Care And Healing Of Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

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Care And Healing Of Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

In the first few weeks of your newborn's life, the umbilical cord stump serves as a reminder of your baby's connection to you in utero and the important role it played in the baby's development. A little care and patience are all the cord needs to heal before it falls off. Sometimes, cord complications can arise that require treatment.

In Utero

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord connects the developing fetus to the placenta. Blood vessels within the cord allow oxygen and nutrients to flow to the baby. Waste products travel from the baby's body back through the cord. The cord serves as the baby's lifeline while in the mother's womb.

After Delivery

Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is no longer needed to sustain life. The cord is clamped to stop blood flow and cut to sever the connection to the placenta. Once blood flow stops, the doctor or nurse removes the clamp, leaving a short piece of the cord still attached to the baby.

At Home Care

Eventually, the cord stump dries and falls off as the umbilical site heals, forming the baby's belly button. As the cord dries, it turns brown, gray, or black. It doesn't require much attention: keeping it clean and dry and exposing it to air as much as possible. Cord care tips include:

  • Only give sponge baths until the cord falls off so it doesn't get wet
  • Fold the front of the diaper down so it doesn't cover or rub on the cord
  • A little bleeding or oozing is normal. Clean with a damp cotton swap and allow the site to dry

What Not to Do

The cord will fall off in its own time when the umbilicus has healed. To avoid complications or delays in healing, do not:

  • Give baby a tub bath
  • Apply rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide
  • Attempt to remove or loosen the cord

Minor Issues

A little bleeding may occur if the cord gets bumped. Clean the area and apply light pressure for 10 minutes to stop the bleeding.

Sometimes the umbilical site can become infected, causing a small amount of redness or pus to form. Gently clean the site and apply antibiotic ointment twice per day. The infection should clear up in a few days.

Serious Complications

Rarely, the baby may develop symptoms that require medical attention. Signs of a more serious complication include:

  • Fever
  • Red area around the umbilicus or red streaks on the abdomen
  • Pus or other discharge
  • Foul odor or excessive pus
  • The baby looks or acts unwell
  • Bleeding does not stop with gentle pressure
  • Bleeding more than  a few days in a row

When to Call the Doctor

If the cord has not fallen off within a reasonable timeframe, your baby should be seen by the pediatrician. Call the doctor if the baby displays any signs of a serious complication. Fever, excessive bleeding, persistent infection, or acting unwell is not normal. 

For more info, contact a local baby doctor

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