I have to admit taking care of my newborn's umbilical cord was not my favorite part of being a new mom, especially with my first baby. The sight of my LO’s belly button stump frankly made me quite queasy. I tried not to look at it too often and hoped it would fall off quickly, so I didn’t have to look at it at all! It certainly was a rude welcome to the reality of Motherhood. Along with many other things that would eventually assault all my senses in those first few weeks. Black poop, mustard-yellow poop, baby acid reflux, cracked/peeling nipples, etc. However, I was made of tough stuff, so I soldiered on and tried my very best to give my baby the most perfect little belly button, so that years later when sporting a bikini, she would thank me…if that is how it works? But I imagined it did. I’ll search that up later.
A baby's umbilical cord goes through a process of drying up and falling off. Lovely. Let us provide some guidance, so your LO will also thank you in years to come, while poolside. As I have said before, we are not doctors, so please, if you’re even a little bit worried that something is wrong with your baby’s umbilical cord/belly button, please seek medical advice.
Here is a general timeline of what the umbilical cord stump might look like and the care it will need during the first four weeks after birth.
After the umbilical cord is cut, the remaining part of the cord is about 1 to 2 inches long and may appear a bit moist or sticky. It may also be slightly red or pink in color. Your healthcare provider may put a small clamp on the cord to stop any bleeding.
Keep the area clean and dry. Gently clean the stump with a cotton swab dipped in warm water and mild baby soap, and then pat it dry with a clean, soft cloth. You can do this once or twice a day, or as directed by your pediatrician.
While the umbilical cord stump is healing, keep an eye out for signs of infection. These can include redness, swelling, discharge, or a foul odor. If you notice any of these signs, contact your pediatrician right away.
By the end of the second week, the stump may start to dry up and turn black or brown in color. This is a sign that the cord is starting to separate from the baby's body. It's important not to pull or tug on the cord, as this can cause pain and bleeding.
Fold down the diaper or pants so they do not rub on the area. You can even buy special newborn diapers with a cutout for the stump. A little air gets to the area, thus speeding up the drying process.
During the third week, the cord stump will continue to dry up and become more shriveled in appearance. It's important to keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection.
Hopefully, at this point, you are getting used to that little thing and no longer cringing and gagging. You have no doubt experienced other nasty sights in the last 3-weeks and are increasingly desensitized. However, to counterbalance whatever unpleasantness you have recently experienced, your LO might be showing you all the miracles that being a parent brings. Does your little one resemble you or your partner? Have you noticed their long delicate eyelashes? Have you sat in a moment of complete awe, watching the rise and fall of their little chest and wondered, how did I get to be so lucky?
Motherhood is a wild ride of emotions that never ends, no matter how old your baby is.
By the end of the fourth week, the umbilical cord stump will usually fall off on its own, leaving a small, pinkish-red mark on the baby's belly button. This is completely normal and should not cause any pain or discomfort for the baby.
Congratulations! You made it through!
It's important to remember that every baby is different, and the timeline for the umbilical cord stump to fall off may vary. If you have any concerns about your baby's umbilical cord or belly button, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.