In the Dec. 19 editions of the Extra, an article on mother/infant rooms at Inova Alexandria Hospital should have said that Inova Alexandria is the only hospital that offers all private rooms for mothers and newborns. Inova Fairfax and Inova Fair Oaks hospitals have both private and semiprivate rooms. (Published 12/26/02)

After giving birth to her daughter, Emma, last month, Julie Bennett, 28, expected to be wheeled into a drab hospital room shared with another mother. But instead of ending up in a dreary, colorless room with a roommate, mother and baby shared their first moments together in a private, sunny, hotel-like atmosphere.

Bennett and Emma were in one of Inova Alexandria Hospital's new private mother/infant units. The 35 private units replaced 17 semiprivate rooms. The new section, unveiled in August, was two years in the making.

Instead of white walls and beige curtains, maternity patients now are surrounded by flowery borders and colorful drapes. Each room has a private bathroom and a recliner for overnight guests. Before, visitors had to leave by 11 p.m., so as to not disturb the other patient in the room.

The hospital also added an alarm system to keep track of the babies. A tiny alarm attached to each infant's umbilical cord will sound if the baby is taken off the floor.

In addition, the unit has expanded its breast-feeding center. Near the mother/infant rooms, patients can rent or purchase breast pumps, sign up for various support groups and buy nursing bras in varieties of styles and colors -- even leopard print.

Those additions are what make Inova Alexandria's Women's Center a "high-tech country club," said Barry Rothman, chief of obstetrics and gynecology.

"The atmosphere is so laid back," he said. "The private rooms are nice because the mother can keep the baby for as long as she wants. That's hard to get at hospitals today."

Inova Alexandria is the only hospital in the Inova Health System to offer private mother/infant rooms. Last year, the hospital delivered more than 3,200 babies. The hospital decided to create the new rooms after hearing privacy concerns from mothers.

"We found that mothers preferred a private room to make them more comfortable and create a more family like atmosphere," said Kathleen Thomas, a spokeswoman for Inova Health System. "They like being able to have their husbands or partners spend the night."

The upgrades helped ease Ranetta Harrison's fears when she gave birth to her first child, Imani, last month. Harrison, 33, had never been hospitalized before and was pleasantly surprised with her experience.

"I had my own room. I had help round-the-clock -- my room didn't even have that 'hospital smell' to it," she said.

Bennett said her experience was different compared with that of her sister, who gave birth at another hospital last year. There were so many people who wanted to come in and see her, Bennett said.

"But they could only stay for an hour and a half at the most," she said. "Here, it was great. I had as many as five visitors at a time, and my husband spent the night. I didn't even know I was going to have my own room."

Bennett said that she and her husband plan on having more children and that Inova Alexandria is on the top of their list when the time comes.

Steve Foor, wife Christy -- holding newborn Dylan Thomas -- and Nicholas Rowe, 5, relax in a private mother/infant unit at Inova Alexandria Hospital.