Dr. Jen’s Top Tips on Belly Button Care:
1. Keep it dry! It is important to keep the umbilical stump area dry until it falls off completely. This reduces the risk of infection and allows the dying tissue to harden and the surrounding area to heal. There are two particular times when keeping baby’s stump dry are particularly important—baths & diapering. Assure that when giving the sponge baths, you’re extra careful to avoid water in the umbilical stump area. We talked about this last week, but as a reminder, be ginger and gentle and careful with water flow in that area. Also, when it comes to diapering, babies (specifically boys, trust me!) can pee up! Be conscious of keeping the diaper off of the cord, even cutting a little U shape for those first few days.
2. Swab it! It’s easiest & best to use simply alcohol wipes. Small alcohol wipes help dry out the umbilical stump and reduce the level of potentially harmful bacteria in the area. Apply alcohol around the entire area of the stump, including the base. You can gently maneuver the stump to get into the crevices around it. You can use the swab itself, a cotton ball (be careful not to catch the fibers in the cord) or a cotton swab. One Sassy Doctor is a safety expert and has to mention the importance of keeping and disposing of the alcohol wipe after use so that it doesn’t become a choking hazard or get into your baby’s eyes.
3. Watch it! The stump should dry up and fall off on it’s own within a week to ten days, although in some babies it may take up to two weeks. There are two things to look out for: infection and delayed cord detachment. Signs of infection include discharge, redness or tenderness (touch it and baby winces) to the area. Some “goop” is normal, and is actually not discharge but healing tissue (granulation tissue). If you see yellow, puss-like liquid coming from the area, call your pediatrician. If your baby has a temperature or any redness extending to the belly, also call your pediatrician. The second sign to pay attention to is delayed detachment of the cord. In rare circumstances, this can be a sign of a problem with the baby’s ability to heal and would need further evaluation. If the cord fails to fall off by three weeks, definitely mention this to your doctor.
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