Montreal hospital to introduce 'quiet time' in maternity ward

St-Mary's Hospital in Montreal will become the first hospital in Canada to implement a daily "quiet time" in its maternity ward to give frazzled parents of newborns a bit of a break.

St-Mary’s Hospital would be the first in Canada to dim lights, suspend all visits for 90 minutes a day

Expectant mothers go into labour before 5:00 AM on April 26 should head to Royal Victoria Hospital; mothers who go into labour after that should head straight to the new superhospital. (Archives/Radio-Canada)

St-Mary's Hospital in Montreal will become the first hospital in Canada to implement a daily "quiet time" in its maternity ward to give frazzled parents of newborns a bit of a break.

The hospital is teaming up with researchers from McGill University to launch the project. The idea is to set aside 90 minutes each afternoon where lights are dimmed, the intercom is turned off, and visits from nurses, doctors and orderlies are suspended except for emergencies.

Marie-France Brizard, the manager of St-Mary's maternal and child care program, says parents' main complaints are usually about noise and constant visits.

"In the literature it says that a mother is interrupted about 53 times during a 12-hour period," said Brizard.

"There are so many people going in and out: changing their garbage, taking their food trays, pediatricians, nurses. It makes a lot of interruptions."

Brizard says visits from excited family members anxious to see new babies can also be a problem.

"They feel like they have to come see the new baby, and sometimes the mothers feel bad to say no. With this the new mothers will feel empowered hopefully, they'll have another reason to tell their families to leave them to rest a little bit."

More noise means more stress

Over the last few weeks, Safina Adatia, a graduate student in family medicine at McGill and one of the researchers who's helping to set up the project, has been measuring decibel levels in the maternity ward.

Adatia says the World Health Organization recommends a level of 30 to 40 decibels for maternity wards  about the same noise level as a quiet street.  She says the maternity ward at St-Mary's regularly exceeds that.

"There's a lot of stress and anxiety when there's a lot of noise happening, so having an actual set amount of time will help show mothers that it's important to set aside an hour or two hours a day to make your own self-care really important," Adatia said.

"Reducing stress and anxiety during that time can lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and generally just improve the mood and create more bonding time and attention with the baby."

Mothers will be encouraged to schedule their feedings outside of the quiet time, so that they can be sure to dedicate that time to taking care of themselves, taking a nap, or having a nice uninterrupted cuddle with the new little one. Adatia says its important for new dads to take time out to rest as well.

Brizard says she hopes new parents take the idea home with them.

"They'll see the benefits of it, and then at home they'll also try to implant it in their routine."

The hospital will study data gathered by Adatia and other researchers before implementing the new “quiet time” program in the spring.


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