Monday, May 7, 2012

what expecting moms should know: newborn procedures and protocol

I need to first make this statement: My intentions with this series are not to tell you what decisions to make for your child. You are the parent of your child and I know that you will make decisions that are in their best interest based on your own knowledge and gut. What I do hope to accomplish here is 1. a healthy discussion about this topic, 2. encouragement for mothers and fathers who don't have a clue where to begin researching and 3. a spread of knowledge that isn't popular or common, but I feel needs to be known. You can agree or disagree. I love a good debate and a good deep discussion. I think those are 2 things that we owe to our children.

In the first installment of this series, we discussed the PKU/heel prick test that is common protocol for a newborn. This is true in a hospital setting, a birth center or a home birth and the reason is because it is a state mandated test. You can read more about it here.

Today I wanted to discuss a few other protocols for newborns, again, in or out of the hospital. I want to make the point from the beginning that as the child's parent and legal guardian, you have a right to opt out of any or all of these procedures or modify them.

Nursery at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, Burbank, California, 1950s

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Here's the deal with Hepatitis B: it's a sexually transmitted disease: "The virus is transmitted by exposure to infectious blood or body fluids such as semen and vaginal fluids." Hep B is transmitted through intimate, usually sexual, fluids. I was surprised to learn that it isn't even transmitted through breastmilk!

The question that I then pose to you is: why are we vaccinating our hours-old, newborns for a sexually transmitted disease, an STD?

Here is the list given by the CDC of those who are at risk for Hepatitis B:
•Have sex with an infected person
•Have multiple sex partners
•Have a sexually transmitted disease
•Are men who have sexual contact with other men
•Inject drugs or share needles, syringes, or other drug equipment
•Live with a person who has chronic Hepatitis B
•Are infants born to infected mothers
•Are exposed to blood on the job
•Are hemodialysis patients
•Travel to countries with moderate to high rates of Hepatitis B
(emphasis added)


Notice that the only time your newborn baby is at risk for contracting the disease is if you are infected. Otherwise, he or she would have to be sexually active or an intravenous drug user to get it. Which is why, there is no reason to get the vaccine until much later in life, if at all. Long ago and far away it would have been conceivable that Hep B could be transmitted through a blood transfusion, but in modern times, any blood used for that purpose is tested for disease and viruses.

But, let's say that you just want to play it safe and make sure that your child is protected early on. Of course that is every mother and father's individual decision. But there are a few other things about the Hep B vaccine of which all parents should be aware before exposing their child to it.

This article explains that a study has found the risk for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is 3 times higher in males who receive the vaccine as infants. The author does, however, note the criticisms of the study. But he makes an important point: just because one vaccine has been exonerated in the "autism/vaccine link" does not mean that we can say across the board "all vaccines are safe". Some still contain mercury. Most contain aluminum and many contain formaldehyde. And still others are created using aborted fetal cells (more on that in a post to come).

The same article also notes, "A study published last October in the journal Neurology found that children who received the Hepatitis B vaccine series were 50% more likely to develop 'central nervous system inflammatory demyelination' than children who did not receive the vaccine."

I need to make this statement here: I am not promoting the vaccine/autism link, just the notion that we need to better test and vet these vaccines before claiming they are harmless. I would never suggest, either, that a parent is the reason a child has Autism. If, which I don't think will happen, they do link Autism to vaccines, the blame would lie squarely on the shoulders of our pharmaceutical companies, researchers, doctors, the FDA and the CDC; those people who we trust to inform and protect us.

In the end, my issue with the Hep B vaccine is the universal administration among newborns. Few infants are actually at risk of contracting the disease and yet we are putting almost all infants at risk of it's side effects.

Ophthalmic Eye Ointment

I had a long discussion with Isaac's pediatrician about this topic before he was born. She asked if we were planning to get the eye ointment for him at birth. I said probably not, but why shouldn't I?

Antibiotic eye ointment is administered to newborns to prevent infection from chlamydia and gonorrhea. That is the only purpose of it. But again, it's become required practice for all newborns. If you do not have chlamydia or gonorrhea, your newborn does not need the eye ointment. Of course, you should be absolutely sure that you don't carry these diseases especially since with both, many symptoms are dormant or unidentifiable.

Will it harm your baby if you do get it? According to the research I found, there are no major side effects. Some ointments may irritate the baby's eyes, but the most common side effect is that it causes blurry vision. This can potentially impede breastfeeding and bonding. However, if you choose to get the ointment, you can have it administered up to several hours after birth, allowing you to breastfeed without one more added difficulty.

To answer any basic questions about the common eye ointments used, visit this site.

Day 3-16

Vitamin K Shot

Vitamin K is needed in the human body for the purpose of successful blood clotting. Studies have found that most infants have insufficient levels of Vitamin K at birth. Therefore, another procedure done as soon as the baby is born is a shot of Vitamin K. The concern is over bleeding in the brain, usually caused by liver damage, that can kill a baby if their blood does not clot and can go undetected.

There are a couple of issues with the Vitamin K shot, but there are also easy alternatives. The shot given to newborns contains 20,000 times the newborn level. And while that number may be insignificant considering the baby is in need of Vitamin K there is actually one major concern with giving that much of the vitamin at one time in such a high dose.

According to Dr. Linda Palmer, "Apparently the cell division that continues to be quite rapid after birth continues to depend on precise amounts of vitamin K to proceed at the proper rate." High rates of cell division mixed with extremely high levels of Vitamin K leads to a higher risk of childhood leukemia. Some studies say an 80% increased, while others suggest only 10-20%. Either way, the risk is there.

The solution to this is a simple one. If you are breastfeeding, mom can take supplements of Vitamin K. Oral supplements can also be given to baby over the course of several weeks to ensure that levels are brought up slowly. This way, small doses over time are used. If you are formula feeding, Dr. Palmer suggests that nothing is needed because formula is fortified with high levels of Vitamin K.

The other issue with the Vitamin K shot is that giving this painful injection to a newborn can be, well, painful. Why welcome your brand new baby into the world with a bunch of pricks, pokes and prods? The solution to this is just the same as the first issue: oral supplements. These can be prescribed by your baby's pediatrician and picked up at the hospital pharmacy. Just be sure to discuss this with your doctor ahead of time and put it on your birth plan!

For more details about the Vitamin K shot and the studies that Dr Palmer cited, see this site. (all stats used about the Vitamin K shot are from this article)

Baby Feet!

Okay, I know that was a long post with a lot of information, but I didn't want to split up these procedures because they are generally all done at the same time: right after birth. Again, all of these can be denied or modified.

Please discuss each option with your OB, Midwife and Pediatrician ahead of time and make sure that all of your wishes are clearly written out on your birth plan. If you are denying any of them at a hospital, get all the forms during your hospital tour or when you check in during labor. Be sure they are all signed before baby is born.

Leave any questions or comments below or email me at ihaveapinkbag@yahoo[dot]com
I'm happy to answer any questions or direct you to someone who can!


  1. I'm confused about the V - K deficiency/supplemental.Doesn;t God have this under control in the normal healthy newborn? I doubt that you got it when you were born.

  2. This is so good. Josh and I have been talking about vaccinating a lot lately. The eye ointment... holy wow? We certainly will NOT be using that. xo

  3. I'm glad you posted this and I hope I remember to access it with #2. I got Avery vaccinated and didn't question it. I'll do more research when the time comes, but it sounds like a good idea to opt out of.

  4. I heard from a friend that babies naturally build up enough Vitamin K on their own after one week, which is why God had baby boys circumcised on the EIGHTH day. Because he genetically engineered their little bodies to undergo circumcision at that point without any extra meds or shots or vitamins. Pretty sweet.

  5. I'd rather choose oral supplements for my baby than give him/her painful vitamin K injections!