Australian mother Clara Riba opted for an unconventional post-birth lifestyle for several days when she decided to keep her newborn baby’s umbilical cord until it fell off naturally in what is called a “lotus birth”.
By keeping the cord the baby remains attached to the placenta, and the cord usually separates itself at the navel after three to ten days.
Clara Riba opted for a lotus birth for her second child
For five days, Clara, her husband and four-year-old daughter shared a bed with newborn Luke and his placenta.
“We had a homebirth so I wanted the undisturbed nature of the birth to continue. I always felt I had to do it as gently as I could and let everything happen naturally and not intervene in any way,” Clara said.
“I wanted to honor the placenta because it does so much for the baby”.
Lotus birth is thought to have many benefits. Some are directly related to the baby’s health, others focused on the relationship between mother and child. Having a lotus birth is seen as a way of gently introducing the newborn to the world. Relatives are often kept away until the placenta drops off.
The Queensland family did not tell any friends and family about the idea, except requesting that no one visits in the first two post-birth weeks.
“I did tell my mother, who is a doctor, and she was very interested,” Clara said. “It was our cave and it had to be intact. As soon as you let someone in the birth magic stops”.
Husband Evan was initially quite apprehensive when told about lotus birth, but he agreed after doing some of his own research. However, the family had a reality check soon after Clara gave birth. Luke was born in January 2011 in Brisbane, during a hot Australian summer, and the placenta soon started to develop a smell.
“It was January, it was hot and we didn’t have a lot of information on what to do,” Clara said.
“We put rosemary on it, but not enough and it started to get smelly. Evan said, that’s it, we can’t do it anymore. So, I put it in a cloth bag,” the mother-of-two explained.
On day five, when Evan took their daughter out for a walk, Clara says she told Luke, ‘ok your dad has had enough, whenever you are ready you can kick it off and then we can all have a bath’.
“As Evan returned Luke kicked off the placenta. I knew then it was a reaffirmation that I had done what needed to be done,” she said.
The sister playing with her little brother after he was born with placenta attached
Luke’s placenta was stored in the freezer until the family moved into a new house, where they buried it in their garden
Clara says lotus birth allows for the blood and the stem cells to be completely transferred to the body in the most natural way possible.
“The more spiritual aspect comes once the blood stops flowing. The placenta, cord, and baby are one. Cutting it is artificially breaking this unity,” she said.
The Australian, who is now writing a guide to lotus birth, says once the placenta is birthed it is then washed and patted dry. She recommends then putting it in a breathable container such as a bamboo steamer. It should be thickly coated in rosemary powder and then wrapped in a cotton cloth. The powder needs to be changed every day.
After a couple of days when it has dried out the placenta can be put into a cloth handbag which can be
carried around with the baby. Many women, however, choose not to move the baby from the bed while the placenta is still attached. Clara also advises putting breast milk on the belly button regularly.
“At times it is tough,” the young mother admitted. “There are moments where you just want to hold your baby and live your normal life and carry your baby. But you need to trust your intuition. In the end, it is worth it. When the placenta comes off and the baby is smiling.”