Baby’s Umbilical Stump – WTF!? (What’s That Funk?)
‘It gives me the heebie-jeebies!’
‘Can you clean it?’
I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that most new parents are freaked out by their brand new baby’s belly button – or rather the umbilical stump. Their noses go up, they shiver when talking about it, and they really, really can’t wait for it to fall off. Are you one of these parents? If so, this post is for you as I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions regarding the newborn belly button and the umbilical stump. Here we go:
Who cuts the cord?
The ceremonial and symbolic gesture of cutting the cord is most often relegated to the partner. Many partners are not too keen on the idea when we first bring this topic up in our prenatal classes, but in general, the majority of them follow through just fine. If the partner is not around, another family member, your doula or even you can cut it. If you are wondering, the texture is slightly rubbery, like that of squid. So it may take a few tries before cutting through.
What is delayed cord clamping?
I’ve dedicated another entire blog post to the cutting of the cord and what to do with the cord blood. Check out your 5 options, including delayed cord clamping, donating to a public cord blood bank or storing in a private bank.
When does the stump fall off?
Once the cord has been clamped and cut, baby is left with the umbilical stump. The plastic clamp which was used to clamp the cord will remain until the stump dries. You can then take the clamp off. The stump then shrivels up, turns black and falls off anywhere between 7-10 days.
Once the stump falls off, there may be crusty pieces of it left inside the belly button as well as some dried blood. Just make sure that you keep washing and drying the belly button well and it will fully heal in another week or so.
Does the stump hurt the baby?
Parents often worry that if baby lies on its belly, for example when doing skin to skin or tummy time, the stump will hurt the baby. Rest assured, it doesn’t. The stump has no nerve endings so baby doesn’t feel it at all. Thanks heavens, because I’ll never forget the time when I accidentally ripped off my baby’s stump, which had gotten caught in her onesie!! Agh! But no harm done. She didn’t even flinch. As a third time mom, I wasn’t worried, but had it been with my first, I would have completely freaked out.
How do you clean it?
To ensure that the belly button remains clean and infection free, you need to wash and dry it. Surprise! How? If you are sponge bathing your baby, then take a cloth or a sponge and wet it with warm water and wash the base of the belly button with a mild non-perfumed soap. No need to rub or pull on the stump. And you don’t need to use an antiseptic as this may make the cord take longer to fall off.
If you are immersing your baby in the tub, you can gently wash the belly button with mild soap. Many parents are told by caregivers not to immerse baby in the tub until the stump falls out for fear of increasing risks of infection. But really, nothing will happen if the stump gets wet. Just make sure it dries properly by patting it down with a towel and ensuring the base of the stump is dry by going around the stump with a Q-Tip.
Will diapers cause irritation?
To keep the cord dry, it is best not to cover it with a diaper, which can cause the stump to remain humid and then create bacteria and then infection. Most newborn sized diapers, whether they are cloth or disposable, are made with the belly button in mind and have either a gathered elastic or a cut-out in the front so that the diaper fits properly just underneath the belly button. In both cases, if the diaper is too big, just fold the top over.
How do I know if the stump is infected?
It is normal that some sticky substance oozes from the stump as the cord begins to dry and come off. You may also get a whiff of a funky smell. This is usually fine. However, if the belly button is very red, oozing pus and there’s a very foul smell to it, it may be infected. Other signs to watch out for include baby having a fever and being very lethargic or looking unwell.
If at any time you think there is an infection present, do see your caregiver.
Does the way the cord is cut determine if your baby will have an innie or an outie?
No, it doesn’t. This is determined by how the umbilical cord is attached to baby. What you see is what you get. Unless baby has an umbilical hernia, which is when the cord area doesn’t completely close after birth. If this is the case, baby’s belly button bulges when there is pressure on it, such as when baby cries or baby goes to the bathroom. Usually these hernias disappear between 12 – 18 months, but do check with your physician.
Last but not least, should I keep the stump as a keepsake?
If you birth in the hospital, you may not be able to take your cord or your placenta home. The rules vary depending on where you give birth so do ask if you are interested in doing this.
If you birth at home or at a birth centre, you can keep your placenta and the cord as you wish. New mothers often wish to encapsulate the placenta for later consumption, and placenta encapsulators are known for making cute heart-shaped keepsakes with the umbilical cord. Check out my Pinterest board for examples.
In any case, I am going to leave this one up to you!
There you have it. As icky as you may think it is, just remember that the umbilical cord was what nourished your baby inside of you for nine months and without it, baby wouldn’t here.!
Wishing you a beautiful birth and babymoon,
p.s. Join our growing community of parents who birth and parent with confidence! You can find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and please sign up for our newsletter. Looking forward to connecting!