How to care for the umbilical stump after birth

by Lynn Nolan

How to care for the umbilical stump after birth

After giving birth to your new baby boy or girl, you may wonder what happens with the umbilical cord stump that is still attached to your little one's belly button. Although it may look odd, on average, it takes 10 to 21 days for it to dry up and fall off, and new parents should never, ever pull it off - even when it looks like it's hanging from a thread.

Once it does fall off, it might leave a small wound that may need to heal afterward. This is a normal part of baby development!

Keep it clean and dry
While it's still attached, new parents must care for this stump, keeping it clean and dry. This is particularly important when doing diaper changes.

For instance, you'll want to fold your little one's diaper below the stump so that it's always exposed to air - there are even some diaper brands on the market that have a hole cut out for it. If covered, it risks being exposed to moisture or even urine. In addition, under the direction of a healthcare provider, you may want to give your baby sponge baths in the sink, avoiding the stump, until it falls off.

If it does get wet, you can pat the area dry with a soft cloth.

Take weather into consideration
On top of managing diaper changes, you'll want to make sure that your baby is also wearing appropriate clothing to keep air circulating in order to facilitate the drying process. So, during warmer weather, you'll want to outfit your little one in loose T-shirts, avoiding onesies until the stump falls off.

Be wary of infection
These steps are important to avoid infection. Parents should keep an eye on the stump for symptoms, such as swelling or redness around the navel, bleeding or the appearance of pus at the base of the stump, according to the Mayo Clinic. If observed, Mom or Dad should contact their pediatrician as soon as possible so treatment can prevent the infection from spreading. 

There has been some debate among professionals over whether applying antiseptic ointment to the stump on a daily basis is beneficial in keeping it clean. While this has been recommended for years, some pediatricians report that it may be more effective for the cord to dry naturally.

Think of it as a milestone!
Celebrity Hilary Duff made a statement about her son Luca's umbilical cord stump after giving birth last March. The actress revealed that she has kept the stump in her makeup drawer.

"You know what was a big milestone? The belly button falling off. That was a huge one. And then I wanted to keep it but my husband was like, 'No, that's gross, you can't keep it!' I'm like, 'I'm totally keeping it,' and I secretly kept it," Duff told People magazine. 

Were you aware that you have to care for the umbilical cord stump? Did you experience any challenges? Let our readers know and leave your answers in the comments section!