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Immediate Care of the Newborn

Directly after birth there should be attention to the condition of the newborn. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that such attention is an integral part of care in normal birth. Immediate care involves:

     Drying the baby with warm towels or cloths, while being placed on the mother's abdomen or in her arms. This mother-child skin-to-skin contact is important to maintain the baby's temperature, encourage bonding and expose the baby to the mother's skin bacteria.
     Ensuring that the airway is clear, removing mucus and other material from the mouth, nose and throat with a suction pump.
     Taking measures to maintain body temperature, to ensure no metabolic problems associated with exposure to the cold arise.
     Clamping and cutting the umbilical cord with sterile instruments, thoroughly decontaminated by sterilisation. This is of utmost importance for the prevention of infections.
     A few drops of silver nitrate solution or an antibiotic is usually placed into the eyes to prevent infection from any harmful organisms that the baby may have had contact with during delivery (e.g. maternal STDs ).
      Vitamin K is also administered to prevent haemorrhagic disease of the newborn .
     The baby's overall condition is recorded at 1 minute and at 5 minutes after birth using the Apgar Scale .
     Putting the baby to the breast as early as possible. Early suckling/breast-feeding should be encouraged, within the first hour after birth and of nipple stimulation by the baby may influence uterine contractions and postpartum blood loss but according to the WHO, this should be investigated.
     About 6 hours or so after birth, the baby is bathed, but the vernix caseosa (whitish greasy material that covers most of the newborn's skin) is tried to be preserved, as it helps protect against infection.

For information on the neonates first physical examination and tests undertaken in the first year of life, go here .

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Care in Normal Birth: A Practical Guide. Report of a Technical Working Group, World Health Organisation, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, 1999.
2. Child Development , 6th Edition (1994), J. W. Santrock, Wm. C. Brown Communications, Inc.

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Newborn care
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Infant, Newborn
Intensive Care, Neonatal:
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Pediatric Center, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Apgar Score:

Vernix Caseosa:
Dermatology Image Atlas

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Contact Last modified: Jun 24 2002