Changing the way a baby is held before its umbilical cord is clamped could improve rates of iron deficiencies in newborns. Current recommendations on how babies should be held immediately after birth are based on studies conducted 35 years ago. They suggest that the baby needs to be held in the “introitus position,” which is at the level of the placenta, so that enough blood can pass from the placenta to the baby.
It is intuitive to keep the newborn baby’s position below the level of the placenta, as gravity should maximize the volume of transferred blood. However, trying to hold a wet, crying, wriggling infant in that position for two minutes in gloved hands is awkward, and the mother is waiting to hold her baby too, so sometimes the full two minutes suggested before clamping the cord aren’t waited out. Delaying clamping of the umbilical cord until 2 minutes after birth improves this placental transfusion and reduces the risk of iron deficiency in the infant.
Researchers believe that there may be a low delayed cord clamping in hospitals as a result of the awkwardness of the introitus position, and that this may result in more babies than necessary having iron deficiencies. To promote this delayed procedure in hospitals, the researchers compared the effectiveness of the introitus position in transferring blood from the placenta with an alternative, more comfortable position, like placing the baby on the mothers stomach.
Studies found that placing the baby on the mother is no less effective than the introitus position, but it does have the advantage of being less awkward, and allows immediate contact between the mother and her child.
Because of the potential of enhanced bonding between mother and baby, increased success of breastfeeding and the compliance with the delayed cord clamping, holding the infant by the mother immediately after birth should be strongly recommended.
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