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How to Prepare Your Baby for Life Outside the Womb

A lot happens in the few hours immediately after your baby is born. He has made a pretty significant change and has a lot to adjust to. The medical staff takes immediate action to give him the best start in life.

Keeping your baby warm and dry

Because body temperature drops rapidly after birth, keeping your new baby warm and dry is important. If newborns become cold, their oxygen requirements increase. For this reason, a nurse dries the baby off, places him in a warmer or warmed bassinet, and then watches his temperature closely.

Often the nurse wraps or swaddles him in a blanket and puts a little hat on him to reduce the loss of heat from the head — the site of most heat loss (just as your mother told you). When the baby gets to the nursery, a nurse usually dresses him in a little shirt and then wraps him again in a blanket.

Caring for your baby’s eyes

Most hospital staffs routinely place an antibiotic ointment into a newborn’s eyes to lower the chance that he may develop an infection from passage through the vagina of a mother who has chlamydia or gonorrhea. The ointment doesn’t appear to be bothersome to babies and is completely absorbed within a few hours.

Some parents worry that the ointment may blur the baby’s vision and thus hinder parent-child bonding. You don’t have any reason to be concerned about possible blurring, however. Babies don’t see clearly in any case.

Boosting vitamin K

Most hospitals give newborns an injection of vitamin K to decrease the risk of serious bleeding. Vitamin K is important in the body’s production of substances that help the blood clot. This nutrient doesn’t pass through the placenta to a baby very easily, however, and newborn livers, because they’re immature, produce very little of it.

So babies are typically low in this nutrient. Giving the baby vitamin K is an important preventive measure.

Making tracks: Baby’s footprints

Most likely, a nurse takes your baby’s footprints shortly after he is born to make a permanent record of identity. (The unique ridges that form on a baby’s feet are actually present several months before birth.)

Some hospitals give you a copy of your baby’s footprints for your scrapbook. Although most hospitals still use this technique of identification, not all do.

Vaccinating for hepatitis B

Many hospitals now routinely start the vaccination process against hepatitis B for newborn babies, whereas others prefer that a pediatrician administer the first of the three shots after the baby is discharged from the hospital. (The last two are given over the course of the next six months.) Wherever your baby receives the vaccine, this shot is an important tool to reduce his chance of contracting hepatitis B later in life.

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