Medical researchers have just figured out what midwives have known for, well, forever. It’s really ok for babies to be put directly on mothers’ chest immediately after birth, without cutting the cord. The baby does not actually need to be held below the level of the placenta, i.e. at the introitus, until the cord is cut. Gravity doesn’t take away blood from the baby if he is raised up to the mother’s breast.
They have the study to prove that now, in the Lancet.
Studies conducted 35 years ago somehow found that babies needed to be held at or below the level of the placenta, so that, as Medical News Today puts it, “enough blood can pass from the placenta to the baby.” The thinking was that gravity would cause too much blood to flow back into the placenta, creating difficulty for baby. So until the umbilical cord was cut, the baby was not allowed to be placed on the mom’s chest, the very place that nature designed for baby to go.
There has been an increase in maternal requests for “delayed cord clamping” after birth, some requesting waiting until the cord stops pulsing, and some even choosing lotus birth. But the ingrained practice of keeping baby at or below the birth canal or placenta meant that practitioners often refused to honor the request of mothers to hold their babies immediately. The two choices were seen as incompatible concepts.
This new study, “Effect of gravity on volume of placental transfusion: a multicentre, randomised, non-inferiority trial,” looked at newborns in three hospitals in Argentina. About half of the babies in the study were held at the level of the introitus for two minutes after birth until the cord was clamped. The other half went straight to mom, and the cord was clamped after two minutes. The babies were weighed at birth and then after the cord was cut. Researchers found no significant difference between the weights of the two groups.
In an interview with MedicalResearch.com, one of the authors of the study, Dr. Nester E. Vain, stated the take-away of the study:
“The most important measure is that the recommendation of delaying cord clamping can be respected by obstetricians and neonatologists while the infant is held by the mother on her abdomen or chest, therefore enhancing maternal infant bonding and facilitating the procedure. In this way the procedure may contribute to decrease anemia and delayed neurodevelopment associated with iron deficiency in infancy.”
Immediately after a baby is born, there is a surge of hormones that work together when baby goes straight to mother’s chest that affect many physiological processes. When the baby does not go immediately skin-to-skin, that whole process is interrupted. French obstetrician Michel Odent says that “the highest peak of oxytocin, the main ‘love hormone’ a woman can release during her whole life is not for the birth itself. It is for the birth of the placenta after the birth of the baby.”
Dr. Sarah Buckley of Australia, author of “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” explains that, immediately after birth, there are:
“peak levels of oxytocin, the hormone of love, and endorphins, hormones of pleasure for both mother and baby. Skin-to-skin contact and the baby’s first attempts to breast feed further augment maternal oxytocin levels, strengthening the uterine contractions that will help the placenta to separate, and the uterus to contract down. In this way, oxytocin acts to prevent haemorrhage, as well as to establish, in concert with the other hormones, the close bond that will ensure a mother’s care and protection, and thus her baby’s survival.”
Delayed cord clamping combined with immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth ensures that the intricate process of bonding and breastfeeding get the best possible start. Dr. John Stevenson wrote in Midwifery Today that “clamping and cutting the cord at once deprives baby of up to a cupful of its own blood, which is very wrong.”
There are compensatory mechanisms built into the birth process. Baby belongs straightaway on mother’s chest to facilitate bonding, placental release, breastfeeding, and to reduce post-partum hemorrhage and depression. It is logical that the design would not be so easily sabotaged by gravity depriving the baby of his own blood when he is picked up and held in the place that nature intended.
This recent study backs that up. Babies can actually be held immediately after birth, and it won’t hurt them. It is actually a good thing. Lots of moms already knew that.