The role of the umbilical cord is to transport nutrients from mom to the baby throughout the pregnancy. It is cut after giving birth and the baby needs to provide nutrients for itself from then. A half-inch purplish-blue stump will be on your baby’s belly button after this procedure. Umbilical cord healing takes about 1-2 weeks.
After 2 weeks, the stump will usually dry and fall off. However, you will have to take care of it for some time to prevent infection and irritation. Here is some useful information on the umbilical cord care that will hopefully help you keep things right.
What is the Umbilical Cord?
As already mentioned, the umbilical cord’s function is to carry nutrients and oxygen into your child’s bloodstream from the placenta. The umbilical cord has two main parts and those are:
- A vein that delivers the nutrients and oxygen to your child
- Two arteries that return waste products and deoxygenated blood, carbon dioxide for example, from the baby to the placenta
A sticky substance, also known as Wharton’s jelly, is protecting these blood vessels. This substance is also covered in a layer of the amnion, which is a membrane.
The placenta will also pass antibodies to your baby through the umbilical cord in the late stages of pregnancy. This will provide your body with a strong immunity from infections for about three months after birth. Keep in mind that only antibodies you already have will be passed.
Signs of Umbilical Cord Infection
You will probably notice that your baby’s healing belly button looks a lot worse than it is. Even if the belly button is healing normally, you might be suspicious if everything’s right according to how it looks. Some pediatricians suggest that you should pay attention to your baby’s stump if it was born at a low birth weight or prematurely. Also, an early stump fall off can be a good sign of an infection, so keep track of it.
However, umbilical cord infection is rarely getting infected, but you should know that it can happen. There are a couple of symptoms that might be pointing at infection and when you should consult with your baby’s pediatrician. Those symptoms are:
- Abdominal swelling
- Red and swollen appearance
- Lethargy, low appetite, irritability
- Bleeding from the scab
- A fluid-filled lump, either on your baby’s umbilical cord stump or near it
- Foul-smelling discharge or oozing pus
Your baby’s pediatrician will prescribe antibiotics if there’s an infection. This will clear it up and help the umbilical cord healing.
How to Care for an Umbilical Cord?
There are a couple of things you should do when it comes to umbilical cord care. It is usually nothing too complicated, but it is essential to follow the rules if you notice any changes.
Clean the Area
In the past, pediatricians were recommending rubbing alcohol for cleaning the base of the cord. However, it is now recommended to leave the stump completely alone. This is mainly because alcohol irritates the skin thus it delays umbilical cord healing. Also, doctors believe that alcohol doesn’t have that many protective effects when it comes to umbilical cord infections.
Some other methods require you to use Echinacea and Goldenseal Root. However, make sure you consult with your baby’s pediatrician before you try any of these alternative methods to make sure it is safe.
Dry the Area
Expose the cord to air as frequently as possible. Doing this will dry the base of the umbilical cord – meaning that the amount of time for healing will decrease.
You can try to use your newborn’s diapers with a special cut, or you can fold your baby’s diaper down to keep the cord exposed. Also, dress your baby in just a diaper and a t-shirt if weather permits. This will further decrease the time for healing.
Remember not to bath your child in a special tub or the sink before the umbilical cord falls off completely. However, if you do bath your baby before that, you have to be sure that you dried off the area well. Keep in mind not to rub the area with a baby towel since that can cause even more irritation.
Let the Cord Heal on its Own
You will probably be very tempting to help the cord fall off completely. Maybe you just want to help dry it out as soon as possible. However, it would be best if you just let it heal by itself for obvious reasons. Don’t try pulling and picking the cord off since you can just make more damage.
After Falling Off
There is probably going to be a small amount of blood-tinged fluid oozing out or a small raw spot once the umbilical cord stump finally falls off completely. However, you shouldn’t be worried about this either. Usually, cords completely dry and then fall off.
Rarely, the cord may form granuloma. This is a pink scar tissue which discharges light yellow secret. However, this will also clear up very soon, probably in a week. You should contact your baby’s pediatrician if you keep noticing this happening for more than a week. Also, consult a pediatrician if the baby’s stump is still there even after four weeks.
Substances for Reducing the Risk of Infections
Right after your baby is born the location of its umbilical cold will probably be covered with a substance that lowers the risk of infections. However, sometimes there’s no substance to cover the umbilical cord. So, what’s better? Usually, hospitals use triple dye or hexachlorophene when doing this. However, some hospitals can do this with chlorhexidine as well. Others can use different kinds of substances such as silver sulfadiazine, or even bacitracin.
So, which method is the best one? There are certain advantages as well as disadvantages to every method. A common advantage is how well the treatment may deal with the present number of bacteria around the location of the umbilical cord. The treatments usually have similar results.
Pediatricians usually suggest that chlorhexidine decreases umbilical cord infection risks. Also, it decreases infant mortality too. However, it is believed that this may rather happen in underdeveloped countries due to the lack of proper medical treatment.
Baby Planet Overview
You should probably never worry about anything related to umbilical cord care. However, there are certain things you need to know to prevent possible infections. Also, you need to know when is the time to see a doctor if the infection ever happens. Infections rarely happen and the stump should fall off in about 3-4 weeks.
A healing umbilical cord may look infected to you even when it is healing properly. This is normal and a lot of parents are worried when the umbilical cord stump is about to fall off. Don’t try picking and pulling it since you can just do damage to it if you don’t know what you are doing. Follow the advice your baby’s pediatrician gives you. You probably shouldn’t be trying techniques that were used in the past since it is now proven that they can only worsen the healing.
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- Umbilical Cord Care in the Newborn Infant, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov