Lotus birth is a relatively recent birth practice, and not many women or their partners have heard of it.
Yet it is becoming increasingly more common to hear stories about mothers who chose lotus birth for their babies, believing it is a natural and gentle transition from womb to world.
What is Lotus Birth?
Also known as umbilical non-severance, lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord attached to the placenta and baby until it falls off naturally, usually within 10 days of birth.
Before it became popular in the 1970s, lotus birth had only been observed in chimpanzees. In 1974, Claire Lotus Day sought support from a doctor and was able to take her son home from hospital with his placenta and cord still attached. Claire observed her son seemed more content than if he had experienced detachment from his placenta before it was ready to separate from him.
Why Have A Lotus Birth?
Here are 7 reasons why you might consider lotus birth:
- Your baby receives all of the placental blood as the umbilical cord is left
- Promotes a time of rest and peace allowing new parents and their baby to adjust
- Mother and baby stay together, enhancing the bonding process.
- Mothers are more likely to rest and recover from birth as they are encouraged to stay with their babies as much as possible.
- Babies are less likely to be disturbed by being “passed around” as visitors are more likely to be like-minded about lotus birth.
- Babies are observed by their parents to be calmer and more peaceful than those who have their cords cut immediately after birth.
- The process and practice honours the connection the baby has had with the placenta that has nourished her for nine months and values the transition stage between womb and world.
Having a Lotus Birth
Once your baby is born, the umbilical cord is left intact while waiting for the appearance of the placenta. Once the placenta is birthed, it is placed in a bowl or bucket to wait for the cord to completely stop pulsating. This ensures transfusion of the remaining blood in the placenta to your baby, which has many benefits (read more about delayed cord clamping here).
When the cord is white and no longer pulsating, the placenta can be gently washed in warm water and placed in a strainer to drain. Some lotus birth practitioners recommend a second rinse after a few hours to thoroughly remove any residue. Once it has been thoroughly cleaned and all debris removed, gently pat the placenta dry.
Caring For Your Placenta During A Lotus Birth
Place the placenta in a sieve or colander to drain and dry completely for 24 hours. Putting a towel underneath can help to absorb any moisture and sprinkling dried rosemary on the placenta can avoid any smell.
Once the placenta is dry, you can wrap it in a clean towel and place in a special bag. Some women like to place the placenta in salt and cover liberally, changing the salt every day. The intact cord can be left or wrapped in silk or cotton. Lavender oil or other essential oil can be dropped onto the placenta as well. Avoid leaving the placenta in plastic containers as it prevents drying and can cause it to rot.
The placenta bag and cord now goes wherever your baby goes, until the cord naturally separates. You can bath your baby as you would if her cord was detached, making sure the placenta is kept dry. The cord can get wet as it dries easily. It is best to avoid moving your baby around too much during this time of waiting.
Each day or two the placenta is unwrapped and wiped and if you are using salt or dried herbs this is reapplied to help preserve and dry the placenta.
Does a Lotus Birth Placenta Smell?
The placenta can develop a musky smell after a few days but most parents say it is not offensive or over powering. If the placenta is wrapped in plastic or sealed in a plastic container, it will begin to decay and develop a strong rotten smell. Ensuring the placenta air circulating around it will help it to dry properly and avoid it spoiling.
It is important to remember that the placenta is a blood organ and potentially can become an environment where bacteria will grow. Babies who have their cords cut occasionally develop infections in the stump that is left to fall off. If left unchecked, the bacteria can spread into the bloodstream causing septicaemia, which can be fatal if not treated.
If you are concerned about infection, especially in your baby's cord, or the wellbeing of yourself or your baby, please see your health professional immediately.
When Your Placenta Separates
The cord dries and separates about 3 to 5 days after birth. At this time, you may decide to bury the placenta under a special plant or in a meaningful place.
Lotus birth usually means preserving the placenta and is not suitable for placental encapsulation afterwards. If you do wish to lotus birth and have your placenta encapsulated, Gloria Lemay has come up with this suggestion:
“For the client who wants EVERYTHING, buy a new thermal lunch bag with a zipper closing around the top. Buy six freezer cold packs that will fit well into the thermal lunch bag. Have two packs in the freezer at all times. Soon after the placenta is birthed, create a little mini-fridge for it by putting one frozen pack on the bottom of the bag, then the placenta, then the second frozen pack and, then, do up the zipper with just the cord coming out of the corner of the zipped up bag. As soon as the cord separates (typically day 4 or 5), dehydrate and encapsulate the red, meaty parts from the maternal side of the placenta. You'll know the placenta has been kept fresh by the smell i.e. it should smell like fresh meat.”
Would you have a lotus birth? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.