Common questions new parents ask: Caring for your baby's umbilical stump Newborn care.

Common questions new parents ask: Caring for your baby's umbilical stump - Newborn care.
Caring for your baby's umbilical stump - Newborn care.
After your baby is born, the paediatrician on duty will clamp and cut your baby's umbilical cord.

Your baby won't feel a thing when this happens, as there are no nerves in the cord. The clamp will stay on the stump that remains joined to your baby's tummy.

The stump will be about 2cm to 3cm long and will eventually dry up and fall off. Once your baby is cleaned, and the APGAR checks are made, the paediatrician might apply antiseptic liquid or powder to the stump to reduce the chance of infection.
When will my baby's umbilical stump fall off?

Most umbilical stumps fall off between five and 15 days after birth. The average is about a week, if it is kept dry.

The stump will turn from yellowish-green to brown or black, and drop off on its own. There will be a small wound left on your baby's tummy that will heal and become his belly button.

Be sure to let the stump come away naturally. Don’t pull on it.
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. Always wash your hands before and after you change his nappy, wash him or handle his stump.

It’s safe to get the stump wet during a bath. It won't slow up healing or make infection more likely. But you will need to pat the area dry after the bath to be sure it doesn’t stay wet.

Some doctors suggest giving only sponge baths until the stump falls off especially during hot and humid weather. But giving your baby a tub bath is also considered fine.

You can wash your baby’s stump with plain water, or with a mild, liquid baby cleanser that you've added to his bathwater. After his bath, gently pat the stump with a soft towel. Keep your baby warm and let the stump dry properly before putting on a nappy.

Since the plastic clamp will stay on the stump until it falls off, you need to be careful about not pulling it while drying or dressing your baby or during nappy changes. If you pull at it too strongly, your baby can get hurt.

Some doctors recommend applying an antiseptic solution or powder every day. Others suggest that keeping the umbilical cord clean and dry, is enough to keep your baby safe from infections and allow the stump to heal. Speak to your doctor about the best method for you and your baby.

To keep the stump from getting covered in urine or poop, fold down the waist of your baby's nappy or diaper. This will leave the stump out of the nappy. It will also prevent friction from the nappy irritating the stump. Some nappies have a cut-out on the front to leave the stump uncovered.

If the stump does get urine or poop on it, wash it off carefully with water and a little mild liquid baby cleanser. Pat the stump gently dry afterwards.

Traditionally, some dais or maalishwaalis use oil to massage in and around the stump. It is also a common practice to tape a coin to the baby’s stump to push in the belly button. Unless advised by your doctor, do not use oil or place anything on your baby's stump. Your baby's stump is extremely sensitive and putting a substance such as oil or a coin on it could lead to an infection.
How long will it take for my baby’s belly button to heal?

After the stump falls off, it should take between seven and 10 days for the area to heal completely. You may see a little blood from the area. This is quite normal.

Sometimes, the belly button wound can take longer to heal, and bits of lumpy flesh may appear in the wound. This is nothing to worry about, and these lumps will soon disappear.
How will I know if my baby’s stump is infected?

It’s normal for the stump to look a bit mucky as it’s healing, or to have pus at the base. This doesn’t mean that it’s infected.

However, if your baby has any of the following, you should consult your doctor:
His navel and the surrounding area are red, swollen and the stump smells foul and discharges pus or blood. This could be omphalitis, an infection of the umbilical cord. This can be very serious and you should visit the doctor as soon as possible.

His stump has a small pinkish-red mass of tissue (may look like a tiny ball) with a yellowish or green fluid discharge. This is usually called umbilical granuloma, and may get better on its own, or may need treatment.

He develops a fever, doesn't want to feed as much as normal or seems unwell on the whole.

He cries every time you touch his stump and the surrounding area. This may be a sign of infection.

If you notice that his stump seems to be pushed outwards or bulges when he cries, this is known as an umbilical hernia. This is not serious and usually gets better on its own without treatment.

Just occasionally your baby’s stump may take longer than 10 days to heal.