By Carole Tanzer Miller, Novant Health Healthy Headlines
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From baby’s first shots to cord blood banking and circumcision, new parents have big decisions to make at the hospital. “Some things can be helpful to sort out in advance,” said Dr. Brooke Chalk of Novant Health Coastal OB-GYN Midwifery – New Hanover in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Here are 10 decisions you must make on or before Delivery Day:
1. Pick a pediatrician: Some local pediatric offices see your baby for the first time at the hospital; some don’t. If you haven’t chosen a pediatrician, one will be assigned to get baby through the hospital stay and initial follow-up.
2. Delayed cord clamping: The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends waiting up to a minute or more to cut the umbilical cord that links baby and mother. Why? Delayed cord clamping allows more oxygen-rich blood to pass from the placenta to the baby along with stem cells, protective antibodies and extra iron. This promotes healthy brain development and protects against anemia and other diseases. It’s now standard procedure at our hospitals – but some moms request an even longer delay, though there is no evidence that it’s helpful. That’s up to you.
3. Skin-to-skin contact and delayed bathing: There’s growing evidence that laying the newborn on Mom’s bare chest has benefits for both. Skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby’s heart rate, breathing and temperature. It also promotes bonding and the release of hormones that support breastfeeding. Newborns used to get their first bath a couple of hours after birth but waiting 12 hours or more allows for more skin-to-skin contact. It also preserves scent, and similarities in the scent of amniotic fluid and Mom’s breast could encourage babies to feed. Share your wishes on skin-to-skin contact and delayed bathing with your medical team. At some hospitals, the first bath is delayed until 24 hours.
4. Breastfeeding and pacifiers: Bottle or breast? It’s your call. You’ll get plenty of help if you decide to breastfeed. Novant Health has lactation consultants to help you in the hospital and long after you’re home. Mother’s milk can lower a baby’s risk for ear and respiratory infections, diarrhea, childhood leukemia, as well as allergies, asthma, diabetes and obesity. By the way, if you don’t want your baby to have a pacifier, let your care team know. And some hospitals may not offer because they can interfere with breastfeeding.
5. Hepatitis B vaccine: Your newborn’s first vaccine is usually administered within 12 hours of birth. It’s important, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because moms can unknowingly pass the virus to their babies at birth. You will be asked to consent. In North Carolina, parents may refuse vaccination on the basis of religious beliefs. It’s among several vaccines North Carolina public schools require for admission.
6. Vitamin K shot: Some babies are born with little vitamin K, which can lead to bleeding problems. There often is no indication of this until baby has a bleeding problem occur. A one-time shot of vitamin K has been routinely given to newborns since 1961, but some parents decline it. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
7. Eye medicine: Antibiotic eye drops are placed in the newborn’s eyes to protect them from infections that can occur during their journey through the birth canal. These infections can cause blindness. You will be asked to consent.
8. Circumcision: Do you want your son to be circumcised? For some families, removing the foreskin of the penis is a religious or cultural ritual. But many parents choose it to simplify hygiene and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in early life and of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, later on. Circumcision takes only a few minutes. It can be done later on, and some parents leave that decision to their son. While circumcision rates have declined significantly in the U.S., roughly 6 in 10 newborn boys have the procedure.
9. Cord blood banking: Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells that can be used to treat more than 70 types of disease, including genetic disorders and some cancers. That’s why many parents chose to store it with a public or private cord blood bank just in case. You’ll need to supply a collection kit, so it’s important to make this decision at least six weeks before delivery — then make your plans known. You’ll be asked to give consent before labor.
10. Saving the placenta: Celebrities like “Jeopardy’s” Mayim Bialik and reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian have popularized the practice of placentophagy, or eating the placenta. Advocates claim it helps prevent the baby blues and boost milk supply, but many medical experts say there’s no evidence of health benefits. Typically, it’s ground into capsules and ingested. If you plan to have your placenta encapsulated, you must supply a cooler and store it yourself. Be aware that in some cases, doctors must keep the placenta for testing.
Knowing what decisions you plan to make will boost your confidence and help you feel in control as D-Day approaches. But here’s one more bit of important advice.
“Even if you forget to look into any of these things, or you deliver early, we’re going to take care of you and your baby,” Chalk said. “So don’t stress out.”