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 blanket.
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 consideration.
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.