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New mothers are being offered incentives to leave hospital early following the birth of their babies, in an attempt to free up beds more quickly.
Available from a growing number of hospitals, including Melbourne’s Cabrini and Saint Vincent’s, enticements include $200 shopping vouchers, home delivered meals, hotel stays, cleaning and nappies, plus home visits by midwives.
The offers have stirred up debate with many questioning the ethics of using financial reward to encourage new mums to go out on their own, potentially before they are ready.
“I think incentives would come in under an ethical issue and as health professionals we would discourage the use of such things,” says Midwife Zoe Ryan.
“It’s in the woman’s best interest to stay in hospital until she is comfortable going home.
“She needs to know the basics of breastfeeding, bathing the baby, nappy change, settling and caring for her baby.
“In saying that though, a lot of women don’t want to be in hospital for a long period of time.”
For me, the days spent in hospital were crucial to my recovery both mentally and physically.
The ongoing medical observation for both my baby and me, developmental and breastfeeding support as well as the invaluable bonding time with my baby was non-negotiable for me, and no amount of incentive could have convinced me otherwise.
That said, I know plenty of mums who couldn’t wait to leave hospital, with some going home after just one day.
The incentives being offered at Cabrini and Saint Vincent’s hospitals are only available after three days, with doctor’s approval, and are completely optional.
newbornbaby.com.au asked a variety of new and experienced mums of varying ages whether they would be swayed by incentives to leave hospital early, with most saying the bonuses wouldn’t contribute to their decision.
“Those days in hospital after my eldest was born were so important. No level of reading can prepare you for suddenly being a new mum,” says mum of two Belinda.
Mum of two, Brooke was encouraged to leave early despite the extremely fast delivery of her second baby.
“No amount of money would have made me feel comfortable to leave.”
For mum of three, Emilene, the incentives aren’t worth the value of the time spent in hospital establishing breastfeeding and recovering from her c-section.
“By baby number three, I saw it as valuable time spent alone with the new baby, just entirely devoted to them before returning to the craziness of a household with 3 children.”
But while leaving early in exchange for bonuses might not seem worth it to some mums, for others, the financial incentive may be too tempting to ignore.
“I don’t believe they should offer bonuses to leave early as it may encourage people to leave before they’re ready,” says mums of two, Haley.
“$200 is a lot of money to some people.”
And therein lies the ethical dilemma.
If you are ready to leave, then the idea of home visits, plus some extra perks is an appealing offer.
If you’re not ready, and financially stable, choosing to stay as long as possible would be the likely choice.
But for those new mums who aren’t really ready to go home, but might be suffering financially, these bonuses might be simply too hard to resist.