Posted by: wortix | January 7, 2009

Umbilical cord care: Relax, it’s simple!

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A newborn’s umbilical cord stump isn’t pretty. But fear not. Simply keep it clean and dry until it falls off.

You can describe most bellybuttons as little nubs or crinkly indentations — but not at first. Your baby’s bellybutton starts out as an umbilical cord stump about an inch long. It’s not pretty, but it’s amazing all the same. Until the stump dries out and falls off, keep it clean and dry.

Why your baby has a stump

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord supplies nutrients and oxygen to your developing baby. After birth the umbilical cord is no longer needed, so it’s clamped and snipped. This leaves behind a short stump. The umbilical cord doesn’t contain pain-sensitive nerve fibers, so your baby won’t feel anything during this rite of passage.

Taking care of the stump

Your baby’s umbilical cord stump will change from yellowish green to brown to black as it dries out and eventually falls off — usually within two weeks after birth. In the meantime, treat the area gently.

  • Keep the stump clean. Parents were once instructed to swab the stump with rubbing alcohol after every diaper change. Researchers now say the stump may heal faster if left alone. If the stump becomes dirty or sticky, wash it with soap and water and dry it well. Hold a clean, absorbent cloth around the stump or use the low setting on a hair dryer, being careful to hold the dryer a safe distance from the baby.
  • Keep the stump dry. Expose the stump to air to help dry out the base. Keep the front of your baby’s diaper folded down to avoid covering the stump. Change wet or soiled diapers quickly to prevent irritation. In warm weather, dress your baby in a diaper and T-shirt to improve air circulation.
  • Stick with sponge baths. Sponge baths may be most practical during the healing process. When the stump falls off, you can bathe your baby in a baby tub or sink.
  • Let the stump fall off on its own. Resist the temptation to pull off the stump yourself, even if it’s hanging on by only a thread.

Signs of infection

During the healing process, it’s normal to see a little crust or dried blood near the stump. Contact your baby’s doctor if your baby develops a fever or if the umbilical area:

Appears red and swollen around the cord
Continues to bleed
Oozes yellowish pus
Produces a foul-smelling discharge
Umbilical cord infections are uncommon. But if your baby has an infection, prompt treatment can stop the infection from spreading.

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