Becoming a parent is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences any adult ever goes through. There are so many decisions to be made, and at the crux of every one of them is the fear of making the wrong choice. How can parents know what's best? How did previous generations parents manage this? What if we pick the wrong path and our child pays for our mistake? How will we live with ourselves?
Deep breaths, moms and dads. While it’s normal for parents to find themselves in uncharted territory during pregnancy, millions of other parents can relate. There’s no need for panic attacks just yet. Hold off on that until the teenaged years. Instead, focus on the here and now. It’s best to keep one’s mind wrapped around only the decisions that lie in the immediate future. We can worry about the dangers of fluoride supplements and when to take off the training wheels later on.
For now, there are some hefty decisions to be made regarding mom’s care during pregnancy. Most of the time, women don’t take to researching any of this until they’re already pregnant. That’s a little late, honestly, and that’s why it seems so overwhelming. Then comes the need to make decisions for baby. They’ll be here before we know it and we have to prepare to not only pull the trigger, but support why we’re choosing the path that we are, too. Ready?
13 The Circumcision Decision
This is a critical decision that parents of little boys have to make at the time of birth. Still, contrary to popular belief, that’s not the only time that a circumcision can be performed. If something inside Mom or Dad is saying don’t do it, it can always be postponed until further research and introspection can be completed. In fact, circumcision is safer when done after day eight of life when the baby’s natural vitamin K levels peak.
Safer. As in, safer than at one day old. But is circumcision safe? The parents of the 117 babies that die from it each year wouldn’t say so. Regardless, this is a very personal decision. No medical authority in the world recommends routine infant circumcision. Despite that, America still does it. Yes, America is getting singled out, because most other developed nations aren’t engaging in RIC at all.
In preparing oneself to be fully informed on circumcision, joining in on forums like Your Whole Baby and educating oneself on the procedure is paramount. Watch films like Elephant in the Hospital. Make sure both parents are aware of the risks of circumcision, and that while there are some purported benefits, they are not large enough to warrant preventatively circumcising every male being born.
12 Delayed Cord Clamping
For what seems like forever, parents have been captured on television and in films post-birth as the baby is moved out of the way to be cleaned off and dad happily cuts the cord. Scratch that! Old news! When you know better, you do better, and there’s a better way to manage those umbilical cords now.
Don’t worry; Dad still gets to cut the cord, but not until it turns white and stops pulsating completely. This allows all of the blood in the cord — which makes up approximately one-third of your newborn child’s blood supply — to be returned to the baby.
The benefits of this are substantial. The biggest benefit is the amount of iron that becomes available to the baby, especially since low iron levels in mom can lead to neurological and developmental issues down the line. Iron is a critical part of brain development in infants.
11 What About The Placenta?
While more and more people are hopping on the placenta encapsulation train, it’s not actually all that new of a trend. Rather, women have been consuming their placentas for centuries. It is a trusted source of nutrients that is said to help women find hormonal balance in the immediate and long-term postpartum period. This can help to ward off postpartum mood disorders, like postpartum depression/anxiety and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Encapsulation isn’t the only way to consume the placenta, though. Some women prefer to raw the whole organ in its raw form. They cut up chunks of it to blend into smoothies. Others will place raw pieces straight into capsules, while some prefer the dehydrated and ground up encapsulated method. The placenta can also be helpful in preventing postpartum hemorrhage. For this reason, moms place a sliver of it in their cheek or under the tongue as soon as the placenta is birthed.
10 Medicating Birth
Although this topic tends to set off a spur of mommy wars, it remains true. Women may be created equal, but not all of us want the same birth experience. In truth, some women are prepared for the pain of childbirth and handle it with grace; others are lashing out, screaming expletives and just want the baby out as fast as possible while feeling as little of what’s happening as they can.
The choice to medicate oneself during labor is the mother’s choice alone. No one should be shamed for asking for pain relief. That said, there’s a lot of shaming going on toward natural birth mothers, too, that needs to stop.
Epidurals and other opioid pain medications do carry risks and side effects. Pregnant mommies should be weighing the pros and cons, keeping in mind that the gravity of the pain they will feel during labor should not necessarily hold more clout than the potential side effects. While there are plenty of moms out there who birthed with epidurals and had no reported side effects, there are just as many who struggled to breastfeed, had lethargic babies, and permanent nerve damage in their backs (raising my hand here). In closing, this should be an informed choice.
9 Breast Or Bottle
Which is best? Science says breastmilk. Nothing can compare to it. Great. Do that. If you can’t, or you choose not to, be confident in your choice as a mother. It is yours alone. No one can make you feel poorly about it without your permission. You don’t even have to explain or defend it to anyone.
If you are choosing to bottle-feed, you’ll want to specify in your birth plan whether it will be expressed colostrum and breastmilk, or formula. If you have a preference for the type of formula you want to use, note if the formula the hospital has on hand shouldn’t be used and make sure to pack your own. For example, lots of moms who can’t breastfeed choose HiPP or Holle formula, because they are the closest to breastmilk.
If you are choosing to breastfeed, make that clear to the staff at the hospital. You might want to include it in your patient notes or birth plan, because shift changes will happen during your stay. The last thing any breastfeeding mother wants who is trying to get her supply to come in and the baby to feed is a nurse who comes along and gives them a bottle of formula that the baby doesn’t have to work for at all.
8 The Name Game
This seems pretty self-explanatory. What parent goes to the hospital without a name picked out, right? Believe it or not, it’s pretty common. Parents often disagree on names or struggle to come up with one that either party likes. Many moms and dads want to meet the baby before they choose a name, too. They like to see their little one and spend some time with them first before deciding which title suits them best.
Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just be aware that applying for a birth certificate and social security card requires the baby to have a name. That said, some parents are now foregoing birth certs and social security cards, too. Don’t feel pressured to pick a name; changing it isn’t the easiest process down the road. But if you can’t figure one out in nine months’ time, who’s to say you will be able to during that extra day or two at the hospital? Get it together!
7 Vitamin K: Just A Vitamin?
It sure sounds like it’s just a vitamin. Is there any reason to inject babies with anything that isn’t just a vitamin? Wait. Is there a reason to even inject the vitamin itself? That’s where your line of thinking needs to be.
No, the vitamin K injection is not just a vitamin. Rather, it’s a mixture of synthetic vitamin k, aluminum, polysorbate 80, and sometimes benzyl alcohol. While this injection is not a vaccine, it does contain some of the same adjuvants that vaccines do. For that reason, parents need to be researching this injection well ahead of birth just the same.
Polysorbate 80 is a known carcinogen. Read: it causes cancer. Aluminum is a neurotoxin. When it comes to the vitamin k portion, we like to note that it’s synthetic, because some parents aren’t keen on these artificial versions of vitamins. Truthfully, synthetic vitamins are never as well-absorbed as natural vitamins. Mothers can pass vitamin K onto their babies through breastmilk. Furthermore, baby’s own vitamin K level peaks after eight days of life.
6 Why The Eye Ointment?
Erythromycin eye ointment is applied to every newborn baby’s eyes after birth unless the parents refuse it. It is standard procedure, but the reasons why may shock you. Years ago, it was discovered that mothers who were infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea could pass the infections on to their babies through exposure in the birth canal.
The babies don’t contract these diseases, per se. Instead, they can develop blindness. Sounds scary, right? No one wants that. So, why refuse the antibiotic? Because the worry over this blindness was based on a mere two women who passed on their infections. Because women are tested for these diseases during pregnancy, and the only reason they antibiotic is still pushed on those who tested negative for them is because doctors assume women or their partners could still be messing around and unaware they’ve contracted either of them since being tested.
In other words, if you know you don’t have chlamydia or gonorrhea, and you trust your partner isn’t stepping out and bringing it home to you, the eye ointment is of little benefit to your baby. Furthermore, unnecessary exposure to antibiotics wipes out the good gut bacteria in your baby’s microbiome. This is where their immune system begins. It is not advisable to mess with this when not absolutely necessary.
5 Plan B: Induction And C-Section
No one wants to think about this. However, it’s the moms that never think about it and end up having to go through it that regret matters the most. There is nothing quite as scary as being in the middle of a birth experience and having the doctor pressuring you to accept interventions like Pitocin or a C-section.
During these times, the only thing parents can do is remain informed, and that’s hard to do in the moment if you’ve never researched one bit of induction or surgery. You need to know the risks from an unbiased source, not from just the doctor. You need to know if there is time for alternatives, and whether the risks you and your baby face are truly dire or not. Unfortunately, doctors will often make the situation out to seem worse than it is to hurry your progress along.
Spend some time during your pregnancy going over real reasons for these interventions and compare them to reasons that don’t quite warrant them that doctors often push on their patients. Make notes in your birth plan for how you want things handled if one of these events comes to fruition.
4 Rooming In
Not so long ago, rooming in was unheard of. When hospital births started to become the norm and home births were largely phased out, everything became medicalized. Birth was no longer the beautiful event that women had cherished for centuries. Instead, it was a process that doctors intervened upon. It was a process that was medicated and dissected. It was treated as a medical emergency. In many hospitals in America today, it still is.
Rooming in went right alongside with this process. Prior to the 1900s, women birthed at home mostly and they kept their babies by their side or at the breast almost all the time. When birth moved into medicalized territory, doctors encouraged nurses to take the babies away to the nursery so that mom could rest and be monitored.
When formula came along and even fewer mothers were trying to breastfeed, the idea that mom needed to be immediately nearby the baby diminished even further. Luckily, breastfeeding has seen a resurgence, and along with it, so has rooming in.
That said, mothers should not feel less than or worse than another mother if they need a break before they head home from the hospital. Asking the nurse to take your baby to the nursery so you can shower and nap for a bit is not asking too much, but asking a family member or your partner to watch over the baby is a great alternative that still gives the baby constant contact and love.
3 To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate
Many parents believe vaccines are mandatory. They remember needing certain shots themselves before they could go to school, and they always assumed that without those shots, they wouldn’t be able to attend. Wrong. This is only true in three states: California, Mississippi and West Virginia. In those states, medical exemptions still exist, too.
Vaccines are not mandatory. Not at birth. Not at any time. When your little one is born, it’s wise to stay on top of them if you don’t want vaccines to be administered. This isn’t about being pro- or anti-vax. Plenty of pro-vax parents are still choosing to space their child’s vaccines out due to their concerns that children today are being given far too many shots — 74 doses by the time they’re 18.
Furthermore, many parents just don’t see the need of vaccinating newborns for Hepatitis B — the only vaccine given at birth — since this disease is primarily contracted through unprotected sex and injection drug use. Regardless of your point of view on this issue, it’s smart to know you have a choice. You call the shots — or not.
2 Very Eager Visitors
It’s understandable that everyone wants to meet the baby. Your loved ones were right there alongside you sharing in your joy when you announced to the world that you were having a baby. They watched your gender reveal video with glee. They attended your baby shower and marveled at the tiny clothes. Now the baby is here, you’ve posted a single picture on Facebook, and they’re ready to descend and cradle him or her in their arms.
Not so fast. Mom and Dad are requesting no visitors until they get settled at home? What’s with that? It can seem pretty offensive to loved ones who have the best of intentions, and some of them may be disgruntled at having to respect your wishes. Sometimes, it’s best to make this wish known before the baby ever arrives. This way, relatives and friends can prepare themselves and not be caught off guard amidst all their happiness that your little one has arrived. Birth is no time for hurt feelings.
1 Signing Waivers
Should you decide to decline the Erythromycin eye ointment, vitamin K inject or vaccines, the hospital may tell you that you need to sign a waiver. In so many words, these waivers cover the hospital’s behind. Should anything happen to your child that they deem was caused by you refusing those interventions, they want to make it known that they were offered to you. In a nutshell, it’s to protect them in case of a lawsuit.
On the flipside, these waivers can and have been used against some parents by Child Protective Services and in custody battles. There is no legal requirement for parents to sign these forms. They can’t do anything to you or your child for refusing to sign them. You’ll experience the same process from family doctors and pediatricians in many cases if you continue to decline vaccines, and those waivers don’t have to be signed, either. Know your rights.