The heel stick is likely the first blood draw your baby will have. When this is performed on your newborn a small lancet will be used to prick your baby’s heel and then your baby’s foot will be squeezed until an adequate amount of blood has been obtained. This heel stick typically occurs at the 24 hour mark and is part of the newborn screening which includes a hearing test and sometimes a congenital heart disease screening. The newborn heel stick tests for serious genetic medical conditions. Which specific conditions your baby is screened for varies by state, to learn what your state tests for you can visit Baby’s First Test. Virginia screens for 31 different conditions. Screening your newborn at birth will allow any medical conditions to be diagnosed and treated early, possibly saving your baby’s life. The newborn screening is required in all states, but can be refused for religious reasons.
When this is performed on your newborn a small lancet will be used to prick your baby’s heel and then your baby’s foot will be squeezed until an adequate amount of blood has been obtained. To prepare the heel your nurse will likely apply a small heat pack to warm the heel and make the blood flow easier. After warming your baby’s heel the nurse will clean the area with alcohol or iodine. For the newborn screening the blood is typically collected onto filter paper and must fill the circle on the paper. Other tests may require a small vile to be filled.
Frustratingly this test can easily be done incorrectly or the blood may clot too quickly causing them to need to perform the blood draw again, if not multiple times.
Most hospitals will ask you place the baby in the bassinet or warmer while the heel stick is performed but you can ask to hold your baby to comfort him/her while the blood is collected. Your baby will likely tolerate the test better when held and comforted by you, your partner, or a nurse – you may tolerate the test better too when holding your baby. You can even try to nurse your baby during the procedure if you have established a good latch at this point, if not you can always offer your baby a pacifier or your pinky finger.
How did your baby tolerate the heel stick procedure? How many times did they need to do the heel stick? They had to do the test twice on both my children!
Next I will be blogging on the letter I… I is for Infant Massage.