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Newborn Tests and Procedures During Your Baby's Hospital Stay

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Updated May 20, 2014

Newborn being checked by nurse.
Jade Brookbank/Taxi/Getty Images

Your newborn baby has just arrived. This first, precious, golden hour is upon you. What happens now? Many practitioners will allow you to have the baby placed directly on your abdomen or chest. Warm towels or blankets will be placed over both of you to help keep your baby warm. This time for bonding in many hospitals and birth centers is limited to the first hour, though this can vary from place to place and by your request. Once you and your baby are ready, there are some standards tests that are done for nearly all babies, including those born at home.

Newborn testing is an important thing to think about before labor. During pregnancy we focus so much on the actual birth preparation sometimes we don't devote enough time to other topics, including newborn testing. I am going to focus on the first few days of your baby's life and what tests are commonly done.

Newborn Weight and Length

Weight and length are also done routinely everywhere. Although, when these tests are done does vary from place to place. Some hospitals will immediately remove your baby from you and begin an initial assessment. Many professionals believe that this is a bad idea because the baby has a very short window of the quiet alert state in which to really connect with the parents before entering a deeper sleep state. Many parents are requesting in their birth plans that these procedures are delayed until after that first hour of life.

If you are giving birth in a birth center or home, these procedures are more flexible. Talk to your doctor or midwife about the normal protocol and see how it fits with your ideas.

Newborn Eye Drops

Eye drops have changed recently in many states. In the past Silver Nitrate was used routinely and this burned a baby's eyes, while trying to prevent infection. Now, more commonly you will find Erythromycin used. Make sure you ask.

Again, this is something that you may wish to be delayed until after that first hour of life. While the newer medication doesn't burn your baby's eyes it will make it more difficult to see, and newborns can see. There are state laws that govern the application of eye drops. Most states have laws that say it is up to the practitioner to provide the eye drops, with no specific time indicated. Find out what your state law says.

More on Eye Drops for Newborns

Vitamin K

This is usually an injection given after the birth. Your baby isn't born with intact clotting factors. This started being common and become law when forceps deliveries were very common, to help prevent bleeding in the brain because of the extra trauma to the baby's head. Today we are still using this state law and giving babies vitamin K routinely, despite the fact that forceps deliveries have changed and occur less frequently.

Many other countries have newer policies of when to provide vitamin K as opposed to doing it routinely.

Some families are requesting that the vitamin K be given orally. While we aren't sure how well this works many pediatricians are agreeing to this. Recently vitamin K has been linked to jaundice and even a potential increase in childhood leukemia. Discuss the issues with your pediatrician.

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