Caring for your baby’s umbilical stump
After your baby is born, your midwife or doctor will clamp and cut your baby’s umbilical cord. Your baby won’t feel a thing when this happens. Where the cord joined his tummy, he will have a 2cm to 3cm-long stump. Read on for tips about keeping your baby’s stump clean and free from infection.
How long will my baby have an umbilical stump?
Your baby’s stump will drop off about a week to a week and a half after he’s born. When he’s born, your midwife or doctor will put a plastic clamp or a tie on the stump. Your midwife or post-partum nurse may take off the tie after a day or two, when the stump has dried and sealed.
The stump itself will then shrivel up, turn black, and drop off. There will be a small wound that will heal and become your baby’s belly button. It’s normal for this to be a fairly smelly process. However, an angry red area on skin around stump or very green discharge is not normal and you take your baby to his doctor or midwife.
How can I care for my baby’s stump?
You’ll need to keep your baby’s umbilical stump clean and dry to prevent it from becoming infected. You can do this by giving your baby a bath with a warm, moist cloth or sponge. It’s safe to get the stump wet. It won’t slow up healing or make infection more likely.
You can wash your baby’s stump with clean water. After his bath or wash, gently pat the stump with a soft towel or cloth. Do not pull on the stump as it will fall off on its own. Stop his diaper from rubbing the against the area by folding it over .
You don’t need to use an antiseptic on the stump. Just keeping it clean will be enough. Using antiseptics can mean the stump takes longer to fall off.
However, if your baby was born prematurely or spent some time in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) it may be a good idea to keep his stump clean with antiseptic. He won’t be able to have a bath for a while. Staff on the NICU will give you advice on caring for your baby and keeping him clean.
Here are some other tips you can follow to care for your baby’s stump:
- Always wash your hands before handling your baby’s stump, before and after diaper changes and washes.
- Let the stump come away naturally. Don’t pull on it.
- Try to keep the stump from getting covered in pee or poo. You can do this by folding down the waist of your baby’s diaper. This will leave the stump exposed to the air or covered by loose, clean clothes. Some diapers have a cut-out on the front to leave the stump uncovered.
- If the stump does gets pee or poo on it, wash it off carefully.