You've just delivered your baby, and the umbilical cord is still pulsing. Your doctor clamps it by your baby's belly, and a few inches farther up, and your husband gets ready to cut. But wait -- is your doctor depriving your baby of something incredibly important by moving so quickly? Mothers, midwives, dulas, and doctors have debated this question for years. Now there's new evidence that delaying cord clamping can benefit babies.
Doctors used to clamp and cut almost immediately because this was thought to reduce the risk of hemorrhaging for mothers. But it turns out quick clamping doesn't affect that risk. On the contrary, we've been withholding an important health boost almost every newborn could really use.
The main benefit of delaying cord clamping is that it sends more iron from the placenta to your baby -- a lot more. And you just have to delay that snip by a minute. Babies who had delayed cord clamping had higher hemoglobin levels 24 to 48 hours after birth. Even more exciting, they were less likely to be iron-deficient three to six months after birth. So the benefits last a while. Another more subtle benefit is that babies whose cords were clamped later also had higher birth weights. "Birth weight also was significantly higher on average in the late clamping group, in part because babies received more blood from their mothers," an article in the New York Times reports.
“It’s a persuasive finding,” says Dr. Jeffrey Ecker, chair of committee on obstetrics practice for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “It’s tough not to think that delayed cord clamping, including better iron stores and more hemoglobin, is a good thing.” It's tough not to think he could have phrased his opinion more clearly, but I believe this is super-cautious doctor-speak for "delayed cord clamping is a good thing."
So there you go. If your natural parenting friends have been telling you about this practice, and you've been like, "whatever Granola Gladys, you also want me to eat my placenta," now you know they're actually on to something. It's just a matter of a minute, it makes a huge difference, and your husband can still do the honor of clipping the cord.
Have you heard about delaying cord clamping?
Image via Chris/Flickr