* I did not write this article but I shared it a few years ago on my tumblr and wanted to share it again! I have never done a lotus birth all though I have thought about it. I hope that you find this info useful
Lotus birth, or umbilical nonseverance, is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord attached to both the baby and the placenta following birth, without clamping or severing, and allowing the cord the time to detach from the baby naturally. In this way the baby, cord and placenta are treated as a single unit until detachment occurs, generally anywhere from three to seven days after birth, and sometimes longer.
How does keeping the cord intact protect newborn health?
It ensures that an average of 100mL of precious red blood cells will transfer gently to the baby at its most critical time of need, to contribute towards the amazing exponential brain development of the first year, and not be disposed of or harvested due to adult well-intentioned mistrust of the infant’s physiological integrity. Emotional health of the newborn and family is facilitated by focusing on the phenomenal baby as a whole, with no attention diverted away through adult traditions of separation. Rather than focus on cutting the cord, fathers are able to support an uninterrupted, quality bonding with the child who is still transitioning from 9 months of gestation and gain trust in the organic rhythms of their child. For full nonseverance families, the early days postpartum are spent simply resting and grounding, as the mother & father and babe experience the fullness of relationship, secluded and secure at home, in fact rarely leaving the bedroom.
Cord severance is a primarily a cosmetic surgery to suit adult convenience out of habit and often ignorance, and is rarely medically necessary (exceptions being placenta accreta or a significantly compromised mother or baby). Though this ritual has been handed over to fathers or birth partners to carry out amidst much hoopla, it is still an unconscious ritual that disrupts the primal family bonding focus and the unity principle of natural design. Even babies born via cesarean, or babies who may have special needs, can be cared for with the cord & placenta intact for an extended time in many instances, provided that parents find an open-minded OB & Neonatalogist who is willing to explore nonseverance protocols. Non-severance can support the adaptation of cesarean babies, as well as further infant massage.
Our babies basically have Stone Age needs for undisturbed bonding the first hour or more after birth. From a Pre & Perinatal Psychology perspective, early cord severance is not something we are hardwired to cope with, and indeed, early cord severance elevates infant adrenaline levels. Early cord severance was prehistorically something probably only practiced in dire circumstances of maternal death! Virtually all undrugged babies cry out when their cords are cut in the early postpartum time.
For over 5000 years, the science of Ayurveda has worked within a framework of anatomy & physiology that addresses not only the physical and mental body, but also the energetic, emotional bodies that are in biodynamic relationship with all life. (Kundalini Yoga further names this as 10 Bodies - these are the soul body, physical body, positive mind, negative mind, neutral mind, halo/integrity imprint, aura projection, pranic body, subtle body, and radiant/nonlocal body). Quantum physics is slowly influencing a new physics of modern western medicine, wherein the ‘quantum body’ i.e, the inherent wisdom and peace of the mind-body connection is of foundational importance.
What does the placenta look like at birth?
There’s nothing else like it. You may have the false impression that it looks like a smooth slab of liver, but it’s quite different. It’s extremely complex - so much so that native people believed it explained the Tree of Life principle of the whole world. Indeed, the way the umbilical cord rises out of the roots of arteries and veins on one side, like a tree trunk, is quite remarkable. Plus, each baby’s placenta has a distinct calibration of hormones and proteins that is perfectly suited to that particular mother-baby’s needs.
What happens to the auric field surrounding baby when cord is cut?
Proponents of lotus births view the baby and the placenta as existing within the same auric field, with energy transfers continuing to take place gradually from the placenta to the baby via the umbilical cord as the placenta dries out. The baby is seen as being given the time and space to let go, gently and at its own pace, of its connection to the placenta with which it shared the womb and which nourished it for its entire life so far. The process is individual to each baby based on its physical condition at birth.
To repair the auric field, if the cord has been severed, uses a great deal of baby’s vitality to complete, even in a healthy, hearty babe. If this is a baby whose health has already been compromised by interventions in pregnancy, a traumatic birth, or whose health has been neglected by lifestyle practices of mother or father, the extra energy needed to repair this tear is not readily available and takes much longer. This comes at a crucial time in development when baby is adjusting to this world, leaving baby open to immediate health difficulties like digestive problems, colic, colds, tummy aches and gas. Protecting the umbilical cord upholds the energy field and protects baby’s immune system. Keeping the cord intact keeps baby’s aura intact. Birth can happen the way nature intended, without any hovering scissors.
What if a baby’s cord is considered “short” during a natural birth? What happens while waiting for the placenta to be born, during the important time of keeping baby at the breast?
All mothers during the Third Stage of labor should be reminded by their partner or care providers to continue focusing on completing the birth of the placenta - and in a way, a “short” cord enhances that focus! It is not necessary for the baby to actually be on the nipple in the first 30 minutes after birth - mothers can hold their babies skin-to-skin lower on the bare bosom or belly, stroking them and talking to them while focusing with the contractions that birth the placenta.
The key practices are “skin-to-skin” touching and physiological orchestration (well-documented in recent medical journals) and maternal “focus” on the placenta to facilitate passive Third Stage. Though many midwives are facilitators of the ancient practice of “skin-to-skin” mother-baby contact, just as many are not, and may have been trained to swaddle the baby in cloth. This is an informed-choice issue for parents, and important to discuss in detail with your care provider before the birth.
Nipple stimulation to induce Third Stage contractions can be an additional support with a baby at the breast, however, perinatal professionals who are experienced with drug-free babies know that they often do not fully latch-on or suckle for at least 10-15 minutes or longer after being born, as they go through their own post-birth adaptation and are still “landing.” In such a case, if nipple stimulation to reduce bleeding is desired, a woman’s partner or caregiver can do it manually, while the mother focuses on touching her baby and experiencing the birth of the placenta.
Can I bathe my baby with the cord and placenta still attached?
Yes. Bathe your baby as you normally would, simply keep the placenta nearby. It is best to have somebody hold the placenta as you bathe your baby. It’s okay if the cord gets wet, it can be patted dry and will thoroughly be dry again soon. Parents who give birth in a hospital may actually prefer that their baby NOT be taken away to be bathed by strangers in the nursery. Many babies do not even need to be bathed the first week of life, especially if they are born in water - however, therapeutic warm water bathing can be a healing practice for babies who have experienced any birth stress or shock.
What does the wrapped Lotus Birth placenta and cord look like after the Lotus Birth has been completed?
The placenta is a hearty (1-2 pounds right after birth), complex, and dense cake which wraps up into a small packet about 7 x 7 - the size of a lotus leaf! Some mothers prepare special cloth for their Lotus Birth, choosing something that has special meaning to them, like a remnant from a favorite garment, an altar cloth, a family heirloom baby blanket, or even a husband’s soft flannel shirt! Some people make part of a baby shower or blessing ceremony about decorating and blessing the Lotus cloth. Others may just use a handy cloth diaper or cotton pillowcase. Wrapping the placenta can be done however you like, knotting or pinning the cloth. Well-informed parents can intuitively manage to do this themselves, or their experienced doula or midwife can help.
The post-birth cord is a slippery, silvery ribbon, 2-3 feet long. It can be wrapped, or not. What works well for wrapping the cord is lightweight silk or satin ribbon (pre-washed before use). The cover ribbon is secured to the Lotus cloth by incorporating it under the heavy placenta before wrapping, or by attaching it outside the packet by knotting it onto the Lotus wrap. Near the navel, the ribbon is simply finished with an easy wrap knot done by the mother.
The wrapped placenta and cord look like a little pillow with a decorative string to the baby. In the two days after the birth, the wrapped cord can conveniently be slung up over the baby’s shoulder, where newborns are used to it being, and will gracefully wrap their little arms around it as they did in the womb.
Can babies delivered by Cesarean have a Lotus Birth?
Yes, simply keep the placenta with the baby. There are examples of successful Lotus Births with Cesarean births.
Can premature babies have a Lotus Birth?
Yes - they benefit greatly from keeping their placentas, along with in-arms/sling-wearing care (Kangaroo Care). All women benefit from awareness of these options as basic childbirth education, preferably early in pregnancy or before conception.
What happens if my baby’s cord is around their neck at birth?
As the average cord is 2-3 feet long, it is quite normal for it to be loosely wrapped around the neck, once or twice - in at least third of babies! In the vast majority of healthy women this is not a problem. The 'give’ in the loose cord is guarded by the attendant or the slippery cord is deftly flicked out and over the baby’s head by the attendant’s quick hand, and sometimes mothers do this themselves in freebirth scenarios. (In distressed/dissociated mother-babies or in other cases of medicated labor/immobility pathology, the cord may be tight and compressed by shoulder dystocia requiring quick hand maneuvers on the part of the attendant and perinatal cord clamping and cutting before the baby’s body is fully born. However, this is not the case in well-prepared mothers who have emotionally supported births).
How can I prepare for Non-Severance in a planned or unexpected hospital birth?
You have the legal right to make informed choices at all junctures, politely refusing non-urgent institutional protocols that are against your beliefs by signing papers that document that choice. Citing “religious reasons” is often a very helpful way to garner attention and even compassion from staff without getting into protocol debates. Umbilical non-severance is something to discuss beforehand with your care providers. It is also important that you clearly state your wishes on any “Birth Intentions” paperwork.
What is the typical hospital management of the placenta?
Even after a drug-free labor & birth, which are relatively rare (only about 10% of normal maternity admissions), obstetrical practice is often “active management” of the Third Stage of labor to some degree. It is practically unheard of for hospital contractors to practice full “passive management” of Third Stage - they are simply intent on speeding along things in order to administer healthy mother-baby exams which they assume must be done with the mother and baby separated.
Patients have the right to request, in healthy scenarios, “passive management” of Third Stage and no cord clamping and no cutting - (For Sarah Buckley MD’s current research paper on the benefits of passive stage management and informed parental choices,
) - and the important and necessary placental exam done by the mother-baby, bedside. As staff are organized by those who are responsible for the mother (obstetrical), and those who are responsible for the baby (neonatal pediatric), it can be a huge professional challenge for them to deal with an intact mother-baby unit, as they have not been trained to do so. The baby’s parents naturally maintain more innate authority and unity, which may be upsetting to some professionals who are accustomed to maintaining full authority over one or the other of the mother-baby.
As many hospitals are now routinely injecting the severed placenta with formaldehyde and placing it in an unsightly biohazard bag, for patients who want to take them home, it is important to educate staff on your choices and preferably have a doula with you who can help facilitate your Lotus Birth practices implementation. Many hospitals are not routinely allowing placentas to be taken home, because of environmental concerns related to the unnecessary formaldehyde injection! Inform yourself, and preferably sign your informed choice forms for Lotus Birth and natural placenta before the actual birth.
Should there be any (extremely rare) conditions like neonatal congenital problems or maternal complications that necessitate cord cutting for unexpected separation of the mother and baby, the placenta, in its natural state, still belongs to the birthing family.
What do American hospitals do with all the placentas that currently are unwanted by most birthing families?
Unfortunately, the amazing placenta when unwanted is considered “medical waste” and one of two things typically happens: it is put in a biohazardous waste container to be incinerated, or, it is sold, as hospital property, to various research or formulations labs where it lives on in various forms that profit medical research labs, hospitals, and the beauty industry. Yes, and rather horrifyingly, human placenta is an ingredient in several products currently for sale at beauty supply stores and from independent companies - with profits not even going to the true owners of the placenta, the mother-baby.
As for birth center and homebirth medical midwifery practice, very few are really familiar with Lotus Birth, though many are open to facilitating it. They generally already practice passive management of third stage labor, and the practice of Lotus Birth simply asks them to be passive facilitators of third & fourth (early bonding) stages of labor and assist their clients in this non-violent practice of intimate family attunement. The important and essential placental examination is simply completed by the side of the mother-baby rather than away from them or in another room.
So, why have a Lotus Birth?
Every mother has her own reasons. Here are some of the reasons that women may choose lotus birth:
- no desire or wish to sever the cord, or aversion of cutting through the cord.
- gentle and peaceful transition for the baby, allowing them to decide when to “let go” of that connection.
- respect for the baby and placenta.
- 100% guarantee that the baby gets the optimal and specific blood volume that is required for that particular baby.
- encourages the family to 'slow down’ and partake in a babymoon or 'seclusion period’.
- encourages the mother to slow down in the first week or so for recovery and baby gets her full attention.
- minimises the “pass the baby around” game that visitors like to play! Most visitors will prefer to wait until the placenta is gone!
- spiritual or emotional reasons.
- tradition or culturally “done thing”.
- no need to worry about how to clamp/cut/tie the cord!
- possible decreased risk of infection because Lotus birth ensures a closed system of cord, placenta, and baby. There is no open wound.
- possible decreased healing time of belly button because wounds take time to heal. If there is no wound, healing time is minimized.
Caring for the Placenta
What you will need:
- Finely ground dried rosemary
- Lavender Essential Oil (optional)
- Frankincense Essential Oil (optional)
-Sea salt (optional if you desire to dry it out)
- A bowl and a colander (strainer)
- A bucket of warm water (or it can be rinsed in the sink)
- Some towels or cloth nappies to absorb moisture
- A willingness and commitment to offer this gift to your baby
The herbs are being used for their aromatic and preservative properties.
On a practical level, once the baby and placenta are born, it is helpful to have a bucket of warm water and a strainer handy to clean the placenta preferably within an hour or so of birth. It is important to be gentle and careful while doing this, as the baby is very sensitive to whatever happens with the placenta. Once the placenta has been thoroughly rinsed, it can be placed in a strainer to drain over a bucket or bowl. Initially it is easy to maneouvre the placenta around for washing, since the cord is still very soft. It is recommended to do as thorough a job as possible when initially cleaning your placenta, as this will make the whole process much easier. The placenta can be left to drain for a few hours in the strainer.
Now it is time to set yourself up in a comfortable place where you will be cosy for the next few days. Just remember, wherever your baby goes, so does the placenta, so one of the gifts of doing a Lotus birth is to learn to be still and peaceful with your baby. For us, the most practical and comfortable place to set ourselves up after the birth was our bedroom. It is handy to have some towels to place on the bed, so that the placenta can be placed closeby to your baby. The placenta can be initially left to drain for a few hours, which might include time for your baby to have a nap.
A few hours later, the placenta can be rinsed again in a fresh bucket of warm water to remove any remaining residue, then pat gently dry with a towel. Once it has been dried carefully, the essential oils can be sprinkled liberally over the placental, gently massaging it in. Then it is time to cover it with dried rosemary. Make sure both sides of the placenta are covered well with the rosemary. The rosemary can be sprinkled freely once each day, after replacing a fresh diaper underneath it. It is also important to sprinkle rosemary liberally around the navel end of the base of the cord to assist in it drying out.
Once the placenta is covered with rosemary, it can be placed next to your baby in a suitable container. Make sure whatever cloth material is being used, is breathable, and not too heavy. You want to allow the placenta plenty of air. This will aid in dehydration. It will also allow the cord to dry out faster. It is important to take care when moving your baby, so as not to pull at their belly with the cord. Also, keep placenta at the same level as the baby or slightly higher.