Most new mothers are afraid to handle the baby’s cord stump but it is important to keep the base of the stump clean and dry to prevent infection. Most hospitals still recommend the use of alcohol swabs for cleaning. The use of antiseptic powder is not recommended now as it may prevent the stump from falling off.
Do remember: it is the base not the stump that must be kept clean!
1. Gently hold the tip of the stump and wipe around the base with the alcohol swab.
2. Let it air for a few minutes before putting on the diaper. Keep the diaper folded below the cord to prevent urine from soaking it.
3. Never pull off the stump even if it looks like it is hanging by a thread. Just snip the thread with a pair of scissors.
4. When the stump falls off, there may be slight bleeding which is normal.
5. Most western practices recommends sponge bathing only until the stump falls off. Actually it is alright to bath baby in the tub provided you dry the base and stump properly with a tissue and then clean it with the alcohol swab.
6. If you have a baby boy point his penis downwards when putting on the diaper, so that he does not pee onto the stump.
7. If you notice pus around the base, a foul smell, red skin around the base or baby cries when you touch the cord, please take baby to the doctor as these are signs of infection.
Sometimes after the stump falls off, bits of lumpy flesh remain. This is called “umbilical granuloma” which will often disappear by itself. Occasionally, it may require treatment by the baby’s doctor.
Some communities recommend applying ridiculous things on the stump, such as incense ashes, oil, cow dung etc. It is dangerous to do this as it can only lead to infection, the most serious being tetanus.
You may be advised to put an abdominal binder on the umbilicus to prevent wind getting into the stomach. There is no connection between the umbilicus and the stomach therefore this cannot happen. The abdominal binder keeps the tummy warm so the baby is comfortable and does not cry so much.
What to do with the stump?
Most people will tell you “throw it away”. Some of us, for sentimental reasons may want to keep it in a little clear plastic bag and put it in the baby’s album, together with the first lock of hair, tooth and so on.
In some parts of Malaysia, it is the custom among the Malays to keep the umbilical cord of all the children and when the parents do not want to have any more children, the cord stumps are boiled and the water given to the children to drink to foster closer sibling relationship.
If the area round your baby’s umbilicus bulges out when he cries, he may have an umbilical hernia. This is a small hole in the abdominal muscle which allows tissue to bulge out when there is pressure inside the abdomen. It is not a serious condition and the majority will heal by twelve to eighteen months.
It can be very frightening for the parents when they look at the bulge especially if it is quite big (in their eyes) whereas the doctor says that it is small. There is no need to do anything, just leave it alone and it will heal by itself. Some parents may feel reassured by putting an abdominal binder on it so that they do not see the bulge when baby cries.
It is ridiculous to put a coin on it as some old wives proclaim because the coin may slip to the back and cause pressure on the skin where baby lies on it. There you have it. It is very easy if you know how.