Normal preventative care given to a newborn baby is rarely explained to you. In this entry I want to highlight what is involved in the physical exam, the vitamin K injection, the application of an antibiotic cream to their eyes and the blood test to evaluate jaundice in each baby.

The newborn will have a complete physical exam (heart and lung auscultation, hips, skin, reflexes, general state of health) from the doctor in the hours after their birth, but there is no rush if the baby is doing fine. The nurse will weigh them and measure their head, torso and height, and will note it in their vaccination booklet given to you when you leave the hospital. To understand and see in advance what this looks like, please watch the video on the physical exam of a baby. In it I explain more while showing you things we do with a real baby.

Also, as a preventative measure, the nurse will inject vitamin K in your baby’s thigh. It’s a coagulant that isn’t yet present in the baby’s blood. This is to prevent hemorrhages in a baby while waiting for them to produce this necessary blood component by themselves.

The nurse will also apply an antibiotic unguent (erythromycin unguent 0.5%) in your baby’s eyes to prevent infections that can follow due to possible contamination during their vaginal passage at birth (ex.: chlamydia or gonorrhea). In Canada, these two actions were recommended up to 2016 and were part of the basic care given to newborns in most hospitals. However, since 2017, the use of the unguent has been questioned for its prevention of infections and is no longer an automatic recommended action. In Quebec, current practice still applies the antibiotic cream.

You should also expect your baby will have a blood test from their heel. This is to verify the bilirubin level (yellow pigment in newborn jaundice) before their release to return home. The doctor will prescribe phototherapy if necessary. For more information on this last point, see the entry Your Baby is Tanned.

Other interesting entries on your baby’s characteristics:

You can also watch associated videos:

Talk soon!

The Baby Expert

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