As a new mom, you’re undoubtedly "learning on the job" as you tend to your new baby's needs, from feeding and bathing to changing diapers. One more baby care basic to add to the list is caring for your newborn’s umbilical stump.
Once your baby’s umbilical cord is cut after birth, the remaining stump gradually starts to shrivel up. In a week or two, it’ll fall off completely and reveal an adorable belly button -- though you’ll have to wait and see whether it’s an innie or an outie. In the meantime, here's how to care for the stump as it heals.
1. Keep the area clean and dry. Doctors used to tell parents to clean the stump’s base with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab. Now they say it’s best to leave the area alone completely, since alcohol could irritate the skin. Let your baby’s skin be exposed to air as often as possible, which will help the stump stay dry and speed up healing time. Fold the top of your baby’s diaper down so the stump sticks out, or use special newborn diapers with an umbilical cord notch for the stump.
2. Stick to sponge baths. They’ll help keep your baby clean without submerging the stump in water, which could increase the risk for infection. If the stump does get wet, fan it dry instead of rubbing, to prevent irritation.
3. Let the cord do its thing. Your baby’s stump will heal and fall off on its own. So as hard as it might be, resist the temptation to touch it, pick at it, or try to pull it off, which could increase the risk of infection.