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Changing how baby is held after birth may cut iron deficiency

Changing where a newborn baby is held before its umbilical cord is clamped could lead to improved uptake in hospitals of delayed cord clamping, according to latest research.

Delaying clamping until around two minutes after birth allows for blood to pass from the placenta to the baby, and has previously been shown to reduce the risk of iron deficiency in infancy.

However, it is currently recommended that the baby needs to be held at the level of the placenta – the introitus position – which is uncomfortable for the midwife holding the baby and interferes with immediate contact between mother and infant. 

Argentine researchers tested whether blood transfer was affected by the position in which the baby was held immediately after birth. In their study, 197 babies were held in the introitus position and 194 babies were instead immediately placed on the mother’s abdomen or chest.

The researchers found no significant difference between the two groups in the volume of blood transferred, indicating that placing the baby on the mother’s chest or abdomen is no less effective than the more awkward introitus position.

“The findings and recommendations will be welcomed by midwives”

Jane Munro

Lead author Professor Nestor Vain, from the Foundation for Maternal and Child Health in Buenos Aires, said: “Our study suggests that when umbilical cord clamping is delayed for two minutes, holding the baby on the mother’s chest or abdomen is no worse than the currently recommended practice of holding the baby below this level. 

“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.”

Jane Munro, quality and audit development advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Both of the issues it addresses are very important for the health and wellbeing of the baby so the findings and recommendations will be welcomed by midwives.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • Quite like the article, but cannot say the same for the photo with it. I cannot imagine any reason why a naked new born should ever have its head held under running water like that!!

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  • Is a relevant topic for further research. In addition, it is not a common practice here in Malaysia to bath newborn. We do a top and tail procedure using coconut oil to remove the vernix. The practice is to prevent hypothermia which can damage the brain.

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  • yeh, you just give 'em a good shake and turn them upside down three times to distribute the iron evenly in their blood stream and the supply to the organs! scientific studies required to provide the evidence!

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