Doulas Northwest | Parenting: Decisions About Newborn Care
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01 Aug Parenting: Decisions About Newborn Care



Things happen quickly once your baby is born.

The moments right after you meet your baby may be chaotic or overwhelming, so let’s talk now, about the decisions you’ll be asked to make on behalf of this baby.


There are 4 main newborn care procedures that are standard in most hospitals, and that your medical care team will need you to accept, deny, or delay. The first three listed here, generally happen within the baby’s first hour of life.


1. Erythromycin Ointment

What and why?

Erythromycin is an antibiotic ointment.

It is used to protect a newborn’s eyes from any known or unknown exposure to bacteria which can lead to infections that can cause blindness. The exposure happens during birth, when STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea are present. Today, it is so commonplace to carry these STIs without the carrier’s knowledge and without obvious symptoms, that it has become a standard procedure for newborns to receive this eye ointment.

As a parent, you will decide whether to:

  • Accept the Erythromycin Ointment
  • Deny the Erythromycin Ointment

If declining, you may be asked to sign a waiver provided by the hospital. Beyond 1-2 hours old, it is not considered effective to administer this ointment.


2. Vitamin K Injection

What and why?

The Vitamin K injection is a single injection of a liquid form of Vitamin K.

It is used to boost a newborn’s levels of vitamin K, which are lower than necessary at the time of birth, for normal blood clotting. In a small percentage of newborns, serious internal bleeding can occur, so Vitamin K is boosted as a preventative measure, until their own levels increase to a safe range at about one week old.

As a parent, you will decide whether to:

  • Accept the Vitamin K shot
  • Deny the Vitamin K shot
  • Delay the Vitamin K shot until a later time


3. Hepatitis B Vaccine

What and why?

The Hepatitis B vaccine is an injected vaccine meant to protect against the Hepatitis B.

This vaccine is given as a series of three, spaced out within a child’s first 18 months of life. According to the current recommended vaccine schedule, the Hepatitis B vaccine is given at three separate times:

  • At birth
  • Between 1-2 months
  • Between 6-18 months


As a parent, you will decide whether to:

  • Accept the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth
  • Deny the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth
  • Delay the Hepatitis B vaccine until your child is older


4. Newborn Bath

What and why?

The newborn bath is a bath given to your baby, typically by a nurse, either in your hospital room or in the newborn nursery.

This is a standard procedure due to the normal remnants of things like amniotic fluid and vernix on your baby’s skin or in his/her hair. While it is common practice to include this first bath within your baby’s first few hours of life, you are free to choose when and if this happens. You may even want to bring a preferred soap or shampoo.

As a parent, you will decide whether to:

  • Accept the standard newborn bath
  • Delay the standard newborn bath
  • Deny the standard newborn bath


As always: research, discuss, and do what is best for your family. Each of these procedures are standard, and they are also optional.


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