Making and using an umbilical cord tie

One of the birth choices I made this time that I really rate was to make and use an umbilical cord tie. Up until the week before Delilah was born I’d intended to just go ahead with the standard hospital clamp that the midwives provide. As the due date approached, I started to remember why I didn’t like them. With Talitha I felt like it got in the way. It seemed a hard, ugly object between us.

I knew I didn’t want to do another umbilical cord burning like we had with Ophelia. It took too long (which is kind of the point because it’s a slow, ceremonial separation between baby and placenta) which wasn’t a great idea since she was a bit cold. It also smelled while healing which is apparently normal with burning.

For us, it just wasn’t something we fancied trying again. I had intended to make an umbilical cord tie with her, braiding embroidery threads, but I was disorganised, not expecting her to arrive at just 40+3 when her big sister had arrived at 40+13. The idea came to mind again with Delilah.

After asking other home birthers how they’d made theirs, I crocheted three ties using double knitting, so that we’d have spares just in case. They started with shapes: a heart, a flower and a star. There are so many instructions for these shapes out there and it’s totally the kind of project a beginner could do. When I finished each one off, I carried on stitching a 30cm length for the actual tie. The process was such a joyful way to get ready for Delilah. The girls were involved in helping me choose the shapes and were intrigued to see what I was doing.

Then I boiled them, put them in a sterile breast milk storage bag and kept it in the freezer. Sterilising is apparently unnecessary but I didn’t want to get into a debate with a midwife who might already feel uncomfortable with using a homemade tie.

As it turned out, our midwife was uncertain but in the end she was willing to give it a go, warning that she needed to be able to get it tight enough. I’d taken them out of the freezer as soon as labour started so they were defrosted. The wetness helped to pull the tie tighter. In the end, we were all satisfied with the end result.

It was easy to keep out of the way of the nappies (we did eco disposables the first two days and cloth after that) and healed quickly. I eventually got a bit fed up of the bit at the end so I cut it off after a while. Even cut, it looked so pretty whenever we changed her nappy and she was mostly in a nappy her first week because it was the hottest week of the year!

What can I say? It was such a little thing – frivolous maybe – but it brought me such joy to see this pretty tie. If we ever had another baby, I’d do it again.

To read more, check out Delilah’s home birth story, Ophelia’s home birth story or my ideas for preparing kids for a new baby.

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Further reading

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