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Dear Ms. Thacker,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
Many states required the use of silver nitrate (or later, antibiotic) eye drops on newborn babies to prevent Ophthalmia Neonatorum or Conjunctivitis. Some babies are born with their eyes contaminated by Neissera Gonorrhea, Chlamydia trachomatis, or other bacteria that can lead to infections and possibly blindness. In some states, whether these were used is recorded on the birth records, and there can be penalties for midwives and physicians that fail to use them.
Please see the following for more information about historic and current practices, or consult with an obstetrician.
We hope this information is helpful!
Thank you! I appreciate the detailed info, and I'll check out the links you included.