Your baby’s umbilical cord played an important role while your little one was growing in your womb, but now that the baby is out and the umbilical cord is no longer needed, all that your newborn will be left with is a short stump after the umbilical cord is cut off at birth. Until the stump dries up and falls off, you’ll need to make sure that it stays clean and uninfected.
Cord Stump Basics
The clamping and snipping of the umbilical cord is a painless process that all babies undergo on the day of their delivery, and the stump that remains usually takes from 1 to 4 weeks to dry up and fall off, leaving what will soon become the baby’s belly button. It’s normal for the stump to change from a yellowish green color to brown then black a few days after the baby’s birth.
Stump Care Dos & Don’ts
A newborn’s cord stump needs proper care to stop it from getting infected, so make sure you follow the below guidelines when caring for your little one’s belly button-to-be:
• Keep the stump dry: Your baby will heal faster if you air the base of the stump. You can do this by folding the front of your baby’s diaper down below the stump; not only will you be airing the stump, you’ll also keep urine from reaching it.
• Avoid dressing your baby in bodysuit-style undershirts, since such undershirts don’t promote air circulation, which slows down the drying of the stump. Instead, choose loose tops or t-shirts (if the weather is warm) to speed up the drying process.
• Keep the stump clean: It was common practice to clean the stump regularly with alcohol before, but recent research has shown that baby cord stumps heal faster when left unswabbed, and there is no increased risk of infection. Discuss the matter with your doctor before you decide whether to swab or not. If you are going to swab, make sure to use cotton swabs since they don’t cause skin irritation in babies.
• Stick to sponge baths. Newborn babies with unhealed umbilical cord stumps should never be bathed in a tub, but should be sponge bathed instead. When you sponge bathe your infant, you should also make sure not to wet the stump and the area closely surrounding it.
• Never pull at the cord. Even if it seems like the stump is ready to drop off and the remainder of the cord is hanging on by a very thin piece, do not under any circumstance attempt to pull it off. Simply let nature take its course and wait for the cord to fall off on its own.
When to Call the Doctor
While a small amount of dried blood at the base of the stump is normal, you should call your pediatrician immediately if the area of your baby’s stump continues to bleed, becomes red and swollen, yields an unpleasant smelling discharge, or begins to ooze yellowish pus, as these are all signs of infection. Sometimes lumpy flesh called umbilical granuloma remains after the stump falls off; have your doctor check the flesh to determine whether it needs medical treatment or should be left to disappear on its own.