Almost immediately after birth, Layla, 7 pounds 4 ounces, lay draped on her father's bare chest in the delivery room at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News. "It was a little bit different. I thought it was pretty nice," says William Pierce, who was in the room throughout the delivery. "The other one, I didn't get to hold him right away," he says, referring to his 2-year-old son William, Jr.
A new "Magic Hour" policy in the labor and delivery rooms at Bon Secours' hospitals aims to capture all the benefits of the first hour of life for babies and parents. "Babies are at their most alert in the first hour of life. It's the best time to bond," says Robin Johnson, a registered nurse and director for women's and children's services at Mary Immaculate.
Instituted system-wide by Bon Secours on Nov. 1, the Magic Hour gives new parents the opportunity to have uninterrupted time for bonding, using skin-to-skin contact. "It's the best resource for keeping the baby warm. It's a quicker transition. There's no swaddling, it's straight skin-to-skin. The mothers typically regulate their temperature — or we offer them to the dad as an option," says Johnson.
Previous practice called for nurses to whisk newborn babies away to the nursery where they'd bathe them and perform the necessary assessments. Now they just dry off the baby, put a hat on its head and hand it over to a parent. "The bath doesn't have to take place for hours," says Johnson. And when it does, it's in the room with the parents, who may even assist with it.
For Tricia-Ann Mackplaza-Pierce, the new policy was one of several positive changes she experienced with Layla's Dec. 7 birth. "I did stuff differently with this one," she says. "We waited until the baby was born to find out the sex — and I had an epidural, my first ever, that was good!"
A Hampton resident, Mackplaza-Pierce delivered her two older children, daughter Koral, 9, and William Jr., at different hospitals; her second child was stillborn at 26 weeks.
During this pregnancy and delivery, everything went smoothly. She had weekly ultrasounds in the last trimester and when she reached 39 weeks, the baby was induced. She went to the hospital at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday and delivered at 1:46 p.m. after pushing for about 10 minutes through just three or four contractions. "I was happy to have her so quickly," says Mackplaza-Pierce. "With my son I was pushing for three hours."
She also really enjoyed "the quiet after the storm" provided by the Magic Hour policy. "It was different. I really liked it. They dried her off, then put her on me first. Then, my husband was sitting there with his shirt off, holding her against his chest. It was really nice for us as far as bonding goes."
The staff quickly left the room — "they just disappeared" — leaving the trio together. That gave the Pierces time to sift through the names they had at the ready. "We had a bunch. We wanted to hold her and see what suited her. She's kind of quiet and laidback," says Tricia-Ann. That contrasted with her experience with her son who was taken to the nursery immediately after birth. "With Willie I missed out on those first moments," she says.
She also appreciated the hospital's emphasis on the couple, recalling that when her older children were born she had too many people in her room and she didn't know how to let her well-wishers know that she needed some space.
She praises Mary Immaculate's "quiet time" policy. "Between 1 and 3:30 p.m. they don't let anyone come to your room. It's another time that it's just you and your baby. We just sat there with her. We could enjoy the baby," she says.
Both the immediate skin-to-skin contact and the quiet times are intended to promote breast-feeding, says hospital spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky. Breast-feeding has proven to have multiple benefits for both mother and child. "In just one month, we've seen a transition of fewer breast-feeding issues. We'll do our own study on the increased success," says Johnson, noting that there are about 1,600 babies born at Mary Immaculate each year, and 75 percent are breastfed.
Like her siblings, Layla is a voracious eater, says Pierce. She nurses her every two or three hours, except for one 4-hour stretch in the early morning, and supplements her feedings with an occasional bottle. "She only cries when she's hungry," she says.
Through the hospital's rooming-in policy, she got used to Layla's rhythms and schedule. "It helps families learn the cues and be a little more comfortable. They recognize a normal cry and what noises the baby makes in the night," says Johnson.
At home with the children, Mackplaza-Pierce doesn't have the luxury of enforced quiet times, but she has been pleasantly surprised by how helpful and caring Koral and William Jr., have been. "Between all of us she has a lot of people who hold her and play with her," she says.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun