This is Day 78 of the Green in 365 series!
This is a long post, but bear with me because I think it’s a really important topic to cover as we begin talking about green and natural baby and child care! No better place to start then when our sweet babies are first born!
Last week I got to be with my younger sister at the hospital as she gave birth to her first baby, a healthy baby boy! She labored and birthed without medication and I was so proud of her! It was amazing to get to be a part of the miracle of birth, this time as an observer instead of an active participant!
But while spending time with her and my new nephew in the hours after his birth, I was reminded of one of the main reasons that we chose to have our third baby at home. Often, things at the hospital can happen differently then you wanted or expected. They may do things to you and your new baby without your explicit knowledge or consent.
For example, about an hour after his birth, as my sister was holding her son in the hospital bed, he peed on her. The nurse took him to change him and asked if it was a good time to do his footprints. My sister agreed. The nurse then placed the baby on the warming table and left the room. I assume to get the necessary supplies, but the baby was left there alone, and of course, started crying.
My sister and I looked at each other, kind of bewildered, like, ‘Why would she take the baby and then just leave him there on the warming table all alone?‘ Couldn’t my sister have held him until the nurse came back and was ready? I placed my hand on the baby’s chest to comfort him, but when the nurse returned she said, “Oh, it’s good for the baby to cry, it gets their lungs all cleared out.” And while that may be true, I think it’s the mother’s place to decide whether her brand new baby should be left to cry or not.
Then a couple minutes later, again, we were watching the nurse as she got ready to measure the length of the baby, and all of the sudden she picked the baby up by his ankles and held him upside-down to measure him! I have never seen a nurse measure a baby in that way, and it was kind of shocking to us all – it was just for a second, but she was hanging the baby upside-down!
These are just a few little examples, and really nothing major or life-threatening, but still, it felt like the attitude of the hospital staff was, “I’m in charge. I know better than you, and I’ll just do whatever I want with the baby.” Almost like the mother and family aren’t standing right there watching!
I remember back to when my first baby was born and realize that she was given every single one of these procedures and I didn’t realize it at the time, nor had I done my own research to know whether or not I actually wanted her to receive them or not. It is important for doctors and midwives to inform their patients about these procedures, but I think the reality is that most of them don’t. So it’s up to us as pregnant mamas to read and learn and do our own research so we can make the best decisions for us and our new baby.
Because the reality is, that often when you have a hospital birth, there are things done to you and your baby that you may not even realize, or be aware of. You’ve just given birth and are exhausted, labor may have been overwhelming and you’re still gathering your bearings. You’re also stuck in the hospital bed and not with your baby as they examine him or take him to the nursery.
I remember after my first baby was born, the nurse came to check on me the next morning and lifted the sheet by my ankles and said she was checking for swelling in my legs. She said, “Sometimes your legs will swell after you’ve had pitocin.” To which I responded, “Oh, I had a natural birth, I didn’t have any pitocin.” And she replied, flippantly, “Oh well, they will give it to you after the birth and you don’t even know about it.” I said again, “No I didn’t have any pitocin at all.” (Which I knew was true because I didn’t even have an IV in my arm.) And she just shook her head at me like, Silly girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
It was shocking to me then, and makes me so angry now, that they can do things to you and your baby in the hospital without asking you first, or at least explaining to you what they are doing, so you don’t really know what is happening. You will probably sign papers when you check-in to the hospital that may say you are giving informed consent for any treatment they deem necessary. And while that is obviously important in the case of an emergency, it should not mean that they don’t have to inform you of each step they are taking during the process of your routine labor and delivery.
It’s important for you to know that you absolutely do have a say in what happens to both you and your baby during labor, delivery, and in those hours right after birth. If you’re pregnant, please be sure to educate yourself about your hospital’s standard newborn procedures before you go into labor, and talk through these standard procedures with your doctor or midwife. Then you can add your preferences to your birth plan, and let your birth partner or birth team know, so they can help to advocate for you and your baby with the hospital staff.
You’re not trying to be difficult, but this is your body and your newborn baby, and you have the right to decide how his first few precious hours and days of life are spent, not the hospital staff.
*Please remember that I am not offering you medical advice, I am not a doctor. I have simply done my research on these procedures, and based on my own experiences with hospital birth I want to help inform you and encourage you to do your own research before your new baby is born. This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such, this is for informational purposes only.*
5 Standard Newborn Procedures You Can Choose to Avoid
1. Eye Ointment
We’ve all seen the pictures of newborns with their eyes smeared shut with some clear goupy stuff. Well, that goupy stuff is erythromycin ophthalmic ointment, an antibacterial used to protect babies from an infection which in rare cases can cause blindness. However, this type of infection is caused by the mother having chlamydia or gonorrhea.
If you have been tested for STDs and know there is no risk that you have either chlamydia or gonorrhea, there is probably no reason your new baby needs to be treated with erythromycin ophthalmic ointment. Also, even if your baby does develop the infection, they are easily treated today with antibiotics which prevent blindness. Read more
2. Vitamin K Shot
Vitamin K is given routinely as a shot to newborns in order to prevent a very rare, but serious, bleeding disorder. New babies are born with lowered levels of Vitamin K which is necessary for normal blood clotting. Some people argue that because basically all babies are born with lowered levels of Vitamin K, there must be a good biological reason for it, and they also believe there may be serious side effects of injecting a new baby with high levels of Vitamin K, and refuse the shot for that reason.
Others believe it is cruel to give a newborn baby a painful shot when they have just been through the trauma of birth. If you’d like to avoid the shot, but still give your baby the blood clotting protection of Vitamin K, you can request an oral dose that is an effective alternative. However, the oral dose may not be as effective and has to be given over the course of several weeks. Read more
I will be transparent in sharing that we have always given our babies the Vitamin K shot, even our baby that was born at home. I’m simply presenting this as one of the procedures that will happen in a hospital birth setting so that you can do your own research about it.
Update 1/14: There have been some recent cases of late vitamin K deficient bleeding in newborns whose parents refused the Vitamin K shot. Read more here.
3. Hepatitis B vaccine
Many parents don’t know that when the nurse takes the baby to the nursery for “routine procedures” that one of those procedures is to give them a vaccine for a sexually transmitted, or blood transmitted, disease, Hepatitis B. I don’t want to get into a discussion about whether we should vaccinate our children or not, but for our family, we do not agree with giving an hours old baby a vaccine against this type of disease, when they are so tiny and their immune systems are so vulnerable. You can request that your new baby does not receive this routine vaccination right after birth! Read More
4. First Bath
We go to great lengths to make sure we only put the purest and safest products on our new baby once we bring them home from the hospital, but what about their first bath at the hospital? To begin with, if your hospital normally does the baby’s first bath in the nursery, you can, of course, request that it be done in the room with you. You can also request to help with the bath, instead of just leaving it up to the nurse, and you can bring in your own safe and natural baby shampoo and soap for your baby to be bathed with.
Another option is to skip the first bath all together. Babies are born with a protective covering on their skin, vernix, that has been shown to be very beneficial to the baby, including immune boosting properties similar to those found in breast milk, as well as providing protection and hydration for a new baby’s delicate skin. At the very least, you may want to delay the bath 24 hours to allow the vernix to absorb into the baby’s skin. Read More
5. Time in the nursery
Finally, your baby does not have to spend any time away from you in the nursery if you don’t want them to. I remember after my daughter was born and I had been awake for 24 hours that in my exhaustion I sent her with the nurse to the nursery. Then my husband and I looked at each other with such a strange feeling because we had just sent our baby away and neither of us were with her. They brought her back just over an hour later, not even enough time for me to sleep, with a bow in her hair and I wondered what else had happened to her while she was away from us. That was precious time in her first hours of life that I will never be able to get back.
If there are procedures to which you have consented that need to happen while you’re at the hospital, you can request that they be done in the room with you, while your baby is with you, so that your new baby never has to leave your side in it’s first few hours and days of life. If your baby is getting a shot, or the heel prick to complete the newborn lab test, the nurse can do that while you are nursing your babe to help comfort them and ease the pain.
The hours after your new baby is born are so, so precious and yet can also often be overwhelming. Things can move quickly and sometimes without your implicit knowledge. If you are planning to give birth in a hospital it’s important for you to make sure you understand the hospital’s policies for newborns so that you can make the best informed decision regarding the care of your newborn baby.
I’m not saying that you should refuse these procedures, or others that are common practice at your hospital, but I just want to encourage you to do your research, talk to your doctor or midwife about the standard way they handle these procedures, and make your own decisions that are right for you and your family.
If you’re expecting a baby, be sure to read my Tips for Surviving the Newborn Stage!
Looking for more posts about Green and Natural Baby and Child Care? Check out my Cloth Diapering a Newborn series:
- Cloth Diapering a Newborn – Where to Begin?
- Cloth Diapering a Newborn – Prefolds, Fitteds, and Covers
- Cloth Diapering a Newborn – Pocket Diapers
Did you avoid any standard procedures when your new baby was born? Did you meet resistance from the hospital staff or were they accommodating?
And if you’d like to learn more about green and natural living, be sure to check out my new ebook Green Your Life: A Guide to Natural, Eco-Friendly Living! There is a whole section on Natural Baby and Child Care!
Find all the Green in 365 posts.
*Disclaimer: Please remember I am not a doctor, and this post should not be taken as medical advice. Please do the research on these issues and decide for yourself what is best for you and your family.
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