CARING FOR YOUR BABY'S UMBILICAL CORD
The umbilical cord is a unique tissue, consisting of two arteries
and one vein covered by a mucoid connective tissue called
Wharton's jelly and a thin mucous membrane. During pregnancy,
the placenta supplies all material for foetal growth and removes
waste products. Blood flowing through the cord brings nutrients
and oxygen to the foetus and carries away carbon dioxide and
metabolic wastes. To separate the newborn from the placenta,
the cord must be cut. After your baby is delivered their umbilical
cord will be clamped with forceps and then cut with scissors,
a few centimetres away from the belly button. There aren't
any nerves in the cord so this won't hurt your baby at all.
The few centimetres of cord that are still attached to your
baby make up the stump. This will shrivel up and turn black
within a few days and then drop off completely in about a
week. Sometimes the cord falls off in pieces rather than at
once - if this happens don't worry it's quite common. The
devitalised tissue of the cord stump can be an excellent medium
for bacterial growth, especially if the stump is kept moist
and unclean substances are applied to it. Keeping the stump
clean and dry is therefore very important in order to prevent
How To Keep It clean
It's important to keep the stump clean so that it doesn't
get infected. Fold the baby's diaper below the stump so that
it is exposed to air and not to urine. It's normal to see
a few spots of blood or even a small discharge after the stump
has fallen off. If however, the area around the belly button
starts to look red and inflamed and the skin feels hot, then
you need to see the doctor or mid wife.
While waiting for the cord to heal, avoid tub baths for about
7 to 10 days after the stump falls off. In warm weather, keep
your baby only in a diaper and T-shirt to let air circulate
and aid the drying process. Avoid bodysuit-style undershirts
until the cord has fallen off.
How To Clean The Stump
There are a number of different ways to clean the cord stump.
We are going to explain the most common.
What you will need
1. Sterilised bowl
2. Cooled boiled water
3. Cotton wool
4. Clean Towel
5. Changing mat
What to do
1. Make sure the room is warm enough so that your baby doesn't
get cold and upset
2. Lie your baby on the changing mat and take off enough of
his clothes to get to the cord stump
3. Dip a cotton wool ball in the cooled boiled water and gently
wipe the whole area around the stump. Use a new cotton wool
ball every time to keep it as clean as possible.
4. Don't rub or pull at the stump itself. Any of the black
stump residue which remains should be left to fall off in
it's own time.
5. Use more cotton wool or the clean towel and thoroughly
dry the whole area around the belly button.
6. Leave the stump exposed to the air as long as you can -
it needs to be kept as dry as possible so that it can heal
and fall off.
Over the years, mothers have been advised not to immerse an
infant in a tub for bathing until the cord has separated because
it has been assumed that immersing the cord in water would
promote infection, prevent drying and delay separation. Daily
baths in the form of sponge baths are, however, common practice
in many hospitals because they are considered infection control
measures. A study comparing daily bathing with no bathing
has shown no difference in umbilical cord colonization or
infection between the groups, and that immersing the newborn
in a tub is not harmful to the cord. However, the main issue
here is thermal protection since bathing the newborn can induce
hypothermia. The newborn should not be bathed before six hours
after birth, or longer if possible, and measures should be
taken to ensure that no heat loss occurs. Current recommendations
direct that newborns should not be bathed routinely.