General Practice 2022

Umbilical stump: what é, how to care for it and what to do after it falls

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Umbilical stump: what é, how to care for it and what to do after it falls
Umbilical stump: what é, how to care for it and what to do after it falls
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The umbilical stump is a small part of the umbilical cord that is attached to the newborn's belly button after delivery, when the cord that connected it to the mother is cut. This stump is closed at the place of the cut with a clip (known as a “clamp”) and will dry naturally during the first days of life, eventually falling off.

In the first days after birth, the umbilical stump appears gelatinous, moist and shiny, but after a few days it becomes dry, hardened and black.

The umbilical stump needs care and surveillance until it falls off, because if this care is not taken, it can accumulate bacteria, favoring the emergence of infections and inflammation. The time it takes for the stump to fall off is around 15 days, however this time is different for each baby.

How to take care of the umbilical stump

The baby's umbilical stump must be handled with care and it is necessary to take some simple measures to avoid infections, mainly because the newborn has very sensitive skin and does not yet have well-developed defenses.

What to do before you fall

Before falling, care for the umbilical stump should be done daily, after bathing and whenever the stump is dirty, so that the navel heals faster and does not become infected.

You should also put a new diaper on the baby and only then do the care, because the umbilical stump can get dirty with feces or urine. Before cleaning the stump, it is important to pay attention to some aspects to identify if the stump shows signs of infection. Some signs that may indicate infection are:

  • Smell fetid;
  • Skin with redness or swelling;
  • Presence of pus, it is important to observe its color;

Then, cleaning of the umbilical stump can be started, which is performed from the insertion site, where the umbilical stump touches the skin, to the clamp:

  1. Expose the umbilical stump, removing any clothing covering the area;
  2. Wash your hands well with soap and water;
  3. Put 70% alcohol or 0.5% alcoholic chlorhexidine in several compresses or a clean cloth. For each site of the umbilical stump, a new compress must be used, and the same compress must not be used in two different places;
  4. Hold the clamp with your index finger and thumb;
  5. Clean the place where the umbilical stump inserts into the skin, in a single 360º movement, with the compress or clean cloth and discard it;
  6. Clean the body of the umbilical stump, located between the clamp and the insertion site, in a single 360º movement, with the compress or clean cloth and discard it;
  7. Clean the clamp starting at one end and going all the way around, so the clamp is all clean;
  8. Let it dry in the open air and only then cover the umbilical stump with the baby's clean clothes.

Cleaning the umbilical stump does not cause pain, but it is normal for the baby to cry, as the liquid used for cleaning is cold.

After cleaning, keep the umbilical stump clean and dry, it is not recommended to apply homemade products, or put on bands, belts or any other item of clothing that tightens the baby's belly button because this increases the risk of infection.

In addition, the diaper should be folded and placed, about two fingers, below the navel to prevent the place from getting wet or dirty with pee or poop.

What to do after the stump falls off

After the umbilical stump has fallen off, it is important to keep the site under observation and cleaning should continue as before, until the site is completely healed. After bathing, it is important to dry the navel with a compress or clean cloth, making gentle circular movements.

It is not advisable to put a coin or other object to prevent the navel from sticking out, as this can cause serious infection in the baby, mainly because the bacteria contained in these objects can spread through the newborn's umbilical stump.

When to go to the pediatrician

The baby should be followed up with a pediatrician, however, parents or family members should seek medical attention quickly if the navel region shows the following signs:

  • Bleeding;
  • Foul odor;
  • Presence of pus;
  • Fever;
  • Redness.

In these situations, the pediatrician evaluates the baby's belly button and guides the appropriate treatment, which may include the use of antibiotics, if the belly button is infected, for example. It is also important to consult the pediatrician if the baby's belly button takes more than 15 days to fall out, as it may be a sign of some alteration.

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