One of the lessons that new parents have to learn before their baby is born is how to take care of the umbilical cord.
The doctor cutting it right after delivery is a 'classic image' of giving birth that we all have seen in many films and documentaries. This time, you'll become a supporting actress of this scene, but the story will continue once you take your little one home. Yes, you've got it, you will have to get good at umbilical cord care.
Lucky for you, here you'll find the best information and tips to help you deal with the treatment with the right tools.
The umbilical cord, a link no longer useful
As you know, the umbilical cord has been connecting your little one to the placenta during his time in the womb. This is the 'link' through which the baby is nourished and, also, it is the channel that provides him with oxygen, blood and antibodies while he's developing. But, of course, the umbilical cord becomes useless once your munchkin leaves the uterus, so there's no reason to keep it there.
After all, it's an open wound
Once the doctor has done his job by cutting and clamping the umbilical cord close to the baby's body, you'll probably hold your little one for the first time and you'll notice a stump on his navel area. Although the procedure of removing the umbilical cord is painless for the baby, the resulting stump is, in fact, an open wound that will remain there for the first two or three weeks of the baby's life. The stump will fall off by itself, but it requires some care to prevent infections.
How do I take care of it?
Taking care of umbilical cord isn't hard. You just have to keep the stump clean and dry, to help it fall off and to prevent any complications. These are some of the tricks you can use:
- In order to keep the umbilical cord dry, give your baby sponge baths. Having tub baths isn't a good option.
- When folding the baby's diaper, make sure that this doesn't cover the umbilical cord stump, which should be exposed to the air. Also, keeping it this way will prevent any contact with urine.
- Speed the stump drying by having the baby wear loose clothes or, if it's summer, only the diaper.
- Clean the stump twice a day using a gentle gauze coated with antiseptic. Make sure not to miss any part with the antiseptic, even if you have to move the staple a little bit (do it gently!).
- During the first 24 hours after birth, while being at the hospital, try to keep the baby in contact with your own skin as much as possible. This will enable essential bacteria from your skin to transfer to his skin and colonize there.
- Once the stump has fallen off, you should keep cleaning the navel area until it is dry, scabbed over and healing.
Even if you are taking care of it properly, you should always keep an eye on how the stump looks. A little bit of bleeding is normal, but a lot can be a sign that something is wrong. If there's a haemorrhage, pus or swelling, take your newborn to the paediatrician, because your baby could be having an infection. Other symptoms to be aware of include:
- Your baby cries when you touch the stump or the area surrounding it
- The skin around the umbilical cord gets red
- A strong smell coming from the area
- Yellow discharge
Even when the umbilical cord is gone, the open scar isn't risk free. You have to treat it for a few days to avoid a disorder called umbilical granulomas, which has to be treated with silver nitrate by a doctor. There's another case in which you may need health care assistance: if the stump doesn't disappear within 3 weeks after labour, you could be dealing with a condition called a persistent umbilical cord, which needs medical evaluation.
What not to do
Besides being careful while taking care of umbilical cord, there is something you should never do. Even if the stump looks dry and you think that it's about to fall, don't pull it up. Let it fall naturally, because the risk of infection will be lower.
It may sound a little overwhelming but, again, dealing with the umbilical cord stump is an inevitable chapter of your early days as parents. As long as you take all this advice into consideration, it will be fine. In a few days, the stump will be just another memory of the first days taking care of your baby.