Why You Should Wait to Cut Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

When my babies were born last summer, I was on the operating table—pretty out of it, truth be told—as my husband was on the other side of a large room cutting their umbilical cords one by one. I heard it happening, and I knew those were unforgettable moments for him after our twins' birth.

But could they also have been critically important moments for my babies—in ways we're only now beginning to understand?

A new study suggests that babies who remain attached to the umbilical cord for just a little extra time after delivery may have a bit of an edge when it comes to their brains' development in the coming years.

In the study published on Tuesday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, 4-year-old kids whose cords were cut more than three minutes after their births ended up with marginally higher social skills as well as fine motor skills than kids whose cords were cut within just 10 seconds after birth. Curiously, it was just the boys who showed these improvements—and the researchers aren't totally sure why. The research didn't point to any difference in children's IQs, however.

(Past studies have pointed to positive outcomes for babies whose cords were cut later, but this is the first to examine the effects in older kids.)

"There is growing evidence from a number of studies that all infants, those born at term and those born early, benefit from receiving extra blood from the placenta at birth," wrote Heike Rabe, a neonatologist at Brighton & Sussex Medical School in the U.K., in an editorial that ran along with the study.

To sum up, putting off the umbilical cord-cutting lets your the newborn receive more blood from the placenta, increasing blood volume, and with it iron, which is a necessity for brain development.

It also might just ease your babe's transition from his cushy life in the womb into the outside world.

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Alesandra Dubin is a new twin mom. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of lifestyle blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.

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