The umbilical cord plays a crucial role in the growth and development of the fetus in the womb. It supplies blood and nourishment to the baby while also facilitating the elimination of wastes.
After birth, the mother fulfills the baby’s nourishment needs through breastfeeding. Therefore, it does not require the umbilical cord any longer. The umbilical cord is clamped soon after delivery. However, it is not removed completely, and a short stump is left behind.
This piece of living tissue will heal and automatically fall out two weeks after birth. But, till then, it has to be looked after and cleaned properly to prevent infection. Following are tips to care for your baby’s umbilical cord.
Stages of healing
The stump of the umbilical cord has a slightly yellowish-green color in the initial days. As it heals, it shrivels up and develops a black or brown color. After the stump falls off, the place attached to the abdomen creates a small wound. It ultimately heals to form your baby’s belly button. It is normal to see a tiny bit of blood on the nappy’s top fold after the stump has fallen off. The open wound may also appear red. The redness should subside within 24-48 hours.
Caring for the Umbilical Cord
Many women state that preventing the umbilical cord from getting wet allows it to heal faster. Therefore, they recommend sponge baths. You can stick to sponge baths till the stump falls off.
Dry the stump well
There is no harm in wetting the umbilical cord. If you wish to give your baby a regular bath or bathe him in a tub, you can go ahead. However, once done, ensure that you dry the stump gently with a clean washcloth or soft towel.
Keep the stump clean.
There is a possibility that during the healing stage, the stump may become sticky and dirty. If this happens, clean it gently with plain water or a mild, unperfumed soap. You can also add a clinically tested gentle baby cleanser to his bathwater. Hold a dry absorbent cloth around the stump and dry it.
Let the stump air dry.
The umbilical cord stump will fall out only after it has dried completely. Therefore, let it air dry. Try as much to avoid covering it. The edge of the diaper could also irritate the belly button. Fold-down the top of the diaper to help the belly button heal faster.
Don’t fiddle with the stump.
- Don’t touch or try to remove the stump before it is time. Pulling off the stump forcefully may cause it to rupture and bleed.
- Avoid the use of antiseptics of rubbing alcohol on the stump. It may increase the healing time. However, you may do so if the neonatal staff at the hospital recommends it.
- Wash your hands carefully before handling the stump.
Signs of Infection
It is natural for the area to look sore. However, the following signs indicate an infection and calls for immediate medical help.
- The area around the cord, around the navel, appears unusually red and swollen.
- The umbilical cord continues to bleed.
- The stump oozes yellowish pus or foul-smelling discharge.
- It becomes smelly and swollen.
- Your baby may also develop a slight fever, may refuse to eat, and may become lethargic.