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Cord Care Protocols

Overview

The umbilical cord connects an unborn baby to his mother in the womb and supplies nourishment. When the baby is born, the umbilical cord is no longer necessary or useful, so a medical professional cuts it close to the baby's body, leaving a small stump, which dries out and falls off on its own within three weeks. The area where the stump was forms a scar, which is what we refer to as the belly button or navel. You must care for an infant's cord stump until it falls off.

Basic Hygiene

Keep the area clean and dry. Give your baby sponge baths instead of immersing her in water to avoid prolonged exposure to moisture — moisture creates favorable conditions for bacteria to collect around the stump and cause an infection. Don't use harsh soaps, which contain dyes and other additives that could irritate the sensitive skin as it heals. When finished, gently pat your baby's skin dry with a towel and dress her in clean clothes.

Warning Signs

Monitor your baby's cord stump for signs of infection. If you notice any discharge coming from his stump, especially yellow discharge with a foul odor, report it to your pediatrician immediately. Also follow up with your doctor if the cord area appears to be red or tender.

Other Considerations

Allow the stump to fall off on its own. Most cord stumps fall off within one to three weeks, but it's not unusual for the process to take up to eight weeks. Don't pull it off. Removing the stump prematurely could cause the area to bleed or become infected. Call your pediatrician if your baby's cord area is bleeding.

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