Did you know that soon after your baby’s birth, they are scheduled to undergo standard newborn tests, shots, and screenings? It can be overwhelming to comprehend all the various options that you will be presented with. To complicate everything, some of the scheduled tests, shots, or screenings vary depending on your birthing facility’s location. OVERWHELMING, to say the least. Make sure you ask ahead of time which newborn tests, shots, and screens you can expect to be offered so you can make an informed decision ahead of time and place it in your birthing plan.
EYES and THIGHS
Within hours after your baby is born, they will receive an eye ointment and a vitamin shot in the newborn’s thigh often referred to as the “eyes and thighs.” This refers to a Vitamin K shot and an antibiotic eye ointment.
Eye Antibiotic Treatment
Depending on your birthing facility, either an antibiotic ointment or drops will be applied to your newborn baby’s eyes. The intention is to kill bacteria from sexually transmitted illnesses (STIs) that can cause impaired vision or blindness in babies. Certain states mandate this treatment despite the results of your STI testing, however, you can sign a waiver and refuse the eye ointment.
Vitamin K Shot
Vitamin K helps our blood to clot, without enough Vitamin K we can increase the risk of bleeding excessively. Only a small amount of Vitamin K passes from the mother to the baby in pregnancy, therefore, the baby is born with little Vitamin K. For the baby to develop a healthy supply of Vitamin K, it can take several weeks. Just like the eye antibiotic treatment, it is mandated by many birthing facilities, however, you can sign a waiver and refuse the Vitamin K shot.
- Is your newborn going to receive a circumcision or a surgical procedure, the shot maybe required by many healthcare professionals.
- The research study that linked Vitamin K shot to childhood cancer had many flaws and was disproved once research conditions were better accounted for.
- There are 2 Vitamin K shot options, preservative-free and a form with preservatives. Although both forms contain preservatives, the ‘preservative-free” shot had ingredients that are shown to be non-toxic. Check with your birthing facility to see which form they carry.
If you decide to refuse the Vitamin K shot, there are a few acceptable alternatives: 1) provide the baby with oral Vitamin K or 2) supplement the breastfeeding parent with vitamin K. Please converse with your healthcare team.
Vaccines and Screenings
Another important decision parents must make is which vaccines their newborn will receive and understanding the results of screenings.
Your newborn will undergo a blood or “heel stick” health screening looking for genetic diseases. However, depending on the location your baby is born, the newborn tests will vary. It is important that you understand which blood screenings your baby will receive, especially if you know a family member with a certain genetic disease. The idea is to identify these conditions early so that the newborn and your family can receive appropriate medical guidance.
In addition, your baby will receive a hearing test to check for hearing loss. A specialist performs the hearing tests and the results will be provided so they can be shared with the newborn pediatrician.
The information and resources below are not intended to judge or persuade you to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. That coveted decision is yours to make. The goal is to provide unbiased information and resources about vaccinations and answer basic questions. I encourage all parents to develop a clear and concise plan of action for vaccinating their children.
How Does a Vaccine Work?
A vaccine exposes us to a bacteria or virus so we can build an immune defense against a particular disease. In other words, a vaccine is a dress rehearsal against disease-causing germs. It prepares your body’s defense system to perform a flawless performance when exposed to a germ: showtime! Vaccines are delivered as an injection (needle), but some are given by mouth, or sprayed into the nose.
“A vaccine is a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease.”
There are several types of vaccines. A vaccine will either contain a germ or parts of that germ to stimulate your body’s immune defense system. A live-attenuated or inactivated vaccine contains the actual bacteria or virus (germ). A vaccine that contains a part of the germ is called a subunit or toxoid. There are different pros and cons of each type of vaccine that should be reviewed with your child’s healthcare provider.
What are the Different Vaccine Schedules?
A vaccination schedule is a timeline of when the child receives their vaccines. There are three common vaccination schedule options:
- Full Vaccination – the traditional or most common vaccine schedule recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). Most clinicians will follow this vaccination schedule unless otherwise directed by the family.
- Delayed or Alternative Vaccination – vaccines are spaced out over a longer time frame. In many instances, the child still receives the CDC and AAP recommended vaccines. This can result in more doctor’s visits.
- Homeopathic Immunizations – this is not accepted by CDC, nor the AAP, and literature is limited and mixed. However, there are few reputable clinicians who offer this service, please do your research.
- No Vaccination
When selecting which vaccination schedule is appropriate for your child, there are many factors to consider; religious or personal beliefs, daycare, and state requirements, child’s prior vaccination reaction, child’s allergies, and current medical information. Please do your research and make sure your healthcare provider is on board with your decision.
Preparing my Child for Vaccines?
Each vaccine requires the child to mount an immune response. The immune response depends on the health of the child. Always remind your healthcare practitioners of your child’s known allergies and prior reactions to vaccines. There are a few general considerations to support their immune system you may consider:
- Healthy or free of illness at the time of the vaccine. Therefore, NO runny nose, fever, cough, ear infections, etc.…
- Well rested
- Consume a health-promoting and well-balanced diet (protein, fat, and carbohydrates at every meal)
- YES, breast milk is a well-balanced diet, but largely dependent on the mothers or milk-donors diet. Depending on the age of the child, breast milk may need to be accompanied by food.
- YES, baby formula is a well-balanced diet. Depending on the age of the child, it may need to be accompanied by food.
- Decrease processed foods and snacks while increasing brightly colored fruits and vegetables (antioxidants)
- Other age-appropriate nutrients such as a multivitamin, probiotics (70% of your immune system in the gut), omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), and Vitamin D
Expectations During a Vaccine Appointment?
During your vaccination appointment, you should receive education on the vaccine and possible side effects. Some offices request a signature ensuring that you review the Vaccine Information Statement even if you refuse or opt to delay. Your healthcare provider will review how the vaccine is administered; a needle, orally, or inhaled through the nose. A vaccine is typically delivered using a needle; please read below so you know the expected process.
- Remove your child’s pants or bottoms to expose the upper part of the leg/thigh.
- The parent should sit and hold the newborn in a comfortable position as to where their leg is exposed, but arms and legs are restrained.
- Prior to the shot, alcohol or a disinfectant is used to clean the area.
- The healthcare provider will pinch the skin, to diffuse the pain or trick the mind, and insert the needle. At this point your child may be hollering or crying, it is your job to keep them still. Humming a favorite lullaby or asking a question are both techniques that can distract the child.
- Apply light pressure to stop any bleeding. You can remove the band-aid after 20 minutes.
- Now it’s time to love and care for your child. The whole process lasts seconds, I promise. Personally, I used this time to breastfeed my little princess and sing familiar songs.
What are Common Side Effects of Vaccines?
Side effects are reactions that the child experiences from a vaccination. The reaction may be due to the actual vaccination or components added to the vaccine (antibiotics, stabilizers, or preservatives to decrease problems during manufacturing, transport, and storage).
Common reactions are mild fever, chills, tiredness or crankiness, headache, body aches, and a general feeling of discomfort, especially where the shot was given. Although rare, some can experience severe allergic reactions.
Remember, love and snuggles can calm most children down after a vaccine. Sometimes using a cool cloth at the site of injection and a kiss will make the pain magically disappear. If the child is inconsolable or the place where they received the shot looks weird, call the doctor. Signs such as trouble breathing, or a full-body rash could indicate an allergic reaction. Please call and notify your doctor while heading to your local ER department.
Newborns Tests, Shots, and Screenings Bottom Line
Do your research, know your state and daycare’s regulations, and ensure your healthcare provider provides unbiased support and recommendations. From there, develop your newborn vaccine, test, and screening plan!