The policy aimed to promote breastfeeding. Photo: AP

Newborns fall out of beds at maternity ward

After several newborns fell out of their mothers' beds in maternity wards, Uppsala University Hospital has scrapped its "close to skin" care policy introduced to promote breastfeeding. The policy idea was for babies to have skin to skin contact with their mother during waking hours to help them breastfeed. However, the maternity beds have no side gates and several children have fallen to the floor when exhausted mothers drift into sleep, reports Uppsala's local newspaper UNT.

Ester Ehnsmyr had been awake for almost a day and was tired after giving birth at the University Hospital. She told the newspaper how she fell asleep in the delivery room while she breastfed her daughter Hilda.

"I woke up to a thud and discovered that my child had fallen on the floor". She quickly alerted the staff who examined the child and called the doctor. After several checks and an X-ray showed that Hilda had not received any physical injuries after the fall.

"It was a relief that she was unhurt but I did feel guilty that I had fallen asleep. I felt like a bad parent who exposed my child to danger". Esther Ehnsmyr says that there should be gates on the beds to prevent children from falling onto the floor. She believes that it is common to fall asleep as a mother with her child at the breast after several hours of pain and labour. There was also no cot in the room and Ester Ehnsmyr had to have her baby in the hospital bed the whole time.

Department Head of Uppsala's University Hospital maternity ward, Marianne Gertzell, confirmed to UNT that there have been several incidents where children have fallen from the parental bed. She is unsure whether bed rails can prevent falls.

"Gates are used in other departments. The problem with gates is that they cannot be opened from the inside", she says. According to Marianne Gertzell, the unit does have special cots for each room, but the hospital would prefer that the mother has the child close to her and have skin to skin contact during their waking hours to promote breastfeeding. When parents are sleeping with their baby, the newborn must first be behind a blanket roll in the parental bed, a so-called nest.

The "close to skin" policy was stopped on Friday and now only applies to mothers who are awake and sitting in a chair.

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