Taking Proper Care of the Umbilical Cord

June 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Newborn Care

Once your baby is born, nature will take care of many things to include healing of the umbilical cord. While pregnant, the umbilical cord plays a vital role by supplying the fetus with nutrients needed for growth and development. Immediately after delivery, the umbilical cord is clamped of, cut, and then tied off. Your newborn does not feel anything since the nerve fibers in the cord cannot feel pain.

Things you should do in caring for the umbilical cord.

Most often, an umbilical cord will change color once the baby is delivered. Sometimes, the cord will have a green color, sometimes black or brown, and other times, bluish. These different colors are perfectly normal during the first week or two until the cord will eventually dry up and fall off.

The good news is that all you need to do during this timeframe is keep the area around the umbilical cord clean and protected so nothing bumps or touches it.

Keep in mind that the skin around the umbilical cord is sensitive, meaning only slight pressure can make your baby feel pain. Although newborns always have sensitive skin, this area is extremely delicate. You do not need to do anything special, just be a little extra gentle when changing diapers and clothing.

The goal in keeping the umbilical cord clean is that you do not want your baby getting an infection. Remember, for both adults and children, the skin is a protective barrier, keeping viruses, fungi, bacteria, and a variety of organisms out so the immune system is not attacked.

The only difference between an adult and a child is that the baby’s skin is still being developed within the first year of life. Therefore, your newborn does not have the same degree of antibodies needed to battle germs. Keeping the umbilical cord area clean and dry is the best line of defense against infection.

Typically, you would never need to use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean the umbilical cord area and in fact, most doctors highly discourage this in that it can cause the skin to dry out and the alcohol might be painful to the baby. The cord will fall off on its own when it is ready to there is no need to try to speed up the process.

Remember that even newborns get dirty. They spit up, urinate and have bowel movements, and so on but for umbilical cord care, all you need is a soft, clean and moist cloth. Once you have wiped the area around the cord clean, you can pat it dry or let it air dry for a minute.

If you notice any dried blood or pus that needs more than a gentle wiping with a moist cloth, you can use antibacterial soap and a moistened cotton ball or swab. The only recommendation we have is that when choosing the cloth, choose all cotton, which is soft.

You might find that the umbilical cords become a little wetter than anticipated. In this case, simply leave the baby’s diaper and clothing off so the area can get air or if needed, use a blow dryer with the heat on cool.

One of the most important things when it comes to caring for a baby’s umbilical cord is to position clothing and diapers so they are not touching. If the cord is bent, it can cause discomfort to the baby and it will likely take longer to heal. We also recommend that you change your baby’s diapers more often so moisture levels are reduced, thus less chance of infection.

Additionally, to bathe your baby during the cord healing phase, you should only give a sponge bath, not an actual bath. If the baby were to accidentally get wet, do not panic. All you need to do is use cotton swabs to soak up as much of the moisture possible and then allow the area to air dry or use the hair dryer.

Often, parents will try to hurry the process of the umbilical cord healing by removing small pieces of dead skin but do not give into temptation. This is not only painful to the baby, but it also increases risk of infection and skin tearing.