Lotus birth – everything you need to know

If you’ve never heard of a lotus birth, or you’re a little confused about what it is, we answer all of your questions here.

What is a lotus birth?

Lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord and placenta attached to the baby until it detaches from the belly button naturally. This could take between 3-15 days, and requires you to take good care of the placenta.

Why is it called a lotus birth?

Parents started practicing lotus birth in the West in the 1970s when a pregnant woman named Clair Lotus Day decided against routine cord clamping for her own birth after she discovered that chimpanzees didn’t always separate their placenta from the baby.

How does it work?

If you’re considering a lotus birth, you will need to discuss it with your doctor or midwife to make an informed decision. However, the practice is generally not recommended or supported in a hospital environment in Australia. Some doctors may refuse it entirely, so you’ll have to search for a healthcare provider.

If you’re having a homebirth, you might find a doula or midwife who is more open to the process. If it’s something you’re passionate about doing, you’re within your rights to fight for it, so keep looking until you find a supportive healthcare team.

How it works is that once you deliver your placenta during the third stage of labour, you will need to prepare it to keep it alongside your newborn over the next several days. There is no medical advice or standard way of keeping your placenta safe, so you will ultimately need to decide on how you’ll take care of it. This is what parents typically do:

  1. First it is washed in warm water in a sieve, and left to drain over a bowl.
  2. Then, it is dried and often rubbed with salt, herbs, and essential oils. All of this helps to slow the growth of bacteria and to prevent any odour.
  3. Finally, the placenta is usually wrapped in clean dressings that are changed daily. It’s then often placed in a breathable cotton bag, or even swaddled with the baby. It helps if you’re resting in one place, rather than moving around, until it detaches.

What are the benefits of a lotus birth?

Lotus births haven’t been scientifically studied enough to determine the benefits, but supporters claim that:

  • Not cutting the umbilical cord will lead to the baby having a stronger immune system.
  • It has a calming effect on the newborn because they have more time to naturally separate from the placenta.
  • Like delayed cord clamping, it increases the baby’s blood volume, reducing the risk of anaemia.
  • The placenta is of great spiritual significance.

What are the risks of a lotus birth?

Once the placenta and umbilical cord leave the woman’s body, it no longer has blood pumping through it (in other words, it’s dead and decaying), which makes it, and therefore the infant, susceptible to infection. Unfortunately we don’t have statistics or research into how many lotus births result in infections, and some argue that there is an increased risk of jaundice for newborns due to the high amount of red blood cells they receive from the placenta.

Case studies have shown both positive and negative outcomes, with some mothers saying they would choose lotus birth again with subsequent pregnancies.

How can I make a lotus birth safer?

If you decide that a lotus birth is for you and your family, it’s important to keep an eye on the umbilical cord before it breaks away, as it’s often the most likely site of infection. While it’s still attached to your baby:

  • Always wash your hands when handling the umbilical cord or changing dressings.
  • Make sure the placenta is close to your newborn at all times, so that it’s not pulling or causing tension.
  • Dress your baby in loose clothing so that it doesn’t irritate or tear the umbilical cord.
  • Do not try to cut the cord yourself if you decide you don’t want to wait for it to naturally separate.
  • Even if you don’t have any concerns, make an appointment with your doctor to check it over a few days after delivery.

When should I seek medical advice?

Seek medical attention if you notice any of the following:

  • Your baby has a fever (over 38°C).
  • Increase in sleepiness or your newborn is difficult to wake.
  • Any damage to the cord or placenta, including redness, warmth, or swelling.
  • Poor feeding and low nappy output.


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