Umbilical Cord Care
Umbilical cord care does not require anything other than keeping the navel area and stump clean and dry, and watching for signs of infection. The short stump of tissue that remains attached to the baby’s navel after the umbilical cord is cut will fall off on its own after it dries up. This should happen in about a week or two although it may take a few days longer as well. There is no reason to be concerned as long as there are no signs of infection and never try to pull it off even if it is hanging on only by a thread. While waiting for the stump to fall off, make sure that you follow the guidelines for umbilical cord care which will help prevent infection and accelerate the healing process:
Keep the stump area clean: Wash the stump with soap and water when dirty and gently pat it dry with a clean cloth. Avoid using rubbing alcohol because it is believed to cause irritation and prolong the healing process.
Keep the stump area dry: Fold the diaper at the stump area because it will dry out faster if exposed to air. Change dirty and wet diapers promptly and dress your baby in a diaper and T-shirt if the weather permits to prolong exposure of the umbilical cord stump to air.
Bathe your baby carefully: It is recommendable to give your baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord stump falls off.
Avoid pulling off the stump: You may feel tempted to pull off the stump, especially if it hangs on only by a thread but it is crucial to let it fall off on its own.
The above mentioned umbilical cord care measures are enough to prevent infection in most cases but you are highly recommended to pay attention to any unusual changes in order to receive early medical treatment if necessary. You may notice the stump changing colors from yellowish to green and grey to brown and even black but these color changes are normal and are not a cause of concern. There is also no reason to be concerned if noticing a crust near the stump. However, be sure to contact your doctor immediately if noticing a yellowish or foul-smelling discharge from the stump, if it appears red and swollen, if your baby seems to be in pain when touching the stump or the surrounding area, or if he or she develops fever.
Problems with the umbilical cord after the stump falls off are very rare but are not impossible. For that reason it is necessary to watch the navel area for a while after the stump has fallen off. Contact your doctor if you notice any worrisome symptoms such as persistent swelling and discharge which may be a sign of infection, or a small pinkish tissue growth in the belly button which can be accompanied by a drainage. This may be umbilical granuloma, a harmless tissue growth which is most often successfully treated with silver nitrate.
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