Umbilical cord care

Cord Care: What do I do with this stump?

Caring for your newborns umbilical cord

Your baby’s umbilical cord is the life line between mom’s placenta and baby. It is developed between the 4th and 8th week in utero and contains two arteries and one vein. The umbilical vein supplies the baby with oxygenated blood and nutrients from the placenta and the umbilical arteries carry de-oxygenated blood and waste from the baby to the placenta.

Once the cord is cut and clamped after birth, what do you do with the umbilical stump? In short, nothing! There used to be two main schools of thought when it came to taking care of your newborns umbilical cord; some hospitals and birthing centers left it alone completely while others directed you to clean it with alcohol after every diaper change to help it dry out faster.

Follow whatever instructions are given to you prior to discharge and know that your pediatrician, family physician or midwife will be checking on it as well at the early visits.

Do not be afraid of the stump! It is kind of like a scab, it does not hurt the baby as it has no nerve endings. It may start off as slimy and squishy, some are thick and some are slim, some are cut longer and some are just barely little stumps. Most stumps fall off within one to two weeks, but some have been known to stay on a little longer.  Either way, they quickly begin to dry up, change colors (yellow, brown or black) and shrivel up until they fall off.

It is YOUR job to keep it clean and dry!

You can do this by:

  • Giving only sponge baths until the cord falls off
  • Make sure your diapers have the newborn cutout notch or just fold the diaper down so it is not touching the stump
  • Keep your baby in a t-shirt or lose onesie, make sure it does not get caught on their clothing
  • Expose it to air often, if possible. This is great for skin to skin bonding!
  • Resist the urge to pull it off, even if it is dangling

If you notice redness around the stump, bleeding or a yellowish, strong smelling odor or discharge let your health care provider know right away as it can be a sign of infection, although rare, they can occur.

There may be some dried blood or tiny pieces of the cord left in the belly button once the stump falls off, you can clean that out and feel free to give your baby a tub bath or shower.

If the idea of giving your little one their first “real bath” makes you nervous, give me a call and I can help walk you through this first event and capture some special moments along the way.