How to Care For Your Baby’s Umbilical ‘Stump’

Do not be alarmed by the small stump left over after cutting the umbilical cord. It will be gone in a few days’ time.

When you hold your lovely little infant in your arms for the first time, nothing can prepare you for the rush of love you feel for your baby. Your child’s beautiful face, perfect fingers and toes, his cute and chubby arms…your baby is just flawless. Then your eyes travel down to a little stump of what looks like pale flesh hanging off his navel, and you wince.

You quickly realise that this stump is actually the part of the umbilical cord that was cut after delivery. It is a mass of soft tissue that comprises the cord; this umbilical cord provided nutrition to your baby and helped discharge his waste while you were carrying him in your womb. Once your child was born, the doctor snipped off the umbilical cord and told you that a stump of it would remain attached to your baby’s body and fall off in about two weeks.

From an initial pale colour and slight moistness, the stump soon becomes drier and darker in colour. It may become brown or even black and become progressively shrivelled.[1] This is normal – the stump is now deprived of blood and nutrition, and it is not needed anymore since your baby derives nutrition directly from breastfeeding. Within two weeks, the stump will fall off naturally. This indicates that the navel has healed.

Some important points to note in umbilical cord care are:

* The stump must be kept dry and clean at all times. Avoid applying any creams or even water on the area. Let it dry and fall off on its own.

* Give your baby sponge baths till the stump falls off, avoid bathtubs or bucket baths till then. Do not let the sponge touch the stump or the surrounding area. Separately clean the skin around the stump with a wet cotton swab and gently wipe with a soft cloth.

* Do not put your baby’s diaper over the stump; it might hurt the baby and cause an infection.

* If you notice bleeding from the stump or a sticky, smelly discharge, inform your doctor at once. These are signs of infection.

* However, the navel might be slightly wet after the stump has fallen off. Leave it alone and do not wipe off. The area will dry up on its own in a week’s time. Alert your doctor if it does not.

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