Umbilical Cord Care

After a baby is born the umbilical cord is cut. A portion of the stump still remains attached to the baby. You will be responsible for its care until it heals.

Inside the womb, the baby is connected to the mother via the umbilical cord and the placenta. Through the cord, the baby receives nutrients from the food that the mother eats. Before baby’s lungs and heart are fully developed, the exchange of gases occurs across the umbilical cord. Waste products produced by the baby are also transferred to the mother for removal across the placenta.

When the child is born, the placenta is removed and the cord attachment to the baby is severed. The end of the stump that remains is clipped by the doctor. Doctors often use some sort of colored solution (dye) on the stump to prevent any type of bacterial infection.

It takes about three weeks for the baby’s umbilical cord stump to fall off. In that time, it has to be kept dry and clean to prevent any problems. Since diapers usually rise above the level of the umbilical cord, they will need to be rolled down so the cord doesn’t come into contact with urine or fecal matter. Disposable diaper companies make newborn diapers with the umbilical area cut out so there is no danger of that.

Until the stump falls off, baby can be washed on your lap instead of submerged in water. You can wipe the stump with a damp cloth gently so as not to cause irritation. Some parents use alcohol to dry up the stump. This is not specifically necessary and blotting it dry actually speeds healing over using alcohol.

It can be painful and cause inflammation if the stump rubs against anything. You are already keeping it clear of the diaper, but shirts and pants can irritate it too. Until the stump falls off, try to avoid dressing baby in onesies and full pajamas. Besides the irritation, the stump or the clip could mistakenly get caught in a zipper.

Some umbilical stumps do get infected. If you notice the following signs, go to see your doctor immediately:

* Fever
* Pus coming from the stump
* Inflammation or swelling around the stump

The doctor may have to go in and remove the infected portion and/or give baby antibiotics to stop the infection.

Once the cord stump drops off, there is nothing more to do. This usually happens once the area is healed. You will still need to clean the navel area since it is easy for dirt to collect there.

Caring for your baby’s umbilical stump is a part of early childhood. You can use alcohol or let it dry naturally. Both will achieve the same result.