Cord Burning – A Cord Cutting Alternative


Cord burning- burning the baby’s umbilical cord after birth versus the traditional cutting of the cord with a pair of scissors, which can be such a fast process, that it’s hard to understand the symbolic significance of the event. Separating baby from the placenta and welcoming him or her as a new life is the final step of the birth process.

To start, cord burning may not be for everyone. Every birth, environment, mother, and baby are so unique, there isn’t a one size fits all way to separate baby and placenta. With that being said, cord burning would be a great alternative to those who want to slow down the process of separating baby from it’s womb mate (placenta) and even welcome the monumental event! Your baby has been getting nutrients from the placenta via the umbilical cord it’s entire life inside of your womb! The blood flow running through the placenta is a noise your baby heard and became familiar with. The placenta, an organ formed by you (look at you, you rockstar organ grower!) is truly special to and at one point, vital to your baby. The separation of placenta and baby can facilitate a significant part of the overall birth process, depending on how you view this.

Why cord burning?

  • allows baby to receive optimal blood from placenta (delayed cord clamping)
  • slows down the process/ritual of (baby/placenta) separation
  • allows others to be involved (siblings, partners, family members, etc.)
  • there’s no risk of infection (as opposed to cutting)
  • umbilical stump generally dries and heals faster

What supplies do you need?

  • 2 long candles (beeswax candles are a great candle option as there’s no pollutants/toxins filling the air around you)
  • lighter/matches
  • something to catch the wax (a cord burning box or metal bowl, etc.)
  • something to protect baby from heat/possible splatters (towel, paper plate wrapped in aluminum foil, etc.)

The Process!

  • place baby on mama’s chest (or turn baby outwards, still on mom, to maximize the length of the cord. Find what works best for you and baby in this moment.)
  • wrap baby in towel or whatever you are choosing to use as a barrier
  • stretch the cord (careful not to pull it taught as baby’s delicate self is still attached to it!) and begin burning with candles on either side of the cord (now is a great time for a sibling, partner, family member, mom herself, etc. to get involved!) You can gently twist both sides of the umbilical cord as it burns to help the process along and encourage even burning on both sides of the cord
  • Be careful the cord end isn’t hot & doesn’t touch baby until it’s cooled completely. If the cord is long, it can be tied in a knot.

Other things to consider!

  • This process can generally and easily be done in a home birth setting, but sometimes not as successful in a hospital birth or birth center (due to open flame policies the facility may have and/or other hospital policies.) A lotus birth could be an option and to burn the cord once you’re home
  • Because of the glorious blood vessels in the cord (even with letting the blood from the placenta get to baby), some splattering and crackling may occur while burning (we experienced none during our cord burning ceremony)
  • There is usually a smell to cord burning. Not a bad smell, just a campfire-ish smell
Me nursing my baby while loving hands helped facilitate our cord burning ceremony. (Photo by Sister Birth.)

Would you ever want to try or have you tried cord burning? Leave a comment and let me know!


Blessings, xoxo





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