Practical advice for new parents

Umbilical Cord Care

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During a pregnancy, the umbilical cord serves the very important role of being the lifeline between a baby and the placenta. After birth, a baby can breathe on his or her own, and the umbilical cord is no longer needed. At this point it is clamped and cut, leaving behind a small, greenish-brown stump. Over the course of the next two to three weeks, the umbilical stump dries up, turns dark brown or black and eventually falls off. During this time, it is important to take appropriate care of the area to aid in the healing process and prevent infection:

Keep the stump dry

The umbilical stump will heal substantially quicker if it is kept dry. To ensure this, fold diapers down to avoid contact with urine, or use newborn diapers that have specially designed cut-outs for the umbilical cord. Change soiled diapers frequently. As well, avoid getting the stump wet in a bath. You can sufficiently clean your baby with sponge baths until after it has fallen off.

Keep the stump clean

There is no need to clean the stump with every diaper change, but it is important to clean it if it becomes dirty or crusty to prevent infection. Simply use a little soap and water with a soft washcloth. Make sure to thoroughly dry the area after cleaning.

Watch for signs of infection

Though very rare, the stump can become infected. Call your baby's doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
  • Increased redness or swelling around the stump

  • Bleeding from the stump

  • A foul-smelling discharge

Don't try to remove stump

Even though you might think that the stump is unsightly, don't be tempted to pull it off. It will fall off on its own.