What is the umbilical cord and why is it there?
The umbilical cord is a tube-like structure that carries food and oxygen from a mother to her fetus while she is pregnant. It also carries waste products away from the fetus to the mother’s body so that she can get rid of them. After you give birth, doctors clamp and cut the cord. The process of cutting and clamping the cord is not a painful process because the cord has no nerve. A little stump will be left on your child’s belly. It is usually a half-inch to an inch long.
At first, the stump might look shiny and yellow. But as it dries out, it may turn brown or gray or even purplish or blue. It’ll shrivel and turn black before it falls off on its own.
Usually, it comes off between 2-3weeks after birth of the fetus.
Taking care of the umbilical cord stump
Things to keep in mind till the cord comes off:
- Treat tenderly; minimize touching of the stump and let it fall off on its own, avoid the temptation of pulling it off.
- Ensure the cord is always clean and dry; it is advised to give your baby a sponge bath.
- It was commonly advised in the past to clean cord stump with alcohol to enable it dry and fall off faster, that advise has been changed, Instead, expose the stump to air to help dry out the base.
- If stool gets on your baby’s cord stump, you can clean gently with soap and water not alcohol.
- The baby’s diapers should be folded such that they will rest underneath the cord stump, to shield the stump from pee.
When to call a doctor
Most umbilical cord stumps look worse than they really are. Right after birth, an umbilical cord stump usually looks white and shiny and may feel slightly damp. As the stump dries and heals, it may look brown, grey, or even black. This is normal. Usually no problems will develop as long as you keep the area clean and dry however there will be need to call the doctor if any of these signs show up;
Call your baby’s doctor if you see any signs of an infection. These signs include:
- Pus (yellowish fluid) that is around the base of the cord and smells bad.
- Red, tender skin around the base of the cord.
- Your baby crying when you touch the cord or the skin around it.
- Also call your baby’s doctor if you notice any other problems with the umbilical cord area, such as:
- A moist, red lump on your baby’s navel that lasts for more than 2 weeks after the umbilical cord has fallen off. This may be a piece of extra tissue called an umbilical granuloma. Your baby’s doctor can treat this minor problem.
- Bulging tissue around the navel, usually noticed after the umbilical cord falls off. This may be anumbilical hernia, which usually goes away on its own. But a doctor should watch it.