How to clean baby's umbilical cord (complete lesson)

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If the Umbilical Cord Is Still Intact ...
Experts once advised parents to clean the cord with rubbing alcohol at every diaper change, but now the recommendation is to clean it several times a day and keep it dry.

Get Prepared

Gather all of the items you'll need before you start the cleaning process (remember, never leave your baby unattended on an elevated surface or near water). To keep the cord from getting wet, babies can have only sponge baths before the cord falls off (usually within two weeks of birth), so get a large absorbent towel to lay your baby on, a sponge or soft towels, cotton swabs, a small bowl of water, and baby soap or cleanser (if required), and keep clean clothes and a diaper nearby.

Wash Your Hands

Lather up before handling your baby's umbilical cord. "Washing your own hands prevents the chance of spreading any germs that might cause infection," says Mary Ann LoFrumento, M.D., medical director of the newborn nursery at Goryeb Children's Hospital, in Morristown, New Jersey.

Do a Quick Inspection

Look for signs of infection. "The things you want to be on the lookout for are a smelly cord, foul-smelling discharge, oozing pus from the umbilical cord, redness, tenderness or swelling of the surrounding skin, continuous bleeding, fever, lethargy, poor feeding, or irritability," says Margaret Grell, M.D., a pediatrician at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician immediately.

Wipe the Cord Down

Dip a cotton swab in warm water. Squeeze the tip to remove the excess water. Gently clean around the base of the cord and then the surrounding skin, then hold the stump with a clean absorbent cloth to dry it completely. It is important that the umbilical cord remain clean and dry until it falls off naturally. In the past, people used alcohol to clean umbilical cords in the past, but it's no longer recommended because research shows that cords fall off sooner when allowed to dry naturally. If there's urine or poop in the cord area, it's no biggie. Simply clean it with a cotton swab dipped in soapy warm water, then dry the cord completely with a clean absorbent cloth. Also cleanse the surrounding skin, says Dr. Grell.

Dry the Cord

Hold a clean, dry washcloth over the area gently or use a piece of paper to fan it dry. Don't cover the stump when you put on your baby's diaper. Fold the front of the diaper down or use one with a cutout for the umbilical cord.
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