"She's about ready," said new mother Amy Stelter in her room at Doctors Hospital. A new policy starting today will ensure she has the time, and the privacy, to continue breastfeeding at the hospital and perhaps catch up a little on sleep.
The hospital is calling it "Nap Time," a two-hour stretch of quiet time in the afternoon, when "Do Not Disturb" signs will be posted on the Women's Center's doors and staff try not to enter rooms and interrupt new moms, allowing them time to sleep, breastfeed or bond with their babies. That can be significant because the interruptions come very frequently -- a study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing found a new mother is interrupted an average of 54 times in a 12-hour period on the day after giving birth.
That doesn't surprise Stelter.
"Within 20 minutes, two different nurses, housekeeping, my doctor and her doctor came in, all while I'm trying to nurse her," she said. "That's just a lot."
It will take some change in culture but the hospital was already trying to "cluster" visits to the mother's room to cut down on the number of visits, said Annette Repko, the director of women's services at Doctors.
"So we try to do things like go in and assess the mother and the baby at the same time. And check on pain medications at the same time," she said. "They try to do everything in one visit as much as they can."
Starting new mothers on breastfeeding while in the hospital is "extremely important," said Sally Wood, lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Doctors. "What I tell moms is babies are born with instincts, moms have the instincts, but it is a learned thing, learning to breastfeed. For many moms that are having babies now, their mothers didn't breastfeed so they don't know how to help. They need us to help get them going."
The constant interruptions, however, can make that difficult, especially with friends and family constantly stopping by, Repko said.
"It's a happy event. Everybody is happy," she said. "All of their friends and family, they all want to be part of this."
New mothers can have a hard time asking for the needed time alone, Wood said.
"Especially these young moms just don't have the voice to say, 'Don't come see me today. I need to rest,' " she said. "They don't want to turn people away."
Over the years, nurses have tried to help, Wood said.
"Nurses will come up with code words," she said. " 'If you have too many people in the room, call me and ask for some orange juice. And then I'll know that means I need to shoo everybody out.' Because the mom feels like she can't do it."
Having that time alone to bond is important to bond, to learn the baby's feeding cues, and to potentially nap, which is also important for breastfeeding, Wood said.
"You need patience to breastfeed," she said. "And you can't be very patient when you are exhausted."
Interruptions affect mother and baby during breastfeeding, Stelter said.
"It's hard for her, more than anything," she said. "I've learned that you have to focus on what you're doing. It's a learning process for both the mother and the baby. She's done OK, she's not too jumpy. But it can be distracting. It's distracting for me too."
Breastfeeding can have lifelong benefits for babies, such as a decreased risk for childhood obesity and respiratory infections, and for mothers in a decreased risk of breast cancer and diabetes, Wood said.
"Probably the top one that the moms love is they lose weight faster," she said.
With five hours sleep total the last two nights, Stelter and her husband, Josh, are kidded that they might finally get some sleep at home.
"We'll see," she said.