Umbilical Cord Care
You’ve been discharged from the hospital, birth center or you’re already home after a home birth with this strange-looking piece of the umbilical cord still attached to your baby.
Hopefully, you’ve been given clear instructions on how to care, or not care, for this tissue that once connected you to your baby.
Let’s start with what is an umbilical cord:
It’s the cord that links your unborn baby to the placenta. The cord is attached at your baby’s navel to the approximate center of the placenta and is the byway by which oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your baby from your blood supply. In turn, waste and carbon dioxide from the baby is carried back through the cord to the placenta where it is delivered to the mothers’ kidneys and lungs for excretion.
When your baby is born, the placenta will be delivered shortly after the baby, and the umbilical cord will be cut. There are many different schools of thought on when this cutting, or clamping, should occur, as blood exchange is still happening between the placenta and baby until after the cord stops pulsing. This delayed clamping can increase the child’s blood volume by up to a third. The iron in the blood increases the newborn’s iron storage, which is vital for healthy brain development.
What is left after the clamping is the “stump.” This is what you will need to care for at home. It sounds scary, but in reality, there is very little that needs to be done to properly care for the stump, as nature helps heal the stump.
Research studying the use of alcohol and plain water have shown similar results, and most parents are advised to keep the stump clean with the use of a damp washcloth, baby wipe, or to allow the stump to dry naturally. If any feces comes in contact with the stump, use a damp cloth or wipe to clean the feces off, air dry and keep the stump clear of any irritant.
You may find that you will need to fold down the front of the baby’s diaper so that it does not rub against the stump.
How long will the umbilical cord stomp be there?
Most umbilical cords will fall off within 2 weeks, some will fall off after a few days.
- Foul smell
- Bright red blood
If any of these symptoms appear, contact your pediatrician immediately as it can signal a sign of infection.
What do I do with the cord after it falls off?
Most people keep the dried cord as a sign of remembrance, keepsake, or for a baby book. You are free to discard the dried cord in any way you see fit.