Dress your baby in placenta and bacteria

OB/GYN Dr. Amy Tuteur on a hot new trend in “the world of birth performance art.”

It used to be that women got pregnant with the intention of having a baby. In 2018, among a certain segment of privileged, white natural childbirth advocates, the performance is the point. For example, freebirth, childbirth without medical assistance of any kind, is a stunt. As such, the baby is merely a prop and an expendable prop at that. According to freebirther Desirea Miller:

A live baby is usually the goal. Not everybody has that same goal but if that’s your goal, there’s no shame in going [to the hospital] to get checked.

Lotus birth is another fringe stunt beloved of those who think bragging rights are more important than a healthy baby. It is the decision to leave the placenta attached to the baby for several days until it rots off. It’s an affectation with no medical benefit and considerable risk, particularly the risk of massive infection.

Also stink.

According to Lotus Fertility.com (“Serving your Inner Midwife”):

…[T]he placenta is placed in a special bowl or wrapped in a ceremonial cloth (it is helpful to rinse it first, and remove clots)… Sea salt is also applied generously on both sides to aid drying and minimize scent. This small pillow and its cord are easily kept with the baby, and some women even use the Lotus pillow as an elbow prop during nursing…

Why would anyone leave a dead chunk of meat attached to her baby?

The practice … [is] called “Lotus Birth”, connecting the esteem held in the east for the Lotus to the esteem held for the intact baby as a holy child … Ahimsa, (non-violence in action and thought within one’s self and towards others) … is from the writings and leadership by Gandhi … and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights inspired marches followed soon after.

So I guess the idea is that cutting the cord and getting rid of the placenta are “violent”? While leaving the placenta attached to the baby is non-violent? Ordinarily that would be laughed out of court, but if you call it “Ahimsa” and invoke Gandhi and King, that changes everything.

One bright spark couple gave their infant a heart infection and six weeks on antibiotics in the hospital by leaving him attached to the rotting placenta, which injected bacteria into his bloodstream. Clever.

As the authors of the paper note:

Ironically, families seeking a more natural birth option may end up getting a more invasive experience than a family choosing standard delivery and newborn care.

The ultimate irony is that there is nothing natural about lotus birth. There are no primates, nor human cultures in which the placenta is left attached to a newborn. Lotus birth is a thoroughly modern affectation, one with potentially deadly consequences.

But hey, bragging rights.

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