The practice of having a Lotus birth is one of many choices you can make after the birth of your baby. Lotus Birth is the practice if leaving the whenua attached to baby by the umbilical cord until it naturally separates.
In recent history, Lotus Birth has not been a well-known practice in industrialised cultures, however it has a well-documented herstory in many cultures including that of Balinese and !Kung. There are also anecdotes of placental non severance occurring in colonial America, as a way of avoiding infection. No cut to the umbilicus means no area where bacteria can enter the body.
There are many spiritual elements to cord non severance, when lotus birth is discussed every whanau often has a different reason for keeping the whenua attached.
When the umbilical cord is severed, if at all – is a choice that is entirely up to you and your whanau. Home Birth allows the space to decide when and how to do this without negotiation on hospital policy or practices.
Rose Fisher shares her process for Lotus Birth
Dried herbal mixture – rubbed to a finer consistency
Plenty of towels
Colander or sieve
Flat cloth nappies/prefolds – you will need 6 sets for changes over the next 2 weeks
Sewn cloth bag with a drawstring
Some Suitable herbs:
At the birth I recommend having a helper as it’s much easier with someone there to help out.
After the whenua is birthed and has been examined by a midwife, put it in a strainer for as long as can be tolerated to allow it to drain. It is helpful at this step to rinse with water and clean the placenta paying careful attention to any blood clots. However, it does not have to be perfect.
Lay out a flat (red stripe) nappy or similar cotton or other natural fibre cloth. On the middle of this, place a prefold, folded terry towelling or other thick cloth.
Pile a decent quantity of herbs to create a bed for the whenua on the thick cloth, make them the diameter/shape of the placenta.
Pat the whenua as dry as is possible and then place on top of the herbs.
Sprinkle enough herb over the whenua to completely coat it. Gather the thick cloth around the placenta with the umbilical coming out the top and then carefully fold the bottom cloth around it too.
Place in your placenta/lotus bag and close draw strings. You will then carry this bag around with you and the baby until the whenua falls away naturally. This can take 3-12 days.
You will need to change the cloths periodically and with more frequency in the first days. When changing the cloths, you can use the flat cloth to wipe some of the old herbs off. It’s not necessary to get all of the herbs off. Just get as much of the wet herbs off as possible. The herbs will turn dark when they are damp/wet with absorbed moisture. Shake out the cloths into a bin/compost/garden as soon as possible. Wash the cloths no more than two days after use. Bleach or spraying with peroxide can help remove stains if you don’t like them.
In first 24-48 hours, the cloths should be changed ideally 4-6 hours (minimum 3-4) times. Aim for first thing in the morning, around lunch, dinner and then before bed at minimum. Don’t fret too much though if you can’t manage this frequently. After 2 days you can start to reduce the number of changes to 2-3 times a day. It should always be twice a day minimum though. The whenua should have an earthy, musty smell and should not smell bad. If it starts to smell remotely unpleasant (or sweetish), change it and increase the number of changes.
The cord will dry almost completely with about 24 hours, depending on local humidity and temperature. The cord will take longer to dry nearer the whenua and near baby’s belly if you spend a lot of time with your baby against you.
Some people like to apply a small pinch of herbs to the baby’s belly button but this isn’t strictly necessary. If you choose to, make sure your herb mix is safe (rosemary and lavender are both safe herbs to use in this manner).
Alternately, you can apply a small amount of lavender essential oil to the umbilical cord near baby’s belly button. Avoid using undiluted lavender essential oil directly on baby’s skin. If applied to the umbilicus it will not be absorbed by your baby.
Keep an eye on baby’s belly for all the usual signs of infection. The same ‘rules’ for caring for a newborn’s umbilical stump apply here.
On average it takes 3-4 days to release but longer (around two weeks) is also normal. You can, at any time, choose to sever the cord.
After the cord has released, some people continue to dry the placenta or it can be treated in any way you choose or as according to your personal traditions such as burial. You can also sever the dry cord or pito from the whenua to keep.