Lotus birth is a woo practice in obstetrics, where the umbilical cord is left attached to the baby after birth. The cord then separates from the baby after a few days. It is usually done for the various vague benefits around auras and mystical energy, or based on other unfounded claims. This practice is condemned by the medical community for the various, very real, dangers this has for the infant. While it remains attached, the cord is carried around with the baby, often in some kind of bag or wrapped in cloth; you can buy pouches for this purpose from Etsy.
Historically, the practice was used to prevent open-wound infections by early North American pioneers, who were lacking in medical facilities and/or access to medical practices, to avoid leaving an open wound at the site of the placenta. There are claims by modern practitioners that it boosts the baby's immune system, but there doesn't appear to be any evidence and it's not clear how this could be true. The placenta transfers antibodies while connected to the mother, and breast milk also provides protection against infection, but there is no evidence that a severed lump of dead flesh will do the same.
Most reasons are vaguer: modern-day proponents want to allow the "auric energy" in the placenta to flow to the infant. Another well-accepted reason in the crackpot community is the "naturalness" of the practice, out of a knee-jerk reaction to anything "unnatural". Lotus birth is supposed to ease the trauma of birth, reduce separation anxiety, and allow the baby to transition by degrees to life outside the womb; but it's hard to tell if the baby even notices. It also serves to "honor the placenta", which is doubtless grateful of the attention.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK tries to be understanding of parents' choices but said in 2008: "No research exists on lotus births and there is currently no medical evidence that it is of benefit to the baby."
However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Obstetric Practice claimed that delayed umbilical cord clamping increased hemoglobin levels at birth and improved iron stores in the first several months of life, which could possibly have a favorable effect on developmental outcomes. How much delay? At least 30-60 seconds, not quite a Lotus birth.
As any doctor (aside from those who got their credentials from the university of natural medicine, et al) can tell you, leaving a dead, necrotic piece of flesh on your body is bound to end poorly, with infection a particular risk. Interestingly, a common practice by "lotus birthers" is to marinate the placenta in sea salt and herbs, to prevent it from becoming malodorous. Now, what makes flesh malodorous? It can't be that it is rotting! In fact, most proponents are aware it is rotting, and in order to prevent it from becoming a hazard, treat it as a cured meat, only attached to their baby. Now how's that for natural medicine?
- Lotus birth: Meet our new baby...and our placenta, Today's Parent, Sep 29, 2017
- Should you leave the placenta attached? What you need to know about the pros and cons of Lotus Births, Metro, Dec 14, 2017
- IgG Placental Transfer in Healthy and Pathological Pregnancies Patricia Palmeira, Camila Quinello, Ana Lúcia Silveira-Lessa, Cláudia Augusta Zago, and Magda Carneiro-Sampaio, Clinical and Developmental Immunology, Volume 2012, Article ID 985646, 13 pages, DOI
- Breast Milk: Proactive Immunomodulation and Mucosal Protection Against Viruses and Other Pathogens, Chiara Cerini; Grace M Aldrovandi, Future Virology. 2013;8(11):1127-1134.
- http://www.lovenaturalbirth.com/lotus-birth.html Also note the green ink
- 'Lotus Birth': What Experts Say About Cutting the Cord, LiveScience, May 25, 2017
- RCOG statement on umbilical non-severance or “lotus birth”, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dec 1, 2008
- , American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Obstetric Practice, December 2020