Ah the umbilical cord, one of nature's triumphs, approximately 50cm of tissue that connects your baby to the organ you grew especially, the placenta, to nourish your baby in utero. It really is quite amazing. Then you see it! That strange lumpy blue-tinged rope attached to your baby's midriff isn't one of his best features. After the birth, your healthcare provider will cut the umbilical cord, ideally after the cord has stopped pulsating (or you may choose to let it detach naturally) and your newborn will be left with a small purplish stump. The stump will eventually fall off, this could take up to eight weeks although will usually happen within two, but you must be sure to look after it in the meantime to avoid infection and irritation.
Here are some general rules to follow to protect your baby's umbilical cord stump from infection:
Umbilical Cord Stump Care Tip #1 – Keep It Clean
Avoid cleaning the stump unless it is truly necessary. If you do need to clean the area, use a cotton wool ball soaked in cooled, boiled water (cool it to a safe temperature before using). Carefully wipe the area around the base of the stump. Gently pat the area dry with a soft towel after cleaning.
Umbilical Cord Stump Care Tip #2 – Air It
Try to expose the stump to the air for at least half an hour each day, this will speed up the drying out process. If you are enjoying lots of skin to skin time with your newborn, the stump will be exposed to the air then.
Umbilical Cord Stump Care Tip #3 – Protect It
Make sure that your baby's nappies and clothes do not rub the stump. Most newborn nappies have a dip where the stump is, to prevent rubbing. If you are using one-size modern cloth nappies, simply fold them down at the front to prevent rubbing. If you have a little boy, you should position his penis so it is pointing down in the nappy to try and prevent the stump from getting covered in urine.
Umbilical Cord Stump Care Tip #4 – Leave It Alone
Don't pick it, rub it or mess with it. Don't try to encourage the stump to fall off faster, just leave it to dry out naturally and fall of in its own time.
Umbilical Cord Stump Care Tip #5 – Sponge Baths
You should avoid giving your newborn proper baths. Until the stump has fallen off, you should sponge bathe your baby to avoid wetting the stump. Remember, your newborn won't really need bathing too frequently and it's best to avoid using soaps and lotions on his delicate skin.
When To Call The Doctor
When it falls off, the naval area may look red, raw or appear to be oozing fluid, this is all normal and will disappear within two weeks. If it has not healed completely within two weeks, you should contact your healthcare provider.
In rare cases, the stump can become infected. You should contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- The area surrounding the stump appears red, swollen and warm
- Pus at the base of the stump
- The stump is oozing yellow or green pus
- Continuous bleeding from the stump
- A foul odour coming from the stump