Umbilical cord care
How to look after your newborn's delicate belly-button after birth
After your baby is born his umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. This is painless for you and your baby and where the cored joined his tummy there will be a 2-3cm stump. This area is delicate and will need a little extra attention until the cord stump naturally falls off around two weeks after birth.
Good cord care is important, read our guide from midwife Nikki Khan, on how to keep your baby’s stump clean and free from infection.
WHY IS THIS AREA PRONE TO INFECTION?
At birth babies are born with a high level of Anti-body like proteins called immunoglobulin (IgG), which are important for keeping babies free from bacterial and viral infections. However, these drop over the first two to three months of birth making them prone to infections. It is only at around three months that your child will start to develop his own antibodies, but at a much slower rate than adults. Therefore babies are very vulnerable, which is why cord care and preventing infection is so important.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A HEALTH CORD WOUND?
A healthy cord is normally odour-free and clean. It should remain moist for two to three days and then start to blacken and dry out.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR BABY’S CORD
Avoid keeping it in a warm, humid environment. The aim is for the cord to dry and eventually separate (drop off), an environment that is warm or sweaty will delay this.
Leave cord exposed to air, allowing it to dry naturally.
Keep the cord above the nappy.
Avoid routine cleansing of the cord.
Try to ensure the cord and clamp is not rubbing on your baby’s skin, so use loose fitting tops and babygrows until the cord drops off.
IF THE CORD NEEDS CLEANSING
If the cord becomes contaminated with poo or urine it will need to be cleansed. Here’s how:
Use cool, boiled water.
Dip a cotton wool ball in the water and gently wipe the whole area around the stump, using a new cotton wool ball every time.
NEVER use a dry cotton wool ball as these can leave fibres, which can cause irritation to your babies delicate skin and in some cases lead to infection.
WHEN WILL THE CORD FALL OFF?
This is called the time of separation and it usually takes place between the 6th and 12th day after birth. Don’t worry if a little blood occurs during this time, it is normal.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG?
Your child’s cord stump maybe inflamed or infected if you spot any of the following:
- A redness at the base of the cord;
- An odour coming from the cord;
- Discharge coming from the cord or the base of the cord;
- Any bleeding from the cord before separation (although slight bleeding often occurs at the time of separation).
If you notice any of the following or your baby appears unwell or feverish speak to a midwife or health advisor.
TOP TIP FOR LITTLE BOYS
With baby boys, It is advisable to gently ensure the penis is pointing down in the nappy to avoid them passing urine up on the cord. Apart from this cord care is the same for both sexes.
Huggies have recently launched the new UCC (Umbilical Cord Care) to its Newborn size one nappies. The new nappies have an umbilical cord cut out shape, designed to avoid interference with babies’ cords as they heal. Newborn UCC nappies will be available from most supermarkets and leading chemists from September 2011.
During the first week or so of your baby’s life it is recommended you only need to ‘top and tail’ your baby, which means just washing your baby’s face, neck hands and bottom.
When your baby is ready for his first bath it can be a wonderful experience for both of you.
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