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What are the newborn eye drops done for at birth?

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Updated April 29, 2014

Baby Eye Ointment at Birth

This baby has received the eye ointment after birth.

Photo © iStockPhoto
Question: What are the newborn eye drops done for at birth?
Answer: After your baby is born, usually some time in the first hour or two, he or she will be treated with eye medication, usually referred to by parents as eye drops. This is actually an antibiotic ointment to protect your baby from developing an eye infection after birth, usually caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia.

Erythromycin is the typical eye ointment used in newborns. States used to use silver nitrate but have since stopped because it would burn the infant's eyes. Certainly the goo in the eye can hinder sight for a short period of time, and this is why many parents list on their birth plans that they wish to delay the treatment.

The timing and administration is usually dictated by state law. Though some practitioners will simply go by their personal or hospital policies. If you have a question about skipping eye ointment for your newborn, start with your practitioner.

Source:
CDC. (2010) Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) in Newborns. Accessed on January 24, 2011 at http://www.cdc.gov/conjunctivitis/newborns.html

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