New evidence challenges the way babies have been held just after birth. A study published in The Lancet offers a new recommendation so that infants can get enough blood to pass through the umbilical chord from the placenta, preventing iron deficiencies.
The current practice of holding a baby in the ‘introitus’ position (below the level of the navel) just after birth to make sure they get all the nutrients they need from their mother was relevant 35 years ago. This position, however, is odd for the person holding the baby, and interferes with immediate contact between a mother and her child just after birth – an important time for bonding and consoling just after the infant has gone through a traumatic experience.
Previous studies suggest that delaying the clamping of the umbilical chord for several minutes after birth helps with the placental transfusion of iron-rich blood to the infant, reducing possible life-long iron deficiency. But researchers have found that a low uptake of delayed chord clamping in hospitals as a result of awkward introitus position has actually contributed to more iron deficiencies, rather than eliminating them.
In the study, 194 infants were placed on their mother’s stomach or chest just after birth. This was no worse than holding the baby in the introitus position, as 197 mother’s did in the same study, and actually delayed the chord clamping long enough to allow sufficient blood volume to transfer. It seems the most natural thing to do; it was also the best for the babies. Placing the baby on the mother’s stomach also allows them immediate contact between one another.
Professor Nestor Vain, of the Foundation for Maternal and Child Health (FUNDASAMIN) in Buenos Aires, Argentina said, “iron deficiency in newborn babies and children is a serious health problem in low-income countries and is also prevalent in countries from North America and western Europe.”
Vain explains that:
“Because of the potential of enhanced bonding between mother and baby, increased success of breastfeeding and the compliance with the procedure, holding the infant by the mother immediately after birth should be strongly recommended.”
“Introduction of delayed cord clamping into practice has been sporadic, with logistical issues being one possible reason,” admits Dr. Tonse Raju, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD.