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All expectant parents want nothing more than the birth of a healthy, happy baby. But what if that birth happens to be moments before or after the New Year? Many hospitals world-wide recognize the birth of a New Year’s baby with a showering of gifts from local business as well as a bevy of media attention.
“In my hospital, we deliver 40 babies a day so there’s usually more than one family in the running for having the first baby,” said Dr. Karen Nordahl of her private practice in Vancouver, British Columbia. “It’s exciting if they’re in the running and potentially close. The hospital has a media contact that is there that night and helps take care of everything. [The birth announcement] goes out to the media that night then they come in the following afternoon to talk to the family.”
Nordahl, a clinical associate instructor in the department of family practice at the University of British Columbia, said there are usually promotions for the first baby in every state, city and hospital and that gifts can include car seats, gift certificates or a brand new stroller in addition to the attention from the media on New Year’s Day.
The weeks leading up to and after Christmas tend to be busy, she said, with the stress of the holidays potentially precluding labor. While some women may want to hold off to have the New Year’s baby if possible, others may try to give birth before the first of the year to claim immediate tax deductions or stay within a certain calendar year for school.
Although local news outlets tend to make a big deal out of the first baby born in each hospital, the excitement for each family is virtually the same as any other day, said Amy Cline, marketing and communications specialist for Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns in San Diego, CA.
“There is the same excitement on the unit but nature is nature, so it just comes down to timing as to whether or not the baby will come on that special date,” she said. “We had a patient deliver her daughter naturally at 12:12 p.m. on 12/12/12, but that was pure luck.”
Similarly, Nordhal has never had a patient who’s wanted to labor longer or be induced to have the New Year’s baby, but will discuss the option of going for it if her patient is there and in labor by chance and coming close to the midnight mark. Nordhal delivered one baby that was the first in the city about 15 minutes past the hour.
For the birth to “count” as a contender for any New Year’s prizes, a baby must be completely out of its mother, according to the Loyola University Health system. The umbilical cord, however, does not need to be cut.
“In my situation, I left it up to the mom and she decided to go for it,” she said. “If it’s not uncomfortable and the baby is fine, we discuss with the couple if it’s important to them. Most of the time it isn’t and they just want their baby to be healthy and well.”