What's With the Eye Ointment Put In Newborn's Eyes?

As soon as your baby is born, you go from making decisions about your own body to making them for a tiny person who relies on you to help make the bests choices for them until they're old enough to do it themselves. Pressure! And then there are the things that hospitals do to babies in the first few minutes of their life.

One of the things I dislike is the newborn's eye ointment -- that greasy stuff they put on a eyes. It's mandatory in most hospitals, but in some places you sign a waiver to opt out. Before you can decide if you want to do that, you'd have to know what the ointment is for, and your options.


It's usually an antibiotic (tetracycline or erythromycin) but some places still use silver nitrate. Tetracycline is thought to be the least irritating to a sensitive newborn's eyes. It's intended to protect the baby's eyes from being infected by syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia -- all things you should have been tested for during pregnancy. When this infects a baby's eye during delivery, it can cause pink eye/conjunctivitis making a baby's little peepers very sore and painful. It can even cause blindness. Eek.  

Even if you have a c-section, the bacteria can end up in the baby's eyes by hands of hospital staff and caregivers. There's some debate about whether this is the most common way babies get it. If you're positive for the STD, this can help prevent that. So it's a good thing there. But on the natural front, breastmilk is a great treatment and preventative, too, especially anti-body rich colostrum.

However, if you're not positive for an STD is there any point? The treatments generally make the eyes swollen, red, sore, and the vision blurry -- especially silver nitrate which bonds to the membranes of the surface of the eye. A newborn who can't see their mom can potentially have some bonding issues at first. Of the four causes of pink eye in newborns, one is these treatments, it seems silly to me to administer something that can cause the very thing which you're trying to prevent if you know you don't have the disease in the first place?

But I'm a blogger, not a doctor. You can and should talk to your doctor or other experts about this and do your own research as well, but know that despite the laws, this choice is still up to you and is just the first in a line of many, many choices you'll make as a parent. You should always go in informed.

Are you opting for or out of the eye ointment?

Images via abardwell/Flickr

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