We take a childbirth class, we prepare the nursery, take a tour of the hospital, and research the best car seats – but we rarely think about the first moments after birth – the doctor has that covered, right? I encourage you to research and talk with your partner, and finally your doctor, about the first interventions following your birth. This is a critical time for you and your baby, and your first decisions as a mama to keep your baby safe. Remember that this is your body, your baby, and your decision. A doctor is there to give you advice and render a service, per your wishes.
1. Hold up, daddy! Don’t cut that cord yet!
In most hospitals today, the umbilical cord is cut immediately after birth. The mother often does not know that it even occurred. But, this is detrimental to your child’s health. There is no medical reason to cut the cord early, other than to give quicker and easier access to the baby for the nurses and doctor. The truth is up to one-third of your baby’s total one-cup of blood is still in the placenta, and being pulsed back into the baby. It only takes about 2 minutes for the blood to return fully to the baby’s body, and the cord will stop pulsing. This is an appropriate time to cut the cord. Doing so earlier deprives your baby of much-needed blood. While still connected to the placenta, the baby is also still receiving oxygen, much needed after that long birth process! Unfortunately, this is still a common process even though ACOG noted that cord cutting should be delayed all the way back in December 2012. Unless medically necessary, there is no reason to cut the cord early, or separate the baby from the mother. You will need to tell your doctor and birth team ahead of time, and ensure a close member at your birth (doula, husband, etc) is ready to remember the doctor at birth.
2. No silver eye drops for us, please!
Silver nitrate eye drops are applied immediately to the baby, stemming from a time when a number of bacterial infections were left untreated in the mother. This is not a problem anymore today, yet the eye drops are still used. These cause temporary blindness during the first week of baby’s life, causing psychological damage that we have not tested, and can also cause a number of other ailments – namely, clogged tear ducts which require surgery. They truly are not necessary, and are yet another added intervention your baby does not need during the first moments after birth. Just turn them down!
I also want to touch briefly on other interventions that are harmful: 1) your baby is born with a protective, lotion-like layer of “white stuff” – have the nurses rub it in! It is not necessary to rub or wash off, and actually acts like a lotion and fends off infections to your babe. 2) Skip the baby bath, at least right away. Your baby, again, was born completely clean, and you don’t want to know the yuckies lurking in your baby’s first chemical, anti-bacterial bath, trust me. 3) Vitamin K Shot. This one also can wait. Doctors started this intervention when women were birthing malnourished babes in the 1950’s. It frankly is not necessary today, but you will get a lot of push back on it. It truly is only a good precaution after a traumatic birth (where a babe could of bruised) or before circumcision. Vit K helps your blood clot, and babies are in fact born with a lower level. However, your babe’s Vitamin K levels will reach peak levels on day 8, the traditional day of Jewish circumcision (and I would do it that day, too). 4) Hep B Vaccine – this one boggles me. I encourage you to hold off on this one until baby’s two-month check up, if at all. Hepatitis B is spread mainly through blood and sexual transmission. So, unless your baby plans on getting frisky in the nursery or the mother has the disease, this is entirely unnecessary and an assault on your tiny baby’s immune system.
3. Keep my cart here!
When baby is born, he or she is looking for that peaceful voice she’s heard so many months: mama. Where’s mama? Not where’s Dr. OB or Ms. Nurse. There’s ample research that putting baby on mommy’s bare chest is the absolute best for baby. Outside of an emergency, demand your baby is placed on your chest the moment of birth, and any check-up’s or interventions the Dr. feels necessary can be done on your chest. Truly, any intervention they want to do can wait if your baby is doing fine. Baby should be encouraged to breastfeed within the first 20 minutes of life – this will also help your uterus contract to prevent hemorrhage. Keep your baby with you – no nursery is necessary. This will begin the breastfeeding schedule and help you and the babe bond. Plus, you know no funny business is happening in the nursery.
I hope this empowered you to look into your birth experience and design what is best for you and your baby. From the moment you become a mama, there’s a myriad of decisions as to how to keep your baby healthy and safe. I encourage you to approach each with caution, and make no decision because “that’s what everyone else does.”