When to Cut the Cord

While we can’t tell you how long your kids will hang on to you for support, we can talk a little bit about when to cut the umbilical cord! Delayed umbilical cord clamping has become all the rage these days—almost as popular as those fidget spinners!

What’s all the buzz about delayed cord clamping, and what does it mean?

After your baby is delivered, the umbilical cord (what connects Baby to the placenta, an organ that feeds Baby while inside Mom) is often clamped and cut soon after delivery, usually around 15 to 20 seconds afterwards.

However, studies have shown that blood is still transferred from the placenta to the baby during those first few cries after delivery. As long as Baby is doing okay after delivery, those extra few ounces of blood can give your newborn a leg up on iron and blood stores.

In pre-term babies (those born before 37 weeks), this can mean a better transition to life on the outside, fewer blood transfusions for low red blood cell counts, and a smaller chance of a few other complications of prematurity.

For term babies (those born after 37 weeks), waiting to clamp and cut the cord can also increase iron stores and decrease your baby’s chance of having anemia (low red blood cells) in the first few months of life. Giving your baby a few more red blood cells post-delivery may increase his or her chance of needing therapy for newborn jaundice (think those UV lights newborns are sometimes under), but that chance seems to be small, based on the studies so far.

So, delayed clamping seems to be great for Baby, but what about mom? Mothers seem to do just fine, with no increase in bleeding or postpartum hemorrhage (see our post here) in studies.

How long is long enough? It seems 30 to 60 seconds should be good. Some people like to wait until the cord stops pulsating, but it seems most of the benefit from delaying clamping happens in the first minute of Baby’s life.

Now, what if something happens during your delivery and you can’t delay cutting the cord? Remember, the main goal is a healthy mom and baby. If Baby needs some extra attention from the pediatricians after delivery, that may mean you can’t wait to clamp and cut!

Think of it as one of the first of many compromises you make as a parent. While, of course, we always want to give our kids the best of everything, sometimes we can’t always do things by the book.