The umbilical cord is a tube-like structure that connects the baby to the mother’s body. It stretches from the baby’s stomach and connects to the placenta in the mother’s womb. It usually grows around the fifth week of the pregnancy and remains inside the body until the baby is born.
The primary function of the umbilical cord is to carry oxygenated blood and nutrients from the mother’s body to the fetus. The waste products, as well as deoxygenated blood from the fetus, is also carried to the mother’s body through the umbilical cord.
What Happens to the Umbilical Cord After Birth?
Once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped immediately at two places to prevent the flow of blood in both directions. One clamp is placed 1-2 inches from the baby’s belly button, and the other is placed closer to the mother’s body. The umbilical cord is then cut in between both the clamps. Cutting the umbilical cord is a painless procedure for both the mother and the baby.
Once the umbilical cord is cut, there will be a small stump in the baby’s belly. This stump will be initially shiny and yellow in color. As the days pass, it turns to brown or gray. Once it is fully dry, the stump becomes black in color and slowly falls off.
When does the umbilical cord fall off?
The umbilical cord normally dries and falls off within one to three weeks.
Therefore, parents must take good care and follow closely for any strange development for a couple of weeks on average.
How to Care for Newborn Umbilical Cord?
Until the umbilical cord falls, you should take proper care to ward off infections. Here are a few ways you can take care of the umbilical cord
- Keep the area dry: You should ensure that the stump is kept dry so that it can fall off fast. While using diaper, make sure that it does not cover the stump. Try to expose the stump to the air as much as possible.
There are new varieties of diapers that provide an opening near the stump. If not, you can fold the diaper from the top so that it does not irritate the stump.
- Keep it clean: If the stump appears sticky or dirty, you can gently clean it with a cotton swab. For this, dip a cotton swab in fresh water and squeeze it to remove excess water. Gently wipe the stump with the cotton swab. Remember to pat it dry once it is cleaned. You should also remember to change the diaper once it is soiled so that the stump does not get dirty or wet.
Rubbing alcohol may be used for cleaning at the advice of your doctor. Also, remember not to use soap or any lotion near the umbilical cord until it gets dry.
- Provide a sponge bath: It is better to provide a sponge bath to the baby so that the stump does not get wet. Stay away from the sink or tub bath for the time being. If at all you decide to give a bath, because of accidental diaper leak, remember to clean the stump and keep it dry.
- Choose the baby clothes wisely: If the weather is warm, you can use cotton cloth so that there is proper air circulation. You can avoid dressing the baby in a romper or jumpsuit.
Under no circumstance should you pull off the stump, even if it is hanging like a thread. Pulling off can result in profuse bleeding. The stump should fall off naturally once it is dry.
Also, remember to wash your hands thoroughly before cleaning the baby’s umbilical cord.
When Should You Consult a Doctor?
If proper care is given, then there is little chance for the umbilical cord to be infected. But if you notice any of the below symptoms, then you should consult a doctor immediately.
- The umbilical cord is red or swollen.
- Discharge of pus from the cord.
- Foul-smell from the cord
- Abdominal swelling.
- The baby cries uncontrollably because of pain.
In case any of these symptoms appear, do not hesitate to consult a doctor. Do not, in any case, resort to self medication as it is a major problem with the recent waves of information overload online.
If the doctor suspects an infection, then he may prescribe antibiotics for your baby.
Once the umbilical cord has fallen off and you see a moist, red color lump on the baby’s navel, then it can be a condition called umbilical granuloma. Your doctor will be able to treat it with simple medicines. Sometimes there can be a bulging in the navel area called the umbilical hernia. This is harmless but should be watched by a doctor.
The average time frame for the umbilical cord to fall off is three weeks. Even after six weeks if it does not fall off, or you suspect some infection, then it is better to consult a doctor.
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