Umbilical Cord Milking: Will It Help Your Baby?


Pregnant women have a whole lot of choices to make about how and where to give birth, but here's one option that expectant moms may be wondering about: umbilical cord milking. The latest trend being bandied about on the mom messaging boards has become so popular it earned its own study in JAMA Pediatrics -- and positive reviews from researchers.

But questions remain for moms over whether they should ask that their cord be "milked" or opt for the better known delayed cord clamping.



According to April Jones, DO, a neonatology fellow at Loyola University Medical Center, cord milking means "the obstetrician squeezes blood down the cord from the placenta to the baby, usually in two to three swipes to ensure the baby has the most blood possible from the cord.

"This has a similar effect to delayed cord clamping," Jones says, "but is a more active process in a shorter time period."

Given the success of much-hailed benefits of delayed cord clamping -- where docs hold off on clamping and cutting this lifeline between mother and child to allow more time for the blood inside to make its way into the baby where it belongs -- "milking" sounds like something moms would want for their babies. Instead of letting that blood get there in its own sweet time, you're moving it along! And the science seems to be there.

More from The Stir: 3 Good Reasons to Delay Cutting Your Newborn’s Umbilical Cord

Curious whether milking could improve the health of babies, the researchers behind the study in JAMA Pediatrics (from King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia and the Canada-based Mt. Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto) examined data on 501 infants -- some of whom had their cords milked, others who had not. No differences were noted in terms of overall mortality risk.

However, the "milked" babies did have higher levels of hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying molecules in red blood cells) and a lower risk of needing supplemental oxygen in NICU. Which all sounds great... and yet, the researchers caution that further studies would have to be done to confirm whether babies across the board should be cord milked.

And before you decide you want your baby's cord milked at birth, know this: Jenna LoGiudice, RN, a certified nurse midwife and professor at Fairfield University, says that only a minority of babies may see a real benefit: preemies, who are delicate and need all the blood they can get.

"This really is only potentially of benefit for very premature babies, born at 24 to 28 weeks," says LoGiudice. "Full term babies certainly benefit from delayed cord clamping, but not from cord milking."

So do you need to consider cord milking in your birth plan? Yes, if your pregnancy is high risk and there's a high chance of delivery prematurely. But if you're delivering full term, cord clamping should be plenty.

How do you feel about umbilical cord milking?


Image © RUTH JENKINSON/Science Photo Library/Corbis

Read More >