Caring and cleaning your baby’s umbilical cord and navel

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is responsible for transporting all the nutrients necessary for the growth and healthy development of the baby. At birth, this lifeline is cut so that your daughter or son becomes an individual being. Incredible, isn’t it?

A small piece of the cord, known as the umbilical stump, dries up and turns almost black in the first four hours after the baby is born, and then it detaches from the navel in seven or 10 days. “If it does not fall within this period, the causes must be addressed”, points out the neonatologist pediatrician Sergio David García Rosado, from the ABC Observatory Medical Center.

How to clean the umbilical cord

There is basic care that parents must carry out, at home, to avoid infections. It should be done before and after the umbilical cord falls off. The specialist recommends to daily:

  • Clean the area with soap and water.
  • Dry thoroughly the umbilical cord section.
  • Air it to let it dry completely.

Pay attention to certain red flags and contact your pediatrician immediately:

  • It is likely that, when the umbilical cord falls, there are small drops of blood that when pressed will be absorbed back, but this should not be continuous or abundant.
  • Outflow of a continuous or fetid discharge.
  • Redness, harshness, or increased temperature in the area.

We recommend: Should I bathe my baby every day

Do I have to put a raisin in the navel?

In past times, when the umbilical cord fell off, some mothers and fathers used to place a raisin, a coin or some pellets in the navel. The purpose was that it did not pop out.

However, it is not necessary to place anything in the area and it is normal for all babies to have a protruding belly button. This is because at this age, there is a separation of the abdominal muscles and it causes the navel to pop out.

Don’t experiment with your baby! Once the umbilical cord has fallen, do not put objects in the navel area. Keep in mind that all children have this hernia, some will protrude more than others, but it is not something to worry about.

Something else you should avoid doing is looking for information in little reliable or completely unreliable sources, since you could put your child’s health at risk. Some moms and dads look for answers to their doubts online and come across unsupported, unscientific news, “There is a lot of misinformation on the web. If we used to ‘battle’ against grandparents, now we do it with the Internet”, emphasizes the expert.

99% of physiological umbilical hernias close within the first year of life. It is uncommon that they persist after that time. “You don’t have to do anything else. As a baby grows, his muscles also grow and gather in the midline. It is not necessary to put on bandages”, clarifies the specialist. If it does not close, the pediatrician must check the reason.

5 interesting facts

  1. The umbilical cord contains stem cells.
  2. It is between 40 and 60 centimeters long.
  3. Omphalitis is the name given to a navel infection in a newborn.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord after birth so that a newborn receives important nutrients.
  5. Umbilical cord blood banks store the blood contained in it because it can be used later even by first- or second-degree relatives. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Umbilical cord blood is useful because it is a source of stem cells that are transformed into blood globules. It can be used for transplantation in people who need regeneration, that is, to ‘re-produce’ blood cells. However, umbilical cord blood is not a cure for everything”.

Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version