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Protecting your baby

  • Newborn Vitamin K

    Vitamin K is needed to help the blood clot and to prevent bleeding.

    Babies do not get enough vitamin K from their mothers during pregnancy or from breast milk. Newborns can be deficient in vitamin K for the first eight days of life.

    Without enough vitamin K a baby is at risk of developing a rare disorder called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding or VKDB, which can cause them to bleed into their brain. This condition can also lead to death.

    The recommendation, based on current research, is that babies are given an injection with a single dose of vitamin K within a few hours of birth.

    As an alternative to the injection, some services may offer vitamin K orally. Vitamin K is not absorbed as well using this method and so it is necessary to give the baby several doses over a period of time.

  • Hepatitis B vaccination

    Hepatitis B is a serious illness caused by a virus and affects the liver.

    The hepatitis B virus can lead to chronic liver problems and liver cancers. A newborn baby has a very high risk of getting hepatitis B from their mother, who may or may not know that she is infected. It is spread by infected blood and other body fluids such as saliva.

    The recommendation in Australia is that all babies are immunised soon after birth.

    You will usually be offered a hepatitis B vaccine for your baby before you leave hospital but to be fully vaccinated, your baby will need further doses up to the age of four. If you are known to be hepatitis B positive your baby will need an immunoglobulin injection while in hospital, this will give your baby added and immediate protection from hepatitis B.

    The decision to have your baby immunised rests with you. For more information about immunisation visit the Better Health Channel’s page on childhood immunisation.

    Hepatitis B vaccination at birth – health.vic

  • Victoria Infant Hearing Screen Program

    The Victorian Infant Hearing Screening Program (VIHSP) screens the hearing of newborn babies in their first weeks of life. Early detection and intervention improves outcomes for babies with hearing loss.

    At SWH the hearing screen can be completed on the ward during your stay. If your baby doesn’t receive the screen during your stay, the hearing screen nurses will follow up with you and arrange another time for the hearing check/screen.

    Parents/guardians of babies, identified as requiring audiology, are fully supported through the process of diagnosis and intervention by VIHSP Early Support Services.

    The screen:

    • is only performed with your permission
    • is performed by trained hearing screeners
    • uses standard technology (Automated Auditory Brainstem Response AABR)
    • is usually completed at the mothers bedside while the baby is asleep (in hospital) or at an outpatient appointment

    Your Baby’s Hearing Screen

  • Newborn Screening

    Some babies are born with rare diseases, which can cause very serious complications. However, if these diseases are found and treated soon after birth, the baby will grow and develop normally. For this reason, a screening test is offered for all newborn babies.

    This test screens for:

    • Hypothyroidism (thyroid deficiency)
    • Cystic fibrosis (CF)
    • Amino acid disorders e.g. Phenylketonuria (PKU).
    • Fatty acid oxidation disorders
    • Other rare metabolic disorders

    With your permission a healthcare worker simply draws a few drops of blood by pricking the infant’s heel, usually within 48 to 72 hours of birth. Four small spots of blood are collected on a blotting card. That blood is then sent off to the Victorian Clinical Genetics Service (VCGS) who analyse the sample.

    Newborn Screening

  • Jaundice

    Jaundice is very common in newborns, so it’s nothing to be too worried about. Most of the time, it gets better by itself, and doesn’t need any treatment, but there are times when babies need a bit of help.

    When a baby is jaundice you may have noticed that your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes were a bit yellow in the days after they were born. That yellow colour is caused by a waste product in the blood called bilirubin.

    The most common type of jaundice is called physiological jaundice which occurs when the baby’s liver is unable to cope with the breakdown of the red blood cells, after the baby’s birth. The red blood cells are converted to bilirubin and cause the skin to yellow.

    Physiological jaundice appears after the first 24 hrs of life. Midwives will be monitoring you baby’s level of jaundice. If your baby has jaundice within the first 24 hrs of life your baby will be monitored more closely and reviewed by a paediatrician.

    Babies with even mild jaundice can sometimes not feed as well as babies that do not have jaundice. A bit of extra breast stimulation by some hand expressing can help-ask your midwife for assistance with this.

    Treating jaundice

    If your baby’s jaundice is mild the only treatment is to ensure that your baby is fed frequently to prevent dehydration which can increase the level of jaundice.

    A baby’s jaundice level can be easily checked by the midwife or nurse. The best way to check to see if a baby needs treatment for jaundice is to measure the amount of bilirubin in Baby’s body. The first time we test for this is with a small handheld instrument that uses light to measure the bilirubin level in the skin. It’s an instant and very easy test and is painless.

    If your baby is moderately jaundice, sleepy, not feeding and is not having enough wet nappies a blood test is recommended to establish how high the bilirubin level is. The test is called a Serum Bilirubin or SBR. Using a very small needle, we take a few drops of blood from Baby’s heel. This blood test is a more exact way to know if your baby needs treatment.

    If the paediatrician considers the level to be high phototherapy will be recommended to reduce the bilirubin level.

    Phototherapy is safe for your baby. Your baby will be undressed with its eyes covered with small eye pads and be placed in an isolette (humidicrib), with artificial light above for 24 -36 hrs. You will be able to take your baby out of the isolette for feeding.

    This light will break down the bilirubin. Your baby will also need to feed regularly. Feeds will be planned to be no further apart than 3-4 hourly.

    Jaundice and your newborn baby – The Royal Women’s
    Jaundice in newborns – Raising Children.

  • Safe sleeping

    Red Nose Six Safe Sleeping Recommendations: For all babies 0-12 months.

    1. Always place baby on their back to sleep
    2. Keep baby’s face and head uncovered
    3. Keep baby smoke free, before and after birth
    4. Safe sleeping environment, night and day
    5. Sleep baby in a safe cot in parents or caregiver’s room for the first 6-12 months.
    6. Breastfeed baby

    Safe sleep in pregnancy – Still Aware

    Safe sleeping – Red Nose Australia

    Co-sleeping Information

    The safest place for a baby is to sleep is in their own cot, in the same room as the parents/adult care giver until 6 months of age (preferably 12 months).

    South West Healthcare does not recommend or advise co-sleeping or bed sharing with your infant.

    If parents choose to co-sleep, there is information we can provide with the risks and benefits so you can make an informed decision. We recognise that co-sleeping may be valued, convenient, support the establishment of breastfeeding and promote parent and infant mental health.

    Co- Sleeping Tips from

    • Create a clear sleep space for the baby to sleep.
    • Always place baby on their back.
    • Tie up long hair and remove all jewellery including teething necklaces.
    • Place baby to the side of one parent, never in the middle of two adults or next to other children or pets.
    • Move the bed away from the wall, so baby can’t get trapped between the bed and the wall.
    • Keep pillows away from baby’s sleep space.
    • Use a safe sleeping bag with no hoods and baby’s arms out, do not wrap or swaddle baby.
    • Make sure the baby cannot fall off the bed.
    • Make sure that the bedding and sheets cannot cover the baby’s face.
    • Make sure that the mattress is firm and flat.
    • Make sure that baby’s head and face remain uncovered.

    When not to co-sleeping 

    Do not co-sleep when:

    • You or your partner are overly tired or unwell.
    • You or your partner have recently consumed alcohol.
    • You or your partner smoke, even if you are not smoking in the bedroom.
    • You or your partner have consumed illicit substances.
    • You or your partner have been taking drugs/medication that make you feel sleepy, less aware, or affected your consciousness.
    • Your baby is premature or small for gestational age.

    Do not sleep on a couch or a sofa or any soft surface area e.g., beanbags as this may increase the risk of entrapment.

    Co-sleeping with your baby – Red Nose

  • Dangers of smoking around your baby

    Tobacco smoke is made up of thousands of chemicals and many of them are very harmful. Around 70 of them cause cancer.

    Second-hand smoke is the smoke you breathe in from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes. It can cause serious health problems for your child. Breathing in second-hand smoke is sometimes known as passive smoking.

    Third-hand smoke is the toxins that land and stay on nearly every surface in the area where someone has been smoking, including on clothes, in hair, on furniture and on flooring. Second-hand and third-hand smoke are especially dangerous for babies and children.

    This is because babies and children have smaller airways and less mature immune systems than grown-ups. Their smaller airways mean they breathe faster, so they breathe in a lot more of a cigarette’s harmful chemicals than an adult would in the same time.

    Babies and children are also closer to the floor and often put their hands and toys into their mouths. This means they might swallow or breathe in the toxins from third-hand smoke.

    Smoking – Red Nose Australia

Page last updated: 15 April 2024

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