The Importance of Newborn Photography

The Importance of Newborn Photography

I’m a frugal person- there is no way around it. When my husband and I got married, we planned our entire wedding in 5 weeks and spent about $1500 on the entire thing. It was perfect- a gorgeous outdoor ceremony, historical reception site, family contributions for almost everything. It was meaningful and special in every way. There’s just one problem- I have no professional photos of anything from that day.

In my frugality, I asked friends and family, many of whom owned nice cameras and had ‘photography experience’, to pitch in and document the day. We made the decision not to hire a professional photographer and instead rely on our well-intentioned guests to provide us with lasting memories of the most special day of our lives. BIG MISTAKE.

While this is truly my only regret from our wedding day, it has shaped my decisions about photography as I go forward- namely, I won’t ever let a significant, once-in-a-lifetime event go by without making sure that it’s documented by a professional. My pregnancy, and the birth of our daughter, were the first instance of this- not only is she our first child, but there is never a guarantee that there will be more children. It’s like a wedding- she is only born once. She’s only a tiny newborn for a few short weeks. It wouldn’t happen again. I couldn’t let the opportunity slip away!

To read more about our photography session, see more of the beautiful photos, and catch my 4 tips to having an enjoyable photography experience, follow me over to the Jenna Shriver Photography blog!

Why You Should Delay Baby’s First Bath

Why You should Delay Baby's First BathOne thing that has been especially entertaining about my pregnancy is watching my husband’s ideas of childbirth become completely shattered. I can’t really blame him- when your only exposure to birth is movies where women’s water breaks in the grocery store with a dramatic flood, birth happens, and they are handed a perfectly-colored six month old baby, learning about how birth ACTUALLY happens can come as quite a shock.

I’ll never forget sitting in one of our first birth classes a few months back. We watched an empowering film of a natural water birth, at the end of which the mother pulls up a tiny blue baby covered in thick, white goop. Everyone ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as the teacher shuts off the film- the women, that is. All the dads in the room are stunned to silence, until one finally pipes up:

“Is that baby supposed to look like that? That baby was as blue as a smurf!”

Another dad: “Yeah, and what was that gunk all over it?”

And so began the fathers’ education in natural childbirth. Though I did understand the blueness (and tininess) of the baby, I did find myself wondering about that white stuff. What was it’s purpose? If a baby is born with it, should we get rid of it?

In short, no! Babies build up this beautiful, nutritious coating called the vernix while they are in the womb. It not only helps to keep them warm, but helps protect their bodies from getting all pruney from their amniotic fluid. In addition, the vernix has immunity-building properties, which help protect the baby after birth. It is also moisturizing and soothing for the skin, which is being exposed to air and strange fabrics for the first time. Perhaps most amazingly of all, the vernix actually helps the baby regulate their own body temperature- something everyone seems to be concerned about with a newborn!

So this stuff is great, but what do with it? Rub it in as much as possible! Don’t wash it off of your baby- instead, help the baby soak up those great immunity and skin protecting benefits.

Some other reasons to delay baby’s first bath:
…messes with the baby’s body temperature
…can interrupt the bonding process between mom and baby, particularly if done by someone else
…can elevate baby’s blood pressure and trigger stress hormones

How long until I get a squeaky clean baby? This is really up to you. Generally, it’s suggested to wait at least 24 hours in order to allow for good bonding to be established with mama and for the benefits of the vernix to soak into baby’s skin. The birth center we are using doesn’t even routinely give baths- they say that’s mama’s job at home in a few days! However, it isn’t uncommon for some families to wait a week or longer before bathing baby- and then, they will only bathe baby with water. Really, you have to decide what you are comfortable with and what is best for you and your little one!

How to Keep Your Baby Warm (Don’t Overthink It!)

If you read my previous post detailing the contents of my natural birth bag, you may have noticed that one “crucial” element was missing: a hat for the baby! In addition, our birth plan details that our daughter should never be put under a warmer. Wondering why?

Yes, these decisions were completely intentional! While newborn caps may be cute, and warmers seem necessary, the truth is that nature’s design for regulating your newborn’s body temperature is much more convenient: YOU keep your baby born!

Most term babies are born with a waxy, cheese-like substance coating their bodies called vernix. This protective layer coats the baby while they are in utero, yes- but don’t wipe it off just yet! As we discussed last week when we talked about delaying the first bath, the vernix is great to help moisturize the baby’s skin, contains protective immunity-boosting properties, and, yes- it helps regulate the baby’s body temperature.

In addition, practicing immediate skin-to-skin contact with your baby will allow your body temperature to regulate theirs. This is, without a doubt, the most effective way to keep your baby’s temperature where it should be, in addition to facilitating the beautiful bonding that happens within the first few hours and days after birth.

Speaking of bonding- lose that hat! There’s actually a chemical bonding that takes place when the mother of a newborn smells the head of her new baby. This smell triggers the release of a high amount of oxytocin, the mothering hormone, which stimulates bonding but also stimulates uterine contractions that will expel the placenta and decrease hemorrhage risk, as well as signal the production of breastmilk. Now, why would you want to cheat yourself out of such a powerful whiff of that cute little head?

Of course, when you go to take your baby home from your place of birth (especially if it’s cold outside!) a hat is perfectly fine and may even be necessary. But in the sensitive window after birth, snuggle skin-to-skin with your new little one and forget all about those extra measures. Celebrate the beauty of nature as you bond with your baby!

An Easy Decision: Delayed Cord Clamping

Why You Should Delay Cord ClampingIt seems like all of these ‘newborn decision’ posts end up with parents in a face-off with their mainstream healthcare providers- whether it’s avoiding vaccines, eye goop, or circumcision, you end up on the other side of ‘normal’ and nobody wants to make it easy for you. However, one of the easiest things you can do for your newborn baby, that will definitely make them healthier, that almost NO health practitioner will object to, is delay the clamping of their umbilical cord!

What exactly is the purpose of this? Well, when a baby is born, the placenta is still pumping blood to the baby through their umbilical cord. When the cord is immediately clamped and cut, approximately one-third to one-half of the baby’s total blood volume is still in the placenta and cord- resulting in higher instances of anemia, babies that have trouble ‘pinking up’, and a slew of other issues that are completely avoidable.

How does it work? In most cases, after the baby is born, the cord is simply allowed to stop pulsing naturally (no squeezing or forcing the blood in)- this usually happens around ten minutes after birth. This ensures that the baby has received as much of their blood volume as possible- more iron, more stem cells, more white blood cells. Then the cord is cut and clamped like normal.

There are some families that choose to have what is called a ‘lotus birth’, in which the placenta remains attached until the umbilical cord falls off naturally. The placenta is usually treated with oils and herbs to keep it smelling nice (it starts to deteriorate rather quickly). This low-intervention way of allowing the baby to enter into the world is a great choice for some parents, but for others can be quite a hassle. Personally, I think that delayed cord clamping gives parents the best of both worlds: the baby receives all the good stuff, but you don’t have to tote an extra organ around for a week or so!

Now, if you’ve been to any type of baby store- be it maternity clothes shopping or picking our nursery items- chances are you’ve had your hands shoved full of information about cord blood banking. This new technology allows parents of newborns to save some of their baby’s umbilical cord blood (which is rich in stem cells) in a bank in case the child (or a sibling) should come down with some type of life-threatening illness and need advanced medicine that may be furthered by set cell usage. The process is relatively simple, but very expensive. Cord blood can also be donated to blood banks for other children.

So obviously, this blood is GOOD STUFF- that’s why banking it is becoming so popular! But don’t we want our babies to be as strong as possible as they start their life outside the womb? Having a sufficient blood volume, especially chock full of that rich cord blood, seems like the best way to do this.

Secondly, it is still completely possible to bank cord blood AFTER allowing the umbilical cord to stop pulsing. There will still be a certain amount of blood left in the cord and the placenta, which is usually more than sufficient for what is necessary to bank. Stem cell research has proven to be very valuable in the medical world already, and certainly could have amazing benefits for our children’s future- if you can afford it, I say go for it! But not until after you give baby some blood back 🙂

What’s With the Eye Goop?

Does Your Newborn Really Need Eye Goop? What You Need To Know About ErythromycinThere are a number of things that happen in very quick succession once your baby is born- especially if you aren’t informed enough to say no ahead of time! One of those is that your newborn’s eyes will immediately be smeared with a antibiotic cream called erythromycin.

A long time ago (we’re talking last century), it becomes increasingly common for newborns to develop conjunctivitis very soon after being born, and sometimes even to go blind. Doctors recognized this and began immediately treating the eye of newborns with silver nitrate, which significantly decreased the amount of infections (silver nitrate burns, however, and was eventually replaced with erythromycin). Eventually, doctors were able to make a connection between mothers with chlamydia and gonorrhea and the infants developing conjunctivitis- a breakthrough that, again, significantly decreased the likelihood of infection.

What are the risks of erythromycin? Health-wise, the risks of the treatment itself are negligible. Any amount of antibiotics can be seen as a hindrance the the natural development of the infant’s immune system. Erythromycin also occasionally causes eye irritation. However, the biggest risk of this treatment is that it messes with the infant’s already subpar vision- which can be detrimental to the bonding process so soon after birth. Babies can only see within a foot or so in front of them, and this treatment makes even that vision blurry!

So, if the connection between these STDs and the infections is so obvious, why is it that newborns are routinely dosed with erythromycin? Simply put, it’s easier to just give it to every baby. Is it necessary? Yes, if you have one of the applicable STDs. But what if you don’t?

STD screening is routine in pregnancy, no matter if you see a midwife or an obstetrician, and they will obviously tell you if you test positive. However, if you are negative and in a monogamous relationship with someone who is also negative, there is virtually no reason to allow your child to be dosed with erythromycin. Put it in your birth plan, discuss it with your caregiver and nurses when you arrive at your place of birth. If you don’t want it to happen, don’t let it!

Does Your Newborn Need the Vitamin K Shot?

Does your newborn need the Vitamin K shot?

One of the big, quick decisions to be made for a newborn is whether or not to administer the Vitamin K shot. This usually happens immediately after birth, with the cutting of the cord and the bathing and the Hep B and the erythromycin and all the other hubbub that you may not even notice, it happens so quickly. In many states, Vitamin K is required, but parents do technically have the ‘option to refuse’.

Why is Vitamin K given at birth? Vitamin K is essential to help the blood clot. Newborns don’t make it until around day 8 of their lives, so they are at greater risk for internal bleeding from illness or injury during that sensitive first week. In addition, there is a rare but very serious blood clotting disorder (about 1 in 10,000 births) that is prevented by this simple vitamin K shot. In addition, blood clotting is essential if you have a son who is going to be circumcised- making the shot very worthwhile.

Why might you opt out of the Vitamin K shot? Honestly, it may not be all that necessary for your child. It’s only been routine for a little over 20 years, and humanity was just fine without it. If you’ve had a uneventful birth, are planning on nesting at home for the first few weeks, are having a girl (or a boy who won’t be circumcised), and are alright with the risks of the rare blood clotting disorder, you could probably forgo the shot without too much worry.

What are the risks of the shot? This is definitely a different tier of risk than vaccines, which is why it’s honestly been a difficult decision for me to tackle. There aren’t crazy side effects from Vitamin K, but it does put a lot of strain on the liver, as the amount of Vitamin K is a lot for the little body to process. That being said, this increases the babe’s risk for jaundice, which nobody likes but isn’t all that uncommon anyway. In addition, Vitamin K is given as an intramuscular injection, which is effective to deliver a large dose, but isn’t a great way to see all of that Vitamin K absorbed (orally being the most effective), which then results in extra strain on the liver as well.

Anything else to this story? Actually, yes. I have friends who did a lot of research into this subject for their two boys- they wanted to forgo Vitamin K but still circumcise. What they realized is that, in Jewish law, the Lord mandated that boys be circumcised on the eighth day- the same day that the body automatically starts producing it’s own Vitamin K supply. Coincidence? I don’t think so! It’s hard for me to think that babies would be born deficient in something that is necessary for them- I believe in better design than that 🙂

So, what are the options?

-Get the shot. It’s quick and it’ll definitely save you conversations with your care providers, and you can rest easy about risks like injury or brain bleeds. Your babe will likely have some degree of jaundice, so do prepare for that battle if you decide to get the shot. However, your baby may not jaundice at all and that may be the last you hear of it.

-Get the oral supplement. Your care provider may be able to recommend something, or you can try to find one online. This is a good option, as you can control the amount and gradually supplement, but it’s hard to come by. This is a popular option on Europe, but I have been cautioned against it as it is apparently quite bitter, which results in the babe spitting most of it out. Additionally, the intervals it is given in don’t make a ton of sense- it is typically a series of 3, with 2 of the doses coming after infants are producing their own vitamin K at sufficient levels.

-Supplement yourself (via actual supplement or food supplementation) and breastfeed like a champ. There are debates as to whether or not Vitamin K actually crosses the placenta, but if mom eats a Vitamin K rich diet, it will come through in her milk. This is a great breakdown of foods that are rich in Vitamin K: http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/food-sources-of-vitamin-k.php

-Refuse the supplement. It’s only about a week before the babe will start producing the Vitamin K themselves, and at that point, your worries can be over. In a typical birth, your need for Vitamin K will likely be very low. If you do have a slightly more complicated birth, homeopathic arnica can be used to reduce bruising and swelling.

Ultimately, this is a decision that is best handled in conjunction with your care provider and knowing the details of your specific birth. Honestly, I am not 100% what we will do for our baby- I am prepared with arnica and eating a good Vitamin K diet, but if her birth is traumatic, I won’t hesitate to supplement if recommended by my midwife.

Should You Give Your Newborn the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

Should You Give Your Newborn the Hepatitis B Vaccine?

I don’t know about you, but I have this idea that when a baby is born, they are so…innocent. Untainted by anything. Perfect. Whole. While in some respects this is certainly true, in my head I know that babies are actually profoundly affected by the lifestyle of their mama during pregnancy- her habits, exercise, diet, things she was exposed to, etc. Still, the idea that a baby is born and is exactly the way they should be really resonates in my heart.

I think it’s this thought that makes it so difficult for me to blindly swallow so many of the procedures that are routinely performed on our newborns these days. I’m thankful for this, too- because with a little research, I’ve realized that many things aren’t as necessary as the mainstream medical world might have us believe- in fact, some can even be detrimental to our baby’s health. The Hepatitis B vaccination, routinely given immediately after birth, seems to be no exception.

Hepatitis B is a blood- and body fluid-borne disease that can be transmitted from mother to baby during birth, or later in life through contact with blood or from a sexual partner. It mainly effects the liver, and has symptoms very similar to the flu- so similar that some adults will contract Hepatitis B as adults and not even know. So why is every infant given this vaccine at birth? Is it really necessary? This is the big question.

Hepatitis B is one of the many diseases that mothers are routinely tested for during pregnancy, meaning that if a mother has tested negatively (assuming she has been monogamous through her pregnancy) she has no chance of passing the disease on to her baby. After the chance of contracting the disease during birth, the chances of a child contracting Hepatitis B during childhood is slim to none- it’s not until an individual reaches an age where they could be engaging in risky behavior (whether sexual or drug related) that their chance of contracting the disease goes up.

As with any vaccine, there are many reasons to be cautious when considering giving the Hepatitis B shot to your child- especially if you do not have the disease. Recently, the Hepatitis B vaccination was linked to multiple deaths in Chinese infants, and has been connected to various severe reactions in the United States as well.

So, should you give your newborn the Hepatitis B vaccine?

It might be a good idea if:
…you have tested positive for Hepatitis B
…you have engaged in sexual activity with someone who may have Hepatitis B since you’ve been tested
…you may have your child in a public daycare where they could possible be exposed through biting, etc (even here, you could delay a few years)

You could feel safe about holding off if:
…you tested negatively for Hepatitis B
…you did not engage in any risky behavior since testing
…you know that your child will not be exposed through other things (like daycare)

If all else fails:
…know that you can have your teen get the Hepatitis B vaccine later in life if you worry about their behavior
…you can always give a vaccine, but you can’t take one back once it’s been done

Thoughts on Circumcision: AKA Why I’m Glad I’m Having a Girl

I have to say from the very beginning of this discussion that I am pregnant with a baby girl. However, it was very soon after we found out that we were having a girl that I uttered the words “whew, now we don’t have to decide about circumcision”. I think I may even have still been on the ultrasound table.

Circumcision is definitely a hot topic these days, from dads who vehemently need their sons to match their ‘parts’ to mothers who believe that circumcision is a human rights violation, and everything in between. when Matt and I were first discussing this topic (early in our pregnancy), I told him that I knew this was a decision that ultimately he would need to make for our future son- and that, given he took the time to inform himself, I would respect his decision, even if I didn’t necessarily agree. I felt strongly that this was an area of parenting and decision making within my marriage that I needed to respect my husband in- and he appreciated that. Now, we are having a girl, but I am happy to say that Matt has taken some time to inform himself about this topic anyway, and I think we are close to being on the same page!

Thoughts on Circumcision: AKA Why I'm Glad I'm Having a Girl

So what are all the factors that go into the circumcision decision? Well, there are many- from religious, to aesthetic, to social, to medical. I want to break down each of these factors objectively and give an overview or where each camp lies before I share my own thoughts!

RELIGIOUS
Let’s get the most complicated out of the way first. Most people I know jump straight to the religious card when discussing circumcision without realizing what it actually entails. Most Christians assume that, because the Lord commanded the Israelites to be circumcised in the Old Testament, we all must continue to abide by that law, because ‘that’s the tradition in the church.’ There are many problems with this argument:

The Jews were the only ones that circumcised for a long, long time- in fact, Paul spends a good amount of the New Testament arguing that it’s completely fine for the gentiles (aka, most of us) to not be circumcised, and that it has no hold on salvation. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages, when some church authority figures decided to claim that being uncircumcised was linked to problems with lust and masturbation, that the church began routine circumcision. That was really effective, huh?

Secondly, if we are to abide by the rules put in place by the Lord for the Israelites, we have a whole mess of other things to worry about in addition to circumcision- publicly stoning all adulterers, no sexual relations during a woman’s period, very specific dietary instructions. It’s pretty silly to assume that this part of the covenant must be steadfastly held to in modern day, but the rest of it doesn’t matter. As Christians, we believe that Jesus came to fulfill the law- which is why we are not bound to any of these practices anymore.

AESTHETIC
This one is probably the easiest one to understand, and yet seems to be the one that is most blown out of proportion. Let’s face it: dads want their sons to look like them. What if they get confused? Will they think something is wrong with them? In all honestly, this will probably end up being nothing more than a brief, honest conversation between father and son about how they made an informed decision about what was best for him- with information that perhaps his grandparent’s didn’t have. It helps to stress that the father was born just like the son, but had a procedure done to now look like he does. Form anyone I’ve talked to, this simply hasn’t been a game-changing issue- in fact, they were surprised with how easy the conversation was, and how resilient the sons were!

SOCIAL
The ‘locker room’ argument is another that I hear often- and perhaps with good reason. Even in the years that my husband was growing up, circumcision was much more common than it is now. In a locker room of boys, a slim few of uncircumcised peers would definitely be a minority- but statistics say that this is far from the norm now. In fact, polling from 2011 shows that 43% of newborn boys nationwide are not circumcised– and this statistic is only growing (this study shows the number at around 70% in 2010!). This is definitely changing the locker room dynamic for what our boys will experience when they grow older.

It’s also interesting to look at data state-by-state and compare what states will fund circumcision via Medicaid, versus which states do not.  Overwhelmingly, states with funding have higher rates- meaning, when parents actually have to pay for it themselves, they are far more likely to forgo the procedure.

MEDICAL
This is perhaps the most misunderstood factor of the circumcision debate- whether it is medically necessary or not. The fact is that there are ZERO worldwide governing medical bodies that continue to say that routine infant circumcision is medically necessary- in fact, many go as far as to say that routine infant circumcision is a ‘cosmetic procedure’. However, because denying circumcision is only now starting to become more commonplace, there are a vast number of physicians who aren’t really trained properly on how to care for an uncircumcised penis- and, therefore, a parent making an uninformed decision not to circumcise may be advised improperly on how to care for their son, which can lead to further issues down the road. I have heard horror stories of mothers taking their infant boys in for a checkup and having a doctor forcibly retract their son’s foreskin- something that is to happen naturally as the child grows older- and having to eventually switch physicians because of the trauma that it caused the child (and mother) because the doctor wasn’t informed.

Are there times when circumcision is medically necessary? Absolutely. But the bottom line is that every professional medical association agrees that, given proper care, routine infant circumcision is just not needed. Personally, I think that this in and of itself is a pretty big deal- if medical professionals, who would make more money by saying that routine circumcision is necessary (given they profit from surgery), are stating that the surgeries aren’t necessary, I’m going to take note.