After your baby is born, it can feel like there are a million things to do! You watch your baby get weighed for the first time, grandparents are called, pictures are taken, and you get to spend those first amazing moments holding and meeting the newest member of your family.
Your medical team also has a few very important things to do before your baby leaves the hospital. Three of the most important things that happen in those first few hours after your baby is born are giving your baby eye ointment to protect against blindness, a shot of Vitamin K to protect against bleeding, and a Hepatitis B vaccine to protect against liver disease.
Erythromycin is the antibiotic eye ointment that is important to administer to all babies after birth. It is almost 100% effective at preventing eye infections in babies when it’s given shortly after birth. Without this eye ointment, a baby is at risk of getting a severe eye infection that can cause permanent damage to the eyes, even blindness.
Vitamin K is especially important in a baby’s body for helping to clot blood when there is bleeding. Unlike other nutrients during pregnancy, very little Vitamin K is shared from mom to baby through the placenta. In you and me, Vitamin K is made by the good bacteria that live in the gut. With newborns being so new to the world, they don’t have this good bacteria in their gut yet to produce the Vitamin K they need. Without it, a baby even up to six months old can have sudden bleeding on the outside or internally. Bleeding in the brain can cause lethargy, seizures, irregular breathing and permanent damage. The Vitamin K shot helps ensure that babies aren’t at risk for this type of bleeding.
The hepatitis B vaccine protects against a virus called hepatitis B that can cause liver disease at any age. Because this virus can cause life-long liver damage and even lead to death, it is important to start protecting against it as soon as possible. That’s why the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended within the first 24 hours of life. To be completely protected, babies get at least 2 more hepatitis B doses in the first few months of life at their regular check-ups. This vaccine is inactivated (meaning there is no virus that is alive in the vaccine) and it is safe according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, it is much safer than if a baby were to be infected with the virus that causes this liver disease.
After your baby is born, there are so many things to do in what feels like a short time. Make sure that erythromycin ointment, Vitamin K, and the hepatitis B vaccine are on the to-do list! These help ensure that your baby can be healthy and thriving right from the start.
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