Well, this subject is probably a little more controversial but its on my mind.
In the States, hospital and legal policies typically dictate at least three things be done to a newborn close to birth, the administration of eye drops (to prevent infection to the baby in mothers with gonorrhea or other infections), the first dose of a Hepatitis B vaccine, and a shot of Vitamin K. Vitamin K aids in blood clotting, and between about 4 and 7 previously healthy newborns in 100,000 will develop something called vitamin K deficiency bleeding (hemorrhagic disease of the newborn) resulting in death or brain damage because of bleeding in the brain, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Newborns may hemorrhage in other places, like the liver, instead.
So since about the ’60’s, the policy has been to give all newborns a shot of vitamin K at birth. Why is this an issue for some parents, and something that I’d be thinking about, when its a preventative which reduces newborn deaths?
For me, its because of how it is done. The American Academy of Pediatrics official policy is that these procedures should not be done until the newborn has atleast had its first feeding with the mother. This allows the mother and baby to bond for an hour or so, while newborns are typically alert, and have the baby experiance the unpleasent routines after s/he is drowsy. Many moms in forums say that when they waited to have the shots until after the first hour, the baby slept through the discomfort and seemed less affected.
AAP policy or not, this is not what happens in most hospitals. The baby is taken after only a moment, washed, weighed, given shots and drops, and then given to the mother to save time and just get it all out of the way.
This doesn’t sit well with many moms, who believe that the first hour of life is extremely important for bonding, and that, aside from dealing with being cold, seeing light, and feeling hungry all at once, for the first time ever, extra pain inflicted on the baby should at least be put off for a little while.
I am going to a birthing center with a naturally minded philosophy, which waits 2-3 hours to do anything to the baby after birth anyway. So its more ideal for us already.
But I can’t help the feeling that giving a painful shot isn’t one of the things I want my kid to experience in his first day of life, even though its meant to help.
Then comes the next thing, for people who are ridiculously paranoid about pharmeceuticals and the medical industry, like I am. I requested the ingredients listed on the package of the vitamin K shot, just so that I know what else I am putting into my child’s body. They include benzyl alcohol as a preservative, polyoxyethylated fatty acidderivative and aluminum. The benzyl alcohol is considered toxic in neonates, and reactions have occurred in premies, but not really healthy, good sized newborns. I couldn’t find information on the fatty acid derivative, and aluminum is pretty universally recognized to be bad for us, but the medical industry does not consider the amounts in shots harmful.
The Internet Drug Index had info on the shot and ingredients, basically like the package insert.
So again, for many people, the answer isn’t hard. These shots have been given for years and we are all fine, aren’t we?
I guess I just don’t like the thought of putting unnatural substances in my own body, and thus not my baby’s.
The risk of a hemmorhage is so small, isn’t it? It’s not likely that anything would happen to my child if I opt out of the shot. But the result is so terrible, if your child did die and you could have simply let him endure a little pain for a moment, how could you ever get over that?
Dr. Michel Odent, a respected doctor in the field of natural birth, thinks parents should feel too worried, regardless of their desicion.
“To the parents who refuse the injection, we can say that they don’t take a great risk, since the chances of their breastfed baby having a hemorrhagic disease related to vitamin K deficiency is in the region of one in 15,000. It is even probable that the risks are still lower if the birth and the initiation of lactation were undisturbed. My view is that vitamin K deficiency of breastfed babies is probably no more physiological than the weight loss in newborn babies. After thousands of years of culturally controlled childbirth and lactation, we usually underestimate the amount of ‘colostral milk’, and therefore of vitamin K, a human baby has been programmed to consume during the first days following birth.
A well-constructed Japanese study showed that babies who consume 350 ml of breast milk in the first three days following birth are protected against vitamin K deficiency. Let us also remember that vitamin K deficiency is unheard of among formula fed babies.”
So, hmm, if I breastfeed the baby very well in the first week, take a vitamin k supplement myself, to insure I have enough, do I even need the shot?
Its something that only each parent individually can answer.