Don't cut that cord!
We want to share with you one of our soap box ramblings, which we happily share with anyone who comes within earshot — it's about keeping your baby's umbilical cord intact after the birth, until it stops pulsing.
There are many benefits to waiting. It gives your baby a chance to adjust to life on the outside without the requirement to breathe efficiently right away (the baby is still getting your oxygenated blood as long as the umbilical cord is pulsing with your heartbeat). It allows your body to physiologically adjust to what has just happened, before losing its familiar form of communication with the baby. It allows the placenta to pump a final cocktail of beneficial hormones, antibodies, and other biological components into the baby. It gives your body time to plump up the baby's system with a blood infusion as all of his internal organs prepare to function on their own. And many of the benefits of banking cord blood that you've read so much about are passed to your baby as well: stem cells.
The practice of cutting the cord immediately after birth is an example of some of the medical industry not practicing what is called "evidence-based" medicine.
With the medicalization of labor and birth, the idea was passed around that the umbilical cord should be clamped and cut immediately after the baby's birth — presumably to prevent any of the baby's blood from washing back into the placenta.
We now know that this assumption is incorrect, and that this practice has created problems for babies.
There's quite a lot of blood (up to 180 mL) that continues to pump into a baby from the placenta after birth, and when babies don't get this blood, it can create what's called low blood volume.
Think about this — a baby's body has a lot of systems to bring online immediately after the birth. The first breath alone is a huge change. The kidneys, liver, gut and skin are also being used for the first time in a brand new way, and need that oxygen-rich blood as well. When a baby has low blood volume it taxes her liver to a large degree. This can contribute to jaundice, which is sometimes considered an "iatrogenic" disorder (meaning caused by medical interventions).
There are a whole host of other problems associated with low blood volume too — from low blood pressure to anemia to respiratory distress.
Read more about this piece of the puzzle in the Blissborn Manual, and do your own research. We suggest that after you have looked at this important choice and concluded that the cord shouldn't be clamped too soon, you include it in your Birth Preferences document and make sure your partners are watching and ready to ask for more time. Most likely you won't be paying any attention to what your provider is doing down there, with your brand-new baby in your arms for the first time.
Tell your provider you want to leave the cord intact at least until it stops pulsing — give your baby the best start, and give him the placenta's final gift.
Crying it out
I am assuming you didn't let your kids ‘cry it out’ at night. Did you use a sleep method? Or were you just lucky and they slept?
Answer (from Shelley)
I didn't really use any method for sleep for my kids; I just went with my instincts, which were to keep them close. Each of them slept between me and my husband until they were about three, then moved onto a mattress on the floor at my bedside and stayed there until they were asking for their own rooms. My 5-year-old is still there, but my daughter (now 10) wanted her own space when she was that age, so I'm ready when he is! I love having them close and hearing them breathe at night. We never have to argue about going to bed — they don't mind a bit. My husband and I have found creative ways around the obvious problem with always having kids in your bedroom. It hasn't caused any trouble for us (but we both agree on co-sleeping — or at least he doesn't disagree too much). Read this article explaining the scientific defense of bed-sharing by James McKenna, MD.
The main thing I tell people when they ask me for sleep advice is to do whatever it takes to reassure your children that they're safe and loved and all their needs will be met. Without that, the problems will be endless — way beyond sleep!
Sometimes we have to let them cry (like if you're feeling you have to have a break OR ELSE!), but as a general rule I think it's important to respond with love and reassurance every time they need you. Even if you want your baby to sleep in her own room, she will want to know you'll always be close by. She's too young to understand that you still exist when she can't physically see and touch you.
When they are little they are helpless and I think they know it instinctively, so their cries are not just about sadness or physical needs. They are about the threat of a bond being broken — the bond they depend upon for their continued existence. They can be very upset by being left alone — scared that they've been abandoned — and some part of the subconscious mind can easily conclude that means death is imminent. I just hate the thought of it! I've done a lot of work with people whose abandonment issues messed up their relationships and their lives, so I've tried really hard to avoid that with my kiddos.
I have a theory about why the ‘cry it out’ sleep methods get kids to stop crying: Like all baby animals, they have a deep instinct to lie quiet and still if their caretakers seem to have left. If you've ever seen a baby deer left by its mother, it is frozen, even when discovered. Baby birds do the same — they only peep if they think their mother is coming. Being quiet is the instinct that kicks in to avoid being found by predators. Once babies un-learn that someone is there to protect them, they rely on that instinct.
My mother tells a story handed down to her by her grandmother who was a full-blooded Cherokee. The grandmother said that when she came to live with my great-grandfather in 'white' society, she was shocked to see the women leaving their babies unattended. It broke her heart. She attributed all of their fussiness, digestive problems, sugar cravings and tantrums to this. She said Cherokee babies never cried. Never! (I found this hard to believe but my Mom says she challenged her grandmother on it and her grandmother swore they just didn't cry — I'm sure sickness or injuries were the exception.) And she said they didn't have all those other problems with fussiness and digestion either.
What was their secret?
These babies were always with their mothers, every minute of the day and night, and the mothers kept their babies in constant physical contact until they began to crawl. She said that as a result, the bonding among parents and children and throughout the tribe was profound. The mothers nurtured that bonding, and that was the glue that held their societies together so tightly.
The 'crying it out' philosophy is so strange to me because it views crying as a problem to be solved, and in my opinion it's just a symptom, a message given in the baby's first language. Emotional and physical distance may be what's causing the crying, and the experts who recommend even more distance are really missing the point and creating more problems. Parents may get more sleep, but at what price? Long-term, I think it damages trust and bonding, and without those, how can we have harmony and maintain our authority with our kids? What does it take to rebuild trust when it's lost at such a young age, during the child's imprinting process of "the way the world is"? I subscribe to the philosophy that if the kids are doing something we don't like, our job is to love them more (not withdraw love in an attempt to control them or teach them). Relationships solve problems much better than rules do.
Anyway, our bodies are chemically and physically wired to sleep at night and be awake during the day. Given time, patience and love, your baby will slip into a natural rhythm that matches yours. It may take a while for her quickly-changing body to adjust, but sleeping on the circadian rhythm is as natural as breathing, and her body will naturally tend toward this, especially if all of her emotional and physical needs are being met.