my bed and told me I wouldn’t crush her. Now THAT was probably against hospital policy. There were so many challenges with my first and the hospital where I delivered. But by the time my 2nd came along, the hospital policies changed and I can’t tell you how incredibly different my 1st experience was from my 2nd. My son who was born at 1:30am did spend his first “night” in the nursery (well about 5 hours) and the nurses were always willing to have him even just to let me shower. No formula required! I’m glad I gave the hospital a second chance!

  2. Diana November 14, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I had my son sleep in the nursery I did feel a little guilty but I was in so much pain after my c section and swollen that I needed the rest. I spent 3 days in the hospital and my son slept in the nursery all 3 days : / I would get him in the morning and he would stay with me all day.

  3. Sara November 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

    My son was born at 1:17 pm so I had a pretty good nights sleep the night before. Since I was breast feeding the nurses said that he could either sleep in the room with me in his hospital bassinet or in the nursery. They advised that if he began crying and acted like he wanted fed they would bring him into me from the nursery to feed then take him back after he was done( it was 2 times throughout the night). So I got some decent sleep and still got to breastfeed.

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  5. Lena November 21, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I delivered my two children at different hospitals and neither hospital had a choice of keeping the baby in the nursery for the night, even though I would have gladly accepted an opportunity. My first child was born a “late term preemie” just before 36 weeks and didn’t have medical issues requiring intervention except low blood sugar, so he was sleeping in the room with me even though I had an emergency C-section and extensive tissue repair from cervical tears. Needless to say, I was pooped and could only wish for a couple hours of sleep, but between nurses coming every two hours to check my stats and nurses coming in every three hours to check on my son and give him glucose, pumping, feeding, diaper changes every hour, and the pressure stockings on my legs, I never got more than 15 minutes of sleep at a stretch. There was a choice of formula-feeding while I had procedures done and baby was hungry. By the time we were being discharged, I was falling asleep on my feet. I was a hysterical mess. It was BAD. I wish I could have had an option of keeping my son at the nursery so I wouldn’t be so drained going home as a first-time mom.
    With my second child, I had preterm labor and modified bed rest for weeks prior to her scheduled C-section but since I knew when she’ll be coming and didn’t want to use up my maternity leave at work, I spent most of my time before the C-section cleaning, spending quality time with my son, preparing everything that I wouldn’t have time to do once I’d have two kids under 2 – when I got to the hospital, I was basically expecting not to have any rest again and was having panic attacks about it. However, the second C-section was much easier and I had no problem getting out of bed, breastfeeding, changing diapers, etc. The second hospital didn’t even have an option of giving the baby formula unless you or baby had medical reasons not to breastfeed, and taking the baby to the nursery was strictly for checkups or if you wanted to take a shower and didn’t have anyone else in the room at the time. It was fine, probably because I didn’t go through a 48-hour delivery attempt like I did with my first and I actually did get a few hours of sleep the night before – plus, my first child was still not sleeping through the night and I was used to sleep interruptions.
    I wouldn’t feel guilty about keeping the baby in the nursery so the mom can get some rest. As for nurses passing judgment on moms who choose the nursery, I think that’s just poor ethics – nothing like guilt-tripping a woman who just went through childbirth…

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