New Research Suggests Umbilical Cord Milking Could Improve Outcomes for At-Risk Newborns

Giving birth to a child who is unresponsive or struggling to breathe is a terrifying experience. In those critical moments, every second counts. That’s why two recent studies are exploring a technique called umbilical cord milking, which could potentially aid in the recovery of these vulnerable infants.

 A doctor holds a newborn baby whilst another doctor cuts the Umbilical cord.

During fetal development, the umbilical cord carries vital nutrients and serves as a reservoir for blood, iron, and stem cells. Traditionally, medical professionals wait at least 30 seconds to a minute before cutting the cord, allowing the baby to receive a final boost of essential nutrients. This practice, known as delayed cord clamping, has shown some benefits for healthy babies.

However, for babies born with urgent health problems, time is of the essence. This is where umbilical cord milking comes into play. By quickly squeezing blood from the cord into the infant’s abdomen before cutting it, researchers believe it could provide similar benefits as delayed cord clamping for these high-risk newborns.

While the practice is relatively unknown and controversial, studies are shedding light on its potential. In one study, over 1,700 infants were randomly assigned to either have their cords immediately clamped or milked four times before being cut. The results showed that infants who underwent cord milking were less likely to require extra oxygen or experience a brain injury called hypoxic encephalopathy.

Further analysis revealed that cord milking increased blood volume and flow to vital organs like the heart, lungs, and brain, which may explain the improved outcomes. Additionally, these newborns had higher levels of hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood.

“It should really be getting into standard of care,” says Heike Rabe, a neonatologist who supports the practice.

The beauty of umbilical cord milking lies in its simplicity and accessibility. It doesn’t require any specialized equipment and can easily be adopted in areas with limited medical resources.

However, it’s important to note that the practice may not be suitable for all infants. Previous studies have indicated potential risks, such as an increased likelihood of brain bleeding in very preterm infants. Therefore, more research is needed before umbilical cord milking can be recommended as a standard procedure, even in emergency situations.

For now, delayed cord clamping remains the preferred approach for most infants. However, the promising results of these recent studies offer hope and open the door for future advancements in neonatal care.

Related Articles:


About the author

Lisa Arneill

Founder of Growing Your Baby and World Traveled Family. Canadian mom of 2 boys, photo addict, lover of bulldogs, and museumgoer. Always looking for our next vacation spot!

Leave a Comment