Umbilical cord blood (m, v. long)
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|Thu, 03-27-2003 - 7:25am|
Over the past few months I've asked many of you your opinions on collecting the baby's umbilical cord blood. I thought I'd let you know that we've decided not to do it, and why. We've done quite a lot of research and consulted doctors, a geneticist, a nutritionist and an oncologist.
* We really believe in breastfeeding, and if I can do it, I am quite determined to BF for a year (I'm lucky, I get a one-year maternity leave) and to try not to introduce formula/cereal/solids until 6 months.
* However, breast milk is missing two crucial nutrients for the baby: iron and vitamin D. You can get Vit. D from sunlight so that's no problem, but iron is VERY important for the baby's brain development. There are all sorts of studies about how babies and children that have low iron suffer long-term effects related to their intellectual development, success in school and of course their energy levels. (The levels of iron in breastmilk are very low, but they are in extremely highly-absorbable form, unlike what the baby would get in naturally iron-rich or iron-fortified food, or even through supplements.)
* The good news is, babies are naturally born with enough iron stores to last them about 6 months, which is around the time you can introduce iron-fortified formulas, cereals or iron-rich foods.
* However, about half those iron stores (35 mg or 100 days worth of the baby's iron requirements) are stored in the cord blood! If the baby gets his/her full transfusion of cord blood at birth (ie. if you wait until the cord stops pulsing before clamping and cutting it), the baby will not run out of iron stores for at least 6 months, and there's nothing to worry about.
* Problem is, if you collect the cord blood you have to clamp and cut immediately. That means the baby gets little or none of its own cord blood at birth - so his/her iron stores may not last the full six months.
* We decided we'd rather focus on the immediate and important question of brain development than the hypothetical future question of needing the baby's stem cells to treat some possible cancer or other blood disease that the baby may or may not get sometime in the future. The geneticist I spoke to (I confess, he's my Dad) believes that in the next 25 years, science will advance to the point that these diseases will be treatable in other ways, possibly even through regular cells, so the need for stem cells may be overrated at this point.
* If people are willing to supplement with iron-fortified formula earlier in the baby's life, then this is obviously moot -- the baby will get enough iron that way, so that you don't need to worry about the cord blood and you can go ahead and collect it for the stem cells. For many people, this may be the best compromise or solution to the problem.
Anyway, I am really sorry this got so long, but I just wanted to share what I had learned so everyone could make an informed decision. You don't read much about iron stores in the mainstream baby literature -- I found it in a professional nutrition journal.
I would love to hear what other people on the board think!