The umbilical cord connects your baby in the womb to you and it supplies oxygen and nutrients to your baby. Once your baby is born, the umbilical cord is clipped and cut because it is no longer needed. However, a short stump will be left behind and until it dries up and falls off you need to practice hygiene and take precautions so that infection does not set in.
If you are a first-time mom, you may have certain questions like, “How do I clean a newborn’s umbilical cord?” and “Is it safe to clean the umbilical cord?” Basic care for the umbilical cord stump includes keeping the scab dry and clean and allowing it to heal well.
When Does the Umbilical Cord Fall Off?
The average time for the umbilical cord stump to fall off is within 10 to 14 days after birth. However, this timeframe can vary and it can be anywhere between 5 to 21 days. After the cord falls off, wipe it clean and pat dry with a towel. It’s advisable to continue sponge baths for a few more days after the cord falls off.
Tips for Caring for the Umbilical Cord
Caring for your baby’s umbilical cord is not difficult, but it is very important. Here are a few tips to guide you along the way.
- Keep it clean and dry- If your baby’s umbilical cord looks sticky or dirty, gently dab it with a damp washcloth. Do not use soap or alcohol as it might irritate the skin. Then pat dry with a soft cloth. Exposing the stump base to air will help to dry it out quickly.
- Sponge bath your baby- If you are wondering how to bathe a newborn with an umbilical cord, don’t immerse your baby in bath water until the umbilical stump falls off. It is important to keep it dry and allow the navel to heal well, so for the time being, stick to a sponge bath.
- Keep the diaper away from the belly button - When putting on your baby’s diaper; do not cover the stump with the top of the diaper. Fold the front down and then fix it in place. Also, make sure to change dirty diapers as soon as possible so that no leakage takes place towards the navel.
- Dress your baby delicately – Loose-fitting clothes like onesies are best for your baby in the initial days as they are comfortable and it will not press against the stump. You can even buy onesies that have a special cutout for the stump. Kimono-style undershirts are more comfortable than the snap crotch ones and these allow for more air circulation.
- Don’t pull off the scab – The scab will dry up and fall off when it is ready. Even if it looks like it is almost going to fall off and is hanging by a thin thread, don’t touch it. Forcefully pulling off the umbilical cord stump can cause profuse bleeding. So just let it fall off on its own and resist touching it.
When to Visit the Doctor in Case of Infection
In rare circumstances, the umbilical cord stump can get infected especially if your baby was premature at birth, or has a low birth weight or if it falls off earlier. If there is an infection, your baby will have to take medicine prescribed by the doctor.
If you notice any of these signs, seek medical attention to be sure that everything is alright:
- If it appears swollen and red
- If it oozes puss or has a foul-smelling discharge
- If there is plenty of bleeding brackets; a little dry blood is normal
- If your baby has a lump filled with fluid near the stump
- Abdominal swelling
- Lethargic irritability or low appetite
If the umbilical cord stump is still on at six weeks, it is recommended that you contact your doctor. It is normal for the center portion of the navel to look a bit red after the stump falls off. By following the above-mentioned tips and taking certain precautions, your baby should be just fine!