Caring for a newborn can be challenging. A woman may find it hard to adjust to her new role as a mother. While the baby is trying to adjust to life outside the womb, a woman is also trying to cope with the demands of motherhood. Care for your newborn does not only involve feeding and changing diapers initially. You also need to take care of your baby’s umbilical cord stump to promote healing.

The sight of an umbilical cord stump may frighten most parents. However, parents should not be afraid in handling it because with proper care, it will usually fall off between 1 and 2 weeks after birth. Stump care is primarily done to prevent infection.

The umbilical cord stump will gradually change from yellowish green, to brown then to black. It has been the usual practice to apply alcohol to the baby’s stump to promote drying. However, recent studies have shown that it is better to leave the stump alone to fall off. Cleaning can be done if the stump is dirty or sticky. Clean the stump by using a cotton swab soaked in warm water and mild soap. After squeezing the excess water, wipe lightly the sides of the stump and the surrounding skin. Then, pat the area dry with a soft cloth.

If the stump is kept dry, healing will occur faster. Your baby’s diaper should be folded below the umbilical cord stump. This will prevent contents from a soiled diaper to penetrate the stump. It is advisable to change diapers frequently to prevent irritation. It may also be wise to dress your baby appropriately in warm weather to improve air circulation. Tub baths are also not recommended if the stump has not healed and fallen off. Sponge baths may be necessary at this time to promote drying. The use of creams, lotions and oils near the cord should be avoided. They may only slow down drying and may also invite infection.

The stump will slowly change color as it dries up. A dried stump can be gray, brown or black. Never attempt to remove the stump even if it is almost detached. Leave it to fall off on its own to prevent any complications. A blood-tinged fluid may ooze out of the navel after the stump has fallen off. This is completely normal and should not cause any concern. The navel area is expected to completely dry and heal within two weeks after falling off.

Parents should contact their health care provider if they notice signs of infection. These include pus around the base of the cord, redness and tenderness around the area, fever and fluid that continues to leak out of the cord a few days after falling off. It is also not normal if the umbilical area produces a foul-smelling discharge because this may indicate an infection. You also need to contact your doctor if you notice moistness and swelling on your baby’s navel two weeks after falling off.

Women, especially new mothers, may feel inadequate in taking care of the umbilical cord stump. However with proper care, it will fall off after a few weeks. Discuss your concerns with your doctor so you can be guided accordingly.