Anxiety, unfortunately, is an unavoidable part of being a new parent and one thing that many parents worry about when they take their newborn home is how to care for the umbilical cord and bellybutton. This anxiety can be greatly reduced, however, if parents understand what is normal when it comes to observing the umbilical cord and what needs to be reported to the doctor.
What is involved in Umbilical Cord Care?
According to the Mayo Clinic, umbilical cord care is fairly simple and straightforward. It includes washing the umbilical cord with plain water (studies now show that rubbing alcohol does not reduce risk of infections), keeping it dry by making sure the diaper is folded beneath it to leave it open to the air, giving the baby a sponge bath until the cord falls off and allowing it to fall off naturally.
It is also important to be able to assess the baby’s umbilical cord site and belly button in order to determine if it is healing normally or if it has become infected.
Umbilical Cord Bleeding:What is Normal?
It is normal that newborns will bleed from their belly buttons after their umbilical cord falls off; this bleeding can occur right after the cord falls off or can happen as much as a week later. This is especially likely to happen if the cord comes off early due to being accidently tugged or pulled. You will probably notice that there is a small amount of blood on the baby’s T-shirt or onesie or in the diaper when you do a diaper change.
Also normal is a small amount of discharge from the belly button. This discharge can often be yellow or green in color and parents may worry that it is pus, but it is actually just mucus and is not a sign that the umbilicus is infected. You might notice this on the baby’s T-shirt, onesie or diaper for up to 2 weeks after the cord falls off.
In short, both a small amount of blood and small amount of yellow or green drainage is normal and nothing you should worry about.
Umbilical Cord Bleeding: When to Worry?
There are, however, signs and symptoms that should concern you as a parent and that should be reported to the doctor.
One of these signs is excessive bleeding that drips or pools or reappears immediately after you have wiped it away during a diaper change or bath. If this happens, you should pack the belly-button with gauze, put pressure against your baby’s tummy and then put on his diaper and a snug outfit. Keep this pressure on for 15 minutes and then check it again. If the bleeding has stopped, keep the belly button packed with gauze for another day and check it every hour to make sure everything is ok. However, if the bleeding continues when you remove the gauze, you should call your doctor.
And while some oozing from the belly button is normal, you should report excessive oozing to the doctor as well. Occasionally, you may need to take your baby to the doctor and have him treated with silver nitrate.
Also, you need to know what signs and symptoms to look for that indicate that the belly button is actually infected. This infection is called omphalitis and while it is rare, it can also be very dangerous for your baby. The most common signs and symptoms of an infected umbilical cord include foul-smelling drainage and redness or swelling around the belly button. The baby may or may not be running a fever during this episode. If you suspect that there is an infection, you should make an appointment with your doctor right away. Your baby might need to be given an antibiotic to clear the infection up.
The takeaway here is that knowing what is and is not normal will allow you to feel less anxiety about umbilical cord bleeding/bely button care – and will also make the decision about whether or not to seek medical attention easier to determine.