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Images property of Jackie Askvig

Images property of Jackie Askvig

I was recently asked to share my opinion on the administration of Vitamin K and antibiotic eye ointment to newborns. I believe this is a personal decision and the right choice varies from family to family and within family from birth to birth.

Vitamin K
When I consider the standard procedure of injecting newborns with supplemental vitamin K, I can’t help but wonder why newborns, perfect in every other way, would be born lacking vitamin K without some reason we have yet to determine. The injections come with a slew of side effects I am simply not comfortable with and research is lacking on the effects of the injection as well as the reasons newborns are deficient in the first place. Some situations do call for vitamin K supplementation, in my opinion, and cases should be assessed individually. For instance, traumatic birth, baby needs antibiotics, cord was not allowed to pulsate and empty before clamping and/or cutting, breastfeeding is off to a rough start, etc. There is an oral supplement option for babies meeting those criteria. Mama should eat plenty of leafy greens before and after birth, consider a vitamin K supplement if she feels she isn’t getting a sufficient amount through diet, and know things to watch for in her newborn that would indicate a problem.
 I should add that if parents choose to circumcise their newborn, it would be wise to also supplement vitamin K before the surgery. Read more about my stance on routine infant circumcision here.
Eye Prophylaxis
I feel the administration of erythromycin is completely unnecessary as a routine newborn procedure. Instead, mothers should be screened for Gonorrhea or Chlamydia in pregnancy and treated appropriately. Know the signs of conjunctivitis, wash hands regularly, put breastmilk in baby’s goopy eyes those first days, and be upfront about mother and fathers’ sexual histories.
Ultimately, studies have shown that erythromycin doesn’t even reduce the incidence of conjunctivitis in the long run anyway.

Evidence Based Birth has done some work on the two topics, though I believe she leaves out some crucial considerations on the topic of letting baby be regarding Vitamin K supplementation.

Evidence on Vitamin K and Eye Ointment for Newborns

Also check out the book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley for a conversation on undisturbed birth, including newborn procedures.