A Healthy Welcome
From womb to real world, your baby has arrived. Mom and baby are typically in the hospital for 48-72 hours after delivery. Between delivery and discharge, there are many procedures, screenings and treatments offered for the baby to prepare for a healthy beginning. The following are standard procedures administered to newborns at the hospital.
Vitamin K: This is an injection that will be given to your baby shortly after delivery to help prevent bleeding. Vitamin K plays a role with clotting blood. Newborns have low levels of this vitamin regardless of a mom’s diet before delivery. A single dose is standard following delivery.
Eye ointment: An antibiotic ointment is placed in the baby’s eyes after delivery to prevent bacteria infections. This is a clear ointment and it does not hurt the baby’s vision.
Measurements: The baby’s weight, length, head and chest will be measured shortly after birth. The staff will share this information with parents so you can brag, but medical providers will use the numbers to monitor your baby’s growth.
Physical Exams: Nursing staff will assess your baby each shift they work. The baby’s doctor usually visits within 24 hours of delivery if the baby is normally adjusting to the new environment. Staff can always contact the doctor if anything changes. You will be asked to help monitor feedings, and wet and dirty diapers!
Hearing Screen: Hearing screenings are performed on all babies. Speech and language have a better chance of developing normally when hearing problems are caught and treated early. This test requires small cups to be placed over the baby’s ears, and can be performed while the infant is quiet or even asleep.
Hepatitis B Vaccine: This vaccine is offered in the hospital, but can be started at the baby’s doctor’s office. It takes a series of three shots to become fully vaccinated against this disease. Baby’s pediatrician can provide more information about this immunization option.
Circumcision: If you have a boy, you will need to decide if you want this optional procedure. You will need to know if your insurance company pays for the procedure or if you need to pay. Since there is no medical benefit of a circumcision, you will need to decide on this yourself. It can be performed while in the hospital or even at an outpatient visit.
Newborn Metabolic Screen: A blood test is used to screen newborns for a wide variety of health problems that may not easily be recognized. The nursing staff will collect a sample of blood from your baby’s heel to perform this test when the baby is at least 24 hours old. Each state decides which tests they want to screen for so ask your baby’s doctor for specific details.
Jaundice Screen: A newborns liver may not be ready to break down red blood cells. This leads to an increase in the levels of a chemical called bilirubin. Bilirubin may make the baby’s skin tone or eyes appear yellow which is referred to as jaundice. A test will be done by scanning the baby’s forehead with a light to read blood levels of bilirubin. If the level is high, a blood sample will be collected to confirm results so a treatment plan can be developed for the baby.
Once home, make sure you have a plan for follow-up appointments with the baby’s pediatrician for weight checks and well-visits, and know who to contact any changes in the baby’s physical appearance or general demeanor.
Mary Lou Bowers, MSN, RNC-MMN, is a clinical nurse specialist at Carolinas Medical Center.