The Umbilical Cord Remnant
By Dana Sullivan
Even though your infant's umbilical cord looks sore and painful, rest
assured that he isn't bothered by it. But to prevent infection, you'll
want to keep the area clean and dry. Below you'll find a few caring for
the cord tips:
- Fold the waistband of your baby's diaper down slightly so the cord
is exposed to air as much as possible, and the diaper doesn't rub
against and irritate it.
- Clean the area with a clean cotton swab dipped in rubbing
alcohol, gently wiping around the crevice at the base of the cord. Do
this three times a day (or as often as your pediatrician recommends).
- Skip tub baths until the stump has fallen off. Submerging the affected area in water may irritate it or promote infection.
Within a few days after you bring baby home you'll notice that the
cord will become dry and shriveled. Don't worry, this is natural -- it
means it's healing and within a week or two it should fall off.
Occasionally, though, the umbilical cord can become infected. If you
notice any of the following red flags, call your baby's physician
- Pus-like discharge around the base of the cord.
- An offensive odor (a slight odor is normal, but a strong odor is not).
- Redness, warmth, swelling and tenderness around the cord. If
your baby cries when you apply rubbing alcohol, this is normal since
the alcohol is cold. However, he shouldn't cry when you touch it gently
with your bare hand.
Should the umbilical cord become
infected, your physician will most likely treat it with a topical
medication or with oral antibiotics.
If your baby develops a
moist, fleshy bump on his navel, a condition called "umbilical
granuloma," your pediatrician may apply a drying solution called silver
nitrate, or he may need to surgically remove the swollen growth (this
minor procedure is done in the doctor's office).
If you baby's
umbilical cord bulges outward, especially when he cries, he may have an
umbilical hernia (a tiny hole in the abdominal wall and when baby
cries, the pressure forces the nearby tissue to push outward through
the hole). An umbilical hernia is twice as common in boys as in girls,
and almost always heals without any treatment by baby's first birthday.
If it doesn't, your pediatrician will recommend that the hole be