What You Need to Know Before You Opt Out of Newborn Medications

As a nurse and a mother, I absolutely understand the hesitation that new parents have when giving their babies medications, especially in the first days, hours, and even minutes after birth. 

It seems almost wrong in a way to blemish something so perfect and natural — a brand-new life that has arrived fresh in the world. I myself have agonized over what newborn medications we should give our babies, from what's truly essential to what might be saved for later and I understand it can be a hard decision. 

{ MORE: The Baby Box: Everything Baby Could Ever Need – All in a Little Box }

So if you're wondering what newborn medications your baby absolutely needs, and if you're considering of opting out of some medications, here's what you need to know. And as always, this should not be taken for professional medical advice — these are simply points to consider, and you should consult with your personal care provider before making any final medical decisions for your family.

baby
Image via Flickr/ Ginny Washburne

In your baby's first 24 hours of life, here are the newborn medications that he or she will receive and for which you will need to give your consent:

  • Erythromycin ointment. The very first medication your baby will receive will be an antibiotic ointment to the eyes. Although there are a few other organisms that might cause an eye infection in a newborn, the primary culprits are the STDS chlamydia and gonnorhea, which can cause blindness in babies. Personally, I felt no need for my babies to have this, since there was absolutely no risk whatsoever of STDs, but in all cases, my babies still got the ointment, despite it being against my birth plan. Those nurses are fast on the draw with erthryomycin, and when I saw them do it, I figured it couldn't hurt the baby. It was a small thing, but if you are very much against your baby receiving it, you will need to make that very clear, because it does happen so quickly after birth. 
  • Vitamin K shot. There have been concerns raised by parents in the past about the possible harmful side effects of the vitamin K shot, and the American Academy of Pediatrics did address those concerns and looked into them. (Namely, there was a study that suggested there might be a link between the shot and cancer.) But the evidence is overwhelming: the vitamin K shot saves lives and is especially important in exclusively breastfed infants. 
  • Hepatitis B vaccine. I've heard different doctors say different things about delaying the Hepatitis B vaccine; some recommend that you don't have it done in the hospital, while others don't really have a stance. While there is some debate if premature babies should wait until they are older and heavier, the official recommendation from the AAP is to have it done in the hospital to keep on schedule. I would say of all the meds to think about delaying, this is the one you can talk to your care provider about if you're concerned. 
  • Testing. In addition to newborn medications, your baby will undergo several different tests during his or her first 24 hours of life, including a test for jaundice and bilirubin levels, a newborn screening test that involves pricking the heel and taking blood samples, oxygen monitoring, a hearing test, and possibly blood sugar tests, depending on your baby's weight and other considerations. None of the testing your baby will go through involves medications and they are all safe and, in some states, mandatory. 

Did you opt out of any of your baby's newborn medications? 

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What You Need to Know Before You Opt Out of Newborn Medications

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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