1. Being a mom
  2. Raising a baby
  3. Baby: Early weeks

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Umbilical Cord Care: An In-Depth Guide

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord supplies vital nutrients to your baby. After delivery, a small portion of the cord is left behind that gradually dries up and detaches. Learn how to keep their belly button clean, dry, and free of infections.

Umbilical cord care essentials

Immediately after childbirth, it’s common practice to sever the umbilical cord except in the event of a lotus birth. Up to an inch of the umbilical cord stump remains attached to your baby’s belly button, which is tied into a knot.

It slowly shrinks and changes in color from yellow to brownish black, then dries up and falls off roughly 1 to 2 weeks later. Below, we explore the ins and outs of newborn umbilical cord care to guarantee a smooth, healthy transition for your little one.

How to clean a baby’s belly button

When it comes to your newborn, there’s no such thing as being too gentle. Give them some much needed TLC with these pointers on how to clean a belly button.

  • Pediatricians used to recommend applying rubbing alcohol to the umbilical stump. These days, however, most suggest leaving their belly button alone as much as possible.
  • Always wash your hands before changing their diapers, and whenever you come into contact with their belly button.
  • Wondering exactly how to clean a belly button? Soak an earbud or cotton swab in water and squeeze out the excess. Then, gently glide it around, without rubbing. It’s important to avoid inflaming the area.
  • The drier your child’s belly button stays, the sooner the umbilical stump will form a scab and shed itself. Remember to always keep the base of the stump exposed to fresh air.
  • Until the stump detaches, only give sponge baths to your newborn. This will protect their belly button from damaging moisture. If it does get wet, very gently dab with a soft cloth and make sure it’s completely dry before diapering over it.

Prevent diaper irritation

Sometimes, your baby’s diaper can rub against their umbilical stump, causing abrasion and even bleeding. Remedy the situation by folding the top portion of the diaper down and away from their belly button. Or, consider switching to diapers that are specially designed with a cutout at the waist.

Choose clothes wisely

To promote faster belly button healing, allow your infant’s umbilical stump to receive plenty of fresh air and steer clear of potential irritants. Select clothing made of soft fabrics, with a looser fit to enhance airflow. Whenever possible, avoid pants or bottoms altogether; this way, there won’t be any waistbands rubbing against the area.

Exercise patience

Belly button healing usually takes no more than a few weeks, especially if you’re diligent about keeping this spot clean and dry.

As tempting as it may be, you should never pick at or pull your child’s umbilical stump as it increases their chances for infection. Simply let nature take its course. It will dry up and fall off before you know it.

Is belly button bleeding a problem?

While your newborn’s belly button heals, you’ll probably notice a little blood around the stump. Prior to detaching, it tends to bleed slightly, just like a scab would. This is perfectly normal. Carefully clean the surrounding area and make sure there’s nothing rubbing up against it.

Signs of an infected belly button

Complications do occasionally occur, so if your baby displays any of the following symptoms, consult your pediatrician immediately.

  • The area suddenly becomes red and/or swollen.
  • Their belly button begins to ooze yellow or clear puss.
  • Their belly button region forms a moist, pink bump.
  • An unusual, foul belly button smell develops.
  • Your child comes down with a fever.

What if a baby’s umbilical stump doesn’t heal?

In rare cases, it takes longer than 10 to 15 days for the umbilical stump to detach. Your little one’s belly button could then produce an umbilical granuloma. This is the result of an overgrowth of scar tissue, but is easily treated. Ask your pediatrician for further info on how to proceed.

Ultimately, the best way to care for your infant’s delicate belly button is by ensuring it stays clean and dry at all times. If the umbilical stump presents swelling or any of the abovementioned symptoms, they may have an infected belly button. A trusted medical professional can diagnose the problem and treat it accordingly.



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