A place to bond

The first bonding moments between strangers embarking together on a lifelong journey begin in one of three cozy recesses of the new Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge.

The rooms, known as “bonding rooms,” found in the hospital’s third floor nurseries, provide a haven for adoptive parents to connect with their new infants in a quiet, secluded space — separate from the baby’s birth mother.

“The rooms help the adoptive parent begin to feel an emotional ownership of the child,” said Kitzia Baxter, social worker at Woman’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “It validates them as the parents to be, and most important, it lets them begin to learn baby care with the help of the nurses.”

The St. Elizabeth Foundation allies with Woman’s Hospital in managing adoptions and realized the need to improve the atmosphere for birth mothers, adopting parents and newborns after childbirth, said Teri Casso, the foundation’s executive director.

Woman’s Hospital responded by including plans for bonding rooms at its new location on Airline Highway which opened August 5. The original Woman’s Hospital housed one bonding room but was inefficient in providing a worthwhile experience to new families, Baxter said.

One of the new bonding rooms has been named in honor of Laura Quinn, a St. Elizabeth Foundation volunteer who died on Jan. 26, 2011, and provided cradle care for more than 40 adopted babies in 10 years.

Quinn, along with her husband, Michael Quinn, cared for babies during their transitions to their new homes or in a contested adoption where there was a question about whether a baby would be able to join his or her adoptive parents immediately after being discharged from the hospital, Casso said.

Adoptions were more “closed” in past years, said Baxter, so adoptive parents weren’t allotted much time, if any, with their child until the newborn was discharged. But with the advent of “open adoption,” adoptive parents have a relationship with the biological parents from the start through labor, she added.

“It allows the adoptive parents to get to know their baby the first three days and share that experience with the birth mother,” Baxter said. “A lot of times we have all of (the parents) taking turns with the baby, so the bonding rooms are just a place for (adoptive parents) to land when the birth mother is resting.”

If bonding rooms didn’t exist, adoptive parents could connect with their child only in the birth mother’s presence, Baxter said.

Casso stressed the importance of these initial moments of bonding between the new family because one of the rooms’ guiding purposes is positively to affect the child and parents’ long-term relationship by ensuring the three make a connection early on.

Since the bonding rooms are located inside of the nursery, nurses are at hand to provide adoptive parents with instructions on baby care that only birth mothers received in the past, Baxter said.

“If you have a brand new adoptive mom — she’s never in here by herself,” Baxter said. “The tech and nurse are always going to be here, and she can leave the hospital knowing as much as we teach every mom, which adoptive moms used to miss out on.”