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Suctioning Newborns

What do you practice with your newborn pups? This article I ran across on the web sure makes me think this same practice is harmful to our newborn pups:

The suctioning of a baby’s nose and / or mouth at birth is a practice that has been around for many years. Being aimed at clearing the baby’s airways to help them to breathe. In the last 5 years or so the value of this intervention, as a routine procedure, has been questioned. It is now believed that most healthy babies do not require any suctioning and are quite capable of clearing their airways on their own.

The fact that babies, on average, are born with up to 75 to 100 mls of amniotic fluid in their lungs already (being fully absorbed within 24 hours after the birth), means that another 1 or 2 mls from their nose and mouth will not make much difference. Newborn babies normally sound a little ‘gurgly’ when they breathe in the first hour after birth. This is normal and will usually resolve after an hour or so.

Occasionally, caregivers will try to suction mucous from the back of the baby’s throat and in rare circumstances from the baby’s stomach (the latter being aimed at stopping excess fluid, or meconium stained fluid, from possibly going into the baby’s lungs if regurgitated up from their stomach). Both these practises are now controversial.

Suctioning the back of the throat. Careful suctioning of the back of a baby’s throat can be helpful if there is thick mucous inhibiting the baby’s breathing or if the water is meconium stained (to prevent it from being inhaled). The hazard of suctioning this area routinely is that care needs to be taken not to stimulate the baby’s pharynx (throat area).

Pharyngeal stimulation can cause the baby’s airways to spasm and can trigger abnormal heart rate patterns in the baby, causing a dramatic slowing of the baby’s heart rate (known as bradycardia). This can happen for about 3 to 4% of babies suctioned this way. One way of minimising this is using the suction bulb, instead of the catheter or De Lee. While research suggests that this is a better option to avoid these side effects, the reality is that in Australia, suction bulbs are rarely used (or supplied in our hospitals).

Suctioning the baby’s stomach. Routine suctioning of the baby’s stomach (called gastric suctioning) has also been a popular intervention with many caregivers. It was thought that by doing this it might prevent excess fluid, or meconium stained fluid, from possibly going into the baby’s lungs, if regurgitated up from their stomach.

This intervention is now known to possibly cause spasm of the baby’s airways, an abnormal lowering of the baby’s heart rate (bradycardia) and disruption of the baby’s interest in feeding. It may also remove some of the ‘good bacteria’ in the baby’s stomach that is used to digest milk.

The research has found no benefits for routine gastric suctioning and it is now believed that there is no real justification for this intervention. *

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