The umbilical cord is the lifeline between your baby and the placenta. Whilst you are pregnant the umbilical cord transports oxygen and nutrients to your developing baby. Once baby is born though, the umbilical cord is no longer needed.
After delivery, the umbilical cord is clamped in two places to minimise bleeding. The cord is then cut, generally quite close to baby’s naval. The clamp will be left on the umbilical cord until it dries out which usually takes 3 or 4 days. Cutting the umbilical cord does not cause you or your baby any pain as it does not have nerve endings (like hair or nails).
As mentioned, the cut umbilical cord will eventually dry out and become a stump and fall off. It is important to take good care of the stump until it falls off, which should occur within the first two weeks.
Umbilical care can be quite daunting to new parents. I know that when I had my first child I was terrified that every time I touched the stump that I was hurting her or that I was doing something wrong! This is a perfectly natural feeling however rest assured you are not hurting your baby when you are cleaning the stump.
The golden rules for umbilical care are keeping it clean and keeping it dry. You can clean your baby’s stump at every nappy change and after every bath to ensure that the stump is clean and dry.
In order to clean the stump you need to lift it up and using an ear bud or cotton ball which has been dipped into surgical spirits, clean around and at the bottom of the cord. Don’t be scared to go right to the base where the stump attaches to baby’s naval as this also needs to be cleaned well.
The dirt that you will find from the cord area when cleaning can be a bit worrisome, however it is normal to have some kind of discolouration on the ear bud or cotton ball. Even when the cord is drying out and healing well, it will still weep slightly and leave marks on the nappies and/or clothing on your baby.
Once you have cleaned the stump with surgical spirits, air it as much as possible so that it can dry before putting a fresh nappy on baby. When putting the nappy on your baby try to fold the top of the nappy down in the front so that it doesn’t rub against the stump and that way it is exposed to air and not urine.
Another way of making sure the stump is dry is by using Wecesin Powder. I used Wecesin Powder with all my babies and I never had a problem. I always have Wecesin in the house as it is excellent for other things too like grazes, wounds and even nappy rash! Wecesin Powder can be found in good pharmacies in the natural products section.
Eventually the stump will be ready to fall off however do not pull on it even if it is hanging on by a hair. Let the stump fall off naturally. After the cord falls off it may weep or even bleed a little however just keep cleaning it with surgical spirits and/or Wecesin.
However, in very rare instances, things don’t always go to plan. Your doctor should be contacted if any of the following occurs with your baby and the umbilical stump:
- The umbilical stump oozes yellowish pus
- If the area smells bad
- Your baby is running a fever
- There is bleeding from the end of the cord or the area near the skin
- There is swelling or redness around your baby’s naval
- There are signs that the area around your baby’s naval is painful
Cleaning your baby’s umbilical cord is not the most fun thing you can do with your newborn, however it is very important. Remember, do not be afraid of cleaning as it doesn’t hurt your baby and it is also a very normal part of a newborn baby.
– Candice Shelley