Umbilical Cord Care - A Guide on Newborn Belly Button Cleaning
Babies are fragile little things. When you first bring your precious bundle of joy home from the hospital, everything seems just perfect. Well almost perfect... That umbilical cord stump dangling out of your baby's belly seems way too dangerous for the untrained parent to handle!
If you are still breastfeeding then you're doing double duty. If you express on top of that, you have to worry about how long breast milk can last for. These issues are particularly challenging for first-time parents. Luckily, we’ve been down that road before.
First things first!
Ok, I know you're busy finishing up your nursery decorations, buying those awesome convertible cribs, decorative bassinets that rock or even cute little Moses baskets. But let’s talk about something more pressing and important: the umbilical cord care and how to clean newborn's belly button.
Caring for babies when you first bring them home can sometimes be very demanding. The last thing you need is to deal with is a baby's umbilical cord stump, which gets in the way of you nursing, changing and handling your baby.
You're probably hoping that the cord stump falls off soon. Accidentally injuring your baby's belly button is a constant worry. How long until the umbilical cord falls off, you may ask. Luckily, the stump will dry up, fall off and leave a belly button between 1 and 2 weeks after birth.
What does the umbilical cord do?
The umbilical cord is the physical connection between you and your baby. Nutrients from the food and supplements are transferred to your baby through the placenta and the umbilical cord. This life giving connection is also why you want to reduce physical and emotional stress during your pregnancy and birth.
Stress reduces blood flow to your uterus which reduces the nutrients available to be transferred to your baby via the umbilical cord. Also, an increased cortisol level (stress hormone) in your blood stream can be transferred to your baby through the umbilical cord.
After delivery, when your baby is able to take their first breath on their own, the umbilical cord is severed and left as a stump, about an inch long, by your birth attendant.
What does the baby belly button look like after the umbilical cord falls off?
During the 1 to 2 weeks after delivery when your baby's umbilical stump dries out and falls off, it will look quite different from day to day. The important thing is to keep the area dry and clean. The stump should look noticeably drier day after day. Initially it'll be soft and pink, then it'll begin to get darker and have a drier with an almost beef jerky like texture. A bit of dried blood around the area is quite normal at this stage. Next, the skin will eventually dry out to a state when it becomes harder and less flexible. That's when it'll fall off within day or two.
Save the stump!
Seeing as how important a role the umbilical cord served during pregnancy, some parents even decide to save the stump as a keepsake! It is certainly considered to be one of your baby's many milestones that you get to witness, and it is something worth remembering.
Belly Button Care After Umbilical Cord Stump Falls Off
However, there are important things to be aware of about your newborn's belly button after the stump falls off. Your baby’s belly button will require a bit of attention to avoid unnecessary infection and irritation. Newborn belly button healing and cleaning can be a delicate task and we at ParentsNeed HQ, are here to give you a few tips to help you through this process and how to clean the belly button after the umbilical cord stump falls off.
After delivery, your baby's umbilical cord is tied off, clamped and then cut (sometimes by the dad!). This results in the umbilical cord stump. Usually, it is directly treated with antiseptic to minimize the chances of infection. The umbilical cord clamp can be safely removed 24 hours after delivery. It is highly advisable that the clamp is removed at the hospital before you take your baby home for the first time to ensure that it is done the right way.
Once you get your baby home, it is best to leave your newborn's umbilical stump alone to allow it to heal faster. Make sure that the baby’s diaper is not in contact with the area of the stump. Otherwise, the diaper can pull on the stump and possibly irritate and injure the cord stump and surrounding skin.
Red Flags: When to get medical attention
Since the umbilical stump is very sensitive and delicate, there are a few warning signs that you need to be mindful of. For instance, if your baby develops a fever of 38 C or higher, it is considered an emergency. Here are some of the common medical conditions that require medical attention right away:
Tip #1: Inspect the Area Carefully
Usually, after the umbilical cord falls off, the belly button will look almost like a small open wound. As mentioned previously, newborn belly button healing should be left to heal naturally. Keeping the area dry and exposed to air will speed up the healing. Still, you would want to look out for immediate signs of umbilical cord infection in your baby’s belly button. This is much less likely to happen than when the umbilical cord stump was still attached.
Tip #2: Make Sure the Belly Button Area is Always Dry and Clean
Once you’re done checking for signs of umbilical cord infection and everything is clear, it’s best to remember to keep the belly button and the area surrounding it clean and dry. After the stump falls off, newborn belly button infection is less common. Still, dirt can easily accumulate in this particular area of the body if left unchecked. Be sure to pay attention to the area surrounding your baby’s belly button. If you notice dirt in your baby's belly button area, clean it off right away and then promptly dry the area.
Tip #3: Clean Baby’s Belly Button Regularly
Okay, we’ve told you the “why” of keeping the belly button clean, now let’s proceed to the “how” – that is, how to clean the belly button after the umbilical cord falls off. This particular newborn cord care process requires a few careful steps to ensure maximum safety, so pay close attention, parents!
Cleaning Your Baby Step 1
Prepare everything – Do not leave your babies on top of a changing table or near water unattended. Make sure you gather all there is to use before prepping the baby for a bath. Before the umbilical cord stump fell off, the baby could only take sponge baths to avoid getting the stump wet. Now, the baby’s ready for a regular bath. For first time parents, bath time can be quite tricky. here’s a list of what you need:
- Washcloth – Make sure it’s soft so as to avoid irritating the baby’s skin.
- Baby soap/shampoo – Use the mild formula for both.
- Towel – Again, make sure the strands are soft enough to prevent scratching the baby’s sensitive skin.
- Shallow sink or Baby tub – Fill it with 2 to 3 inches of warm water. Always have one hand free to hold the baby, particularly the head.
Cleaning Your Baby Step 2
Wash your hands – Since you will be inspecting your baby’s belly button, washing your hands thoroughly is a necessary step. Yes, the belly button is no longer as delicate now that the cord stump has fallen off, so this is more of a precaution, but a very important one nonetheless. This helps to prevent the spread of germs and dirt in your baby’s navel. Remember to wash your hands up to your your forearms, too!
Cleaning Your Baby Step 3
Use a washcloth to clean the belly button area – Clean your baby’s belly button gently, wiping the washcloth in and around it. Thoroughly rinse the area to make sure that soap doesn't build up in the navel.
Cleaning Your Baby Step 4
Wipe the belly button dry – After the bath, use the soft towel to wipe your baby’s body dry, including the belly button. Remember to gently pat the towel on different parts of your baby’s body. If your baby has an ‘innie’, make sure to wipe the inside, too. You may also use lotion designed for babies if you want to keep your baby’s skin moisturized.
Things to Note
Always check the product label for soaps before using them on your baby. Do not use regular ones (non baby specific) or products that are designed for adults as these could contain ingredients that may be too strong for your baby and may cause skin irritation.
To be thorough with your belly button cleaning routine, you can also use a Q-tip to gently dab hydrogen peroxide on the wound area after the umbilical stump fell off. Hydrogen peroxide is a common cleaning agent and is a mild antiseptic and will keep the wound area free of germs. Don't worry, belly button cleaning and care gets easier and easier. Always remember, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if there is something you are unsure of.