The Newborn Bill of Rights
The newborn has the right to:
1. Be born in as natural, loving and
family-centered setting as possible with a knowledgeable, caring,
conscientious birth attendant, either at home, in a birth center, or a
progressive, family-centered hospital, as best meets the particular
needs of the family.
2. Be born vaginally, without intervention,
drugs, induced labor, forceps, electronic fetal monitor, artificial
rupture of the membrane or any other aggressive obstetrical procedure,
barring absolute health necessity.
3. Be born in the presence of his/her father
and be held immediately after birth by the mother and father, barring
absolute health contraindications. (Some hospitals allow the mother to
hold her baby five minutes or so on the delivery table before taking him
or her away. This does not constitute uninterrupted bonding.)
4. Be kept warm after birth. Dangerous
consequences can result from the loss of body heat. In most cases, the
mother's body insures adequate warmth if the baby is covered with a
5. Be fed on demand, in accordance with
his/her body's need for food, rather than by an arbitrary imposed
schedule. All babies should be considered for breastfeeding, as breast
milk has been proven to be the superior food for infants.
6. Be spared any painful procedure that is not
absolutely necessary for his/her health or well being, such as routine
administration of silver nitrate drops in the eyes. This procedure is
useless for the 95% of all babies whose mothers do not have gonorrhea.
Prophylactic ointments such as erythromycin or tetracycline, which do
not sting, can be used.
7. Be afforded necessary and appropriate
treatment in the event of abnormality or illness, with all decisions
being made with only the welfare of the child in mind. If a procedure is
necessary, such as surgery for a hernia or other birth defect, the
infant has the right to have appropriate, effective anesthesia, since
all older individuals undergoing surgery are afforded this
8. Be allowed to keep all normally occurring
parts of his/her body, including the foreskin, which is a useful,
protective piece of body tissue.
9. Be spared any cosmetic procedure that
involves alteration of normal structures, until the child is old enough
to choose for him/herself whether or not he/she wishes it. Therefore,
tattooing of child's body, piercing of a child's ears or circumcising a
child's foreskin, done merely for the sake of the parent's sense of
esthetics, is a basic violation of individual human rights, because a
child cannot make a choice about it.
10. Be spared procedures done for
demonstration and/or teaching purposes and routine procedures that exist
only for the few who may need it.
This article first appeared in The Compleat Mother, Fall 1992.
Reprinted with permission.