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"Ultimate Guide to Umbilical Cord Care for New Parents: Tips and Best Practices"

Updated: Apr 12

The umbilical cord is a tube that connects the mother to the baby during pregnancy. It has three blood vessels: one vein that carries food and oxygen from the placenta to your baby and two arteries that carry waste from your baby back to the placenta. A substance called Wharton’s jelly cushions and protects these blood vessels. The umbilical cord starts to form at about 4 weeks of pregnancy and usually grows to be about 22 inches long. But it's no longer needed once the baby is born.

Within a few minutes after birth, the cord is clamped and cut close to the navel. The clamp helps stop bleeding from the blood vessels in the umbilical cord. Previously it was common practice to apply a medicine to the cord as part of a baby's first care. This used to be a purple dye or another type of antiseptic. But it's now advised to keep the cord dry (dry cord care).

By the time the baby goes home from the hospital, the cord is starting to dry and wither. The clamp can be removed when the cord is completely dry. The cord usually falls off by itself in about 2 to 3 weeks. In some babies, it takes longer. Because the umbilical cord may be a place for infection to enter the baby's body, it's important to care for it correctly.

How To Take Care Of The Baby's Umbilical Cord

The paediatrician will give the instructions on how to care for the baby's umbilical cord. One should:

  • Keep it dry

  • Expose it to air

  • Give the baby sponge baths (keeping the cord dry) until it falls off

  • Let the doctor know if it has not fallen off by 1 month of age

Fold the baby's diaper down so the cord is not covered. Some diapers have special cutouts for the cord area.

Call your baby's paediatrician if there is:

  • Bleeding from the end of the cord or the area near the skin

  • Moisture on the cord, an unusual odor, or discharge from it

  • Swelling, lumps, or redness of the skin around the navel

  • Signs that the navel area is painful to your baby like excessive crying or irritability on touching that area

There may be a small amount of bleeding when the cord falls off. One shouldn't try to remove the cord. It will fall off on its own.

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