After a baby is born, the umbilical cord which connected the baby to the placenta while in the womb is usually clamped and cut off. The stump that is left behind takes between 5 to 15 days to heal, dry up and fall off on its own to reveal a cute little belly button.
During this time, it’s important to keep the stump clean and dry, to avoid it getting infected. An infected cord stump could lead to sepsis and death.
New parents are often unsure of the best way to take care of their baby’s cord, and are seen asking questions such as: should alcohol or methylated spirit be applied to the stump? Should it be washed with soap? Should it be covered up or exposed to air? Should it be pulled out when dry? The recommendations of healthcare professionals are outlined below.
Cleaning the umbilical stump
Clean it at least once a day. Until the stump falls out, it is recommended to give newborns a sponge bath, not a soak. During the sponge bath, warm water and a clean baby sponge/towel/ cotton wool is enough to clean the umbilical stump. There is really no need for an antiseptic, unless advised by your healthcare giver. Studies have shown that using alcohol or methylated spirit to clean the umbilical cord increases the time it takes for the cord to fall off, and is linked to irritation of the baby’s skin. Just plain warm water is enough.
“My baby’s cord fell off after 3 days but took over a month to heal completely, says Linda Markwei, one of the moms in our online community. So I stopped using the methylated spirit and it healed within couple of days. I agree it’s not advisable to use methylated spirit because it never worked for me,” she added.
Another mom, Sandra Gold says “I never used methylated spirit just warm water I used for cleaning and dry it up with towel and it drop within 3 days and baby was fine.”
Drying the umbilical Stump
Always pat the stump dry with a clean towel after cleaning it. Make sure it’s completely dry before dressing your baby up. Newborn nappies with navel cut-outs are highly recommended, or simply fold down the nappy to keep the stump exposed.
Finally, let the stump fall off naturally. Pulling it off is not advisable.
Signs of an Infected umbilical cord stump
- A foul smell
- An inflamed base
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