What is a lotus birth?

Sep 11, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. ET

You want your baby's grand entrance into the world to be smooth and stress free, but is opting to cut the cord doing more harm than good? The practice of leaving the cord and placenta attached after birth is gaining popularity with parents looking for a gentler approach to childbirth, but extended-delayed cord severance may not be the best choice for those with a delicate constitution. So before you decide whether or not umbilical nonseverance is for you, find out: What is a lotus birth?

Lotus birth basics

The practice of extended-delayed cord severance, or rather, leaving the cord and placenta attached to your newborn after birth, is coined a lotus birth. Without clamping or cutting the cord, the lifelines are cared for and dry up naturally, while kept close to your baby until it falls off over time. Some parents opt to wrap the cord in a silk ribbon up to the baby's belly and gently wrap the placenta in a cloth or bag until it dries and detaches from your pride and joy, often between three to 10 days postpartum. However, the cord dries substantially within hours after birth, clamping itself naturally.

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Benefits of a lotus birth

Although spirituality can be cited as the greatest purposes of umbilical nonseverance and leaving the placenta attached to your youngster, many argue that dodging cord-cutting actually puts less stress on your brand new baby. It is also argued that more blood cells are transferred to your baby postpartum that would otherwise be lost when the connection is severed right after birth.

However, the benefits aren't always medical. "Our seventh child was our first experience with lotus birth," shares Paula Freesoulbeing, Mothercultureone.com. "We were amazed to see such a connection between our son and his placenta. The experience enriched the babymoon period, bringing about within each family member, a deeper appreciation for the essence of nature itself."

And, Mary Ceallaigh, certified yoga teacher and birth consultant, Lotus Fertility, agrees. "One of the biggest benefits I've noticed attending and consulting on lotus births is during the postpartum experience. Parents are more tuned into the baby, focusing on the baby, placenta and mother as a whole unit. And, the presence of the placenta prompts postpartum moms to rest more, leading to a greater attachment and connection between parents and their newborn."

Care of the placenta

According to LotusFertility.com, as soon as it is delivered, the placenta is kept at the same level as your newborn to aid in the transfusion of blood and hormones to your little one. During the first hours of bonding, the placenta is wrapped in a soft cloth near you and your newborn. Ultimately, the placenta is placed in a special bowl or wrapped in a special cloth or bag after it is rinsed and preserved with herbs and sea salt to aid in drying and to minimize odor. Then, the placenta is kept close to you and your baby and cared for daily until it dries and detaches from your baby. Just remember to let the air do its job and avoid covering it with plastic.

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Once you understand what a lotus birth entails, it's important to note that your bundle of joy has to be free of any potential infections, cord ruptures or damage to the placenta to avoid cutting the cord. However, for mommy-to-bes who appreciate the benefits of leaving the cord attached after birth but are worried about the placenta taking center stage during the first days of your newborn's life, you may want to consider delayed cord clamping — you still gain the important benefits of the first hours of a lotus birth and still focus all of your energy on bonding with your brand new baby.

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