How to take care of your baby’s umbilical cord

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When you see photographs of newborn babies in magazines or online, they seldom show the umbilical cords. But is something new parents will have to deal with until it falls off. But when does the umbilical cord fall off? And what does it take to help with umbilical cord healing? We give you some top tips on what to expect when it comes to your baby’s umbilical cord care.

This is another one of those things that people don’t seem to talk about. Along with all the strange and new things you can expect when you take your bundle of joy home, the first couple of weeks are going to include newborn belly button care.

How it works

The umbilical cord is your baby’s lifeline in the womb. While in utero, it supplies the baby with oxygen and nutrients. It is a truly incredible part of the system. Of course, at the moment of birth it’s no longer needed, and after doctor or midwife has delivered your little human, they will cut the umbilical cord.

It doesn’t hurt the baby at all, but a small bit of the cord will remain attached. Hospitals usually attach a little clip or umbilical cord protector (similar to a clothes peg), which can be removed within three days. In some instances, they make a knot. Closing it up is important to avoid bleeding and over the following two weeks, the drying umbilical cord will fall off on its own.

Your baby’s umbilical cord care

There’s so much to think about when you bring your baby home. Just getting the hang of feeding, sleeping and changing can take all the energy out of you. But here’s a comforting thought: all newborn umbilical cord care happens when you’re changing or bathing your baby.

As long as you clean the umbilical cord stump every time you change or bath your baby, it’s a pretty straightforward process. So how to clean your baby’s belly button?

How to clean your newborn’s belly button

The most important objective is to avoid umbilical cord infection. As the cord dries out, you will notice if the area around the belly button becomes dark, swollen or red. This is an indication of infection, and if that happens, you must get your baby to a medical practitioner as quickly as possible.

“Applying alcohol to the umbilical cord helps to dry it out and disinfect it at the same time.”

This is also one of the first things your health care provider will check on baby’s 10-day check-up. Surgical alcohol is your friend (you can purchase this at any pharmacy or the pharmacy section at most shops, and it’s quite inexpensive) and along with some cotton wool, it’s the only thing you’ll need here. Applying alcohol to the umbilical cord helps to dry it out and disinfect it at the same time.

It is important not to add other creams or powders on or around the area until the umbilical cord scab has completely healed and your baby has their “normal” belly button.

Innies and outies

There is no way to tell if your baby will have an “innie” belly button or an “outie”, but it may help to remember that many toddlers will have “outies” for a few years, and then it’ll become an “innie” as they grow into early childhood.

Top Tip: Avoid unnecessary chafing by staying away from pants or elastic clothes over your newborn’s belly button until it is healed (especially if they still have the clip). Strap the nappy over the tummy and stick to vests and babygros for now.

Also read:

How to swaddle your newborn baby
10 things I wish I had known about the first week with a newborn