The Umbilical Cord Remnant

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 immediately.
  • 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 surgically repaired.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.

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