Caring for the umbilical stump in babies.
A new baby’s arrival comes with a lot of concerns for the new parents and a lot of decisions they have to make. Primary on every parent’s mind is the baby’s health – how to ensure the baby is well fed, well cared for and healthy.
After the parents have gotten over their baby’s perfectness and his/her likeness to them, one of the most noticeable things about a newborn baby is its umbilical stump and it leaves many a first-time parent completely stumped!
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They immediately might have a number of questions –
- Is that normal?
- How it is supposed to look?
- How do I know my baby is not in pain because of it?
- When will it heal and subside?
- How do I care for it?
Let’s tackle those questions one at a time.
What is an umbilical stump?
An umbilical cord is the one which links an unborn baby to his mother. It is an unborn baby’s source of oxygen and nutrition and it carries away the baby’s waste. When a baby is born its umbilical cord is snipped off close to its belly. What remains on the baby’s belly is a small remnant of the umbilical cord which is called the umbilical stump.
What is normal?
Once the cord is cut what remains is a small gelatinous stump on the baby’s belly. Over 3-4 weeks the stump will change colour from yellowish-green to brown then to black before it falls off. It is completely normal if there is little blood near the stump since this is where the cord was cut off. Normally, the umbilical stump will dry by itself and fall off by around three weeks. However, in some cases it has taken as long as six weeks for the umbilical stump to completely dry and fall off, so be patient.
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When to worry?
If the umbilical stump or the area around it shows any of the following signs, you must consult the baby’s doctor:
- If the stump or the base of the stump is oozing pus.
- If the stump smells foul.
- If your baby cries or shows signs of discomfort when you touch the stump to clean it.
- If there is any redness around the area of the stump on the baby’s belly.
- If the stump is actively bleeding at any point – before falling off or after falling off.
Image Source:Tesco Baby Club
How to care for the umbilical stump?
- The most important thing to remember is to keep the umbilical stump clean and dry at all times.
- Before cleaning the umbilical stump, ensure that your own hands are thoroughly clean, dry and disinfected.
- Gently cleaning the stump with water and airing it out to dry works best. Avoid cleaning the stump with rubbing alcohol as sometimes advised as there is no evidence of it helping the stump heal faster and it might actually irritate the baby’s skin.
- When putting on diapers on the baby, ensure that they do not cover the stump. Fold them so that they rest below the umbilical stump.
- You could also skip giving the baby a tub bath and give him/her a sponge bath till the stump falls off.
- However, if you do prefer a tub bath, then completely dry the stump with a clean, soft cloth or cotton after the bath and leave it uncovered for a little while to dry out.
What not to do while caring for the umbilical stump?
- Do not try to pull off the stump at any time, even after it is dry by hand. It will fall off by itself once completely dry.
- Do not use any baby powder or other products on the umbilical stump unless specified by your doctor.
- not dress the baby in fitted clothes. Dress him/her in loose cotton or clothes made of natural fibre so as to not chafe the umbilical stump.
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Precautions after the stump falls off?
Once the umbilical stump is completely dry it will fall off by itself, continue to keep the area clean and dry. This is where your baby’s belly button will form. However, you may notice some of these things:
- Sometimes a sticky, yellow fluid may ooze out after the cord falls out. If the oozing persists, or if foul smelling, consult with your pediatrician.
- There could also be a scab over where the baby’s navel might be. This is normal and the scab will dry and fall off too.
- Sometimes a mass of tissue might be left behind after the umbilical stump falls off. This is called Umbilical Granuloma. Umbilical Granuloma is harmless and painless since it does not have any blood vessels though it might not be a pretty sight. You could consult a doctor and he can easily get rid of it by performing cauterization, that is to burn-off the mass of tissue. This process is completely painless for the baby.
- Innie or outie: Until the Umbilical stump falls off, you will not be able to predict if the baby has an innie (inward) or outie (outward protruding) belly button. There is no way to ensure your baby has either and neither is better than the other so do not fall for old wives tales. It is also not related in any way to how the doctor snipped off the umbilical cord.
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