The umbilical cord contributes to the magic of life in babies while they are inside the womb. It allows them to live since it provides them with oxygen, nutrients and enough food to grow and develop. Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord loses its function and is therefore cut. In some cases it is discarded, in others it is donated, in others it is frozen for the stem cells and stored in a specialized bank in case it is ever needed.
When the baby is born the umbilical cord is cut and a stump of tissue remains attached to the baby’s navel. The stump gradually dries up and shrivels until it falls off, usually 1 to 2 weeks after birth.
It is important to keep the umbilical cord stump and surrounding skin. A basic but essential care to prevent infections. In addition, keeping the area dry and clean will help the stump to fall off sooner and to leave the scar like a navel and heal more quickly.
How to clean the umbilical cord
To keep your baby’s umbilical cord stump and surrounding skin clean and dry, follow these steps:
- Soak a cotton swab in warm water and mild soap . Squeeze out excess water. Gently clean the sides of the residual limb and the skin around it.
- Wipe away any wet, sticky, or dirty substances.
- Gently dry the area with a soft cloth.
- The stump usually falls off in 1-2 weeks, but sometimes it takes longer. Clean around the navel until the area has fully healed.
Keep the area dry
In addition to the above, it is important that you keep the dry area. You can help your baby’s umbilical cord stump fall off and heal faster by keeping it dry between cleanings by:
Keep the baby’s diaper folded under of the umbilical cord stump. If folding doesn’t work well, try cutting an area in the front of the diaper (before you put it on your baby) to keep the stump exposed to air. It also helps prevent diaper contents, such as urine, from irritating the stump. There are baby bathtubs that have a gentle slope to make it easier to position babies in the bath and to better clean the cord.
What should you expect?
Most stumps in the umbilical cord look worse than they really are. Right after birth, the umbilical cord stump usually looks white and shiny and may feel slightly moist. As the stump dries and heals, it may look brown, gray, or even black. This is normal. Usually, problems will not develop as long as the area is kept clean and dry.
The umbilical cord stump usually falls off in 7 to 14 days. Sometimes the stump falls off before the first week. Other times, the stump may stay longer. You may see a red, raw-looking patch right after the stump falls off. A small amount of fluid, sometimes tinged with blood, may leak from the navel area. It’s normal for this to last up to 2 weeks after the stump falls off. If it doesn’t heal or dry out completely within 2 weeks, you’ll need to take your baby to the pediatrician. Likewise, if the area smells bad or discharges, you will have to take him to see a medical professional.
When to call the pediatrician?
You will have to call the pediatrician immediately if:
- Pus oozing and/or smells bad
- Skin is red and tender around the base of the cord
- Baby cries when touched cord or surrounding skin
- Your baby has a fever
- If there is a red, moist lump in the baby’s navel that lasts for more than two weeks. It may be an extra piece of tissue called an umbilical granuloma. Your baby’s doctor can treat this minor problem.
- If there is bulging tissue around the navel, which is usually noticeable after the umbilical cord falls off. This may be an umbilical hernia, which usually goes away on its own. But it should be supervised by a doctor.