At birth, the umbilical cord, which provided the blood flow to the infant is clamped after the baby is born. Often time the partner assist with this. Within the first week of life, the ublilical cord gradually seperates and falls off creating the umbilicus also known as the belly button.
The umbilical cord is made of two arteries and one vein surrounded by a substance call Warton’s jelly. When the cord is cut the healthcare provider inspects the cord to check for the presence of the arteries, vein and Warton’s jelly. The length of the cord can vary and can be as long as 80 centimeters long in a full term pregnancy. Longer cords are associated with knots, nuchal cords that wrap around the infants neck, and shorter cords are associated with developmental abnormalities.
The ubilical cord feels cool and looks blueish white after birth. After it is clamped, it starts to dry and turns yellowish brown. It shrinks and becomes hard. The stump will soon dry out, turn black, and fall off. It is normal to see a few drops of blood around the stump as it begins to fall off. After it falls off a small stump will be left until it completely heals.
There are many different techniques to clean the cord. Some techniques include routine dry cord care (leave the cord alone) and antiseptic topical agents including triple dye, alcohol, and chlorhexiden. There has been no difference in infections rates based on the technique to to clean the cord. There is however a difference in the rate the cord falls off, with routine dry cord care have the quickest time to fall off.
Here is a helpful video on Cord Care:
When to call your healthcare provider:
- The skin around the base of your baby’s cord stump or abdomen looks red or swollen.
- You see yellow or green discharge around the base of the stump.
- You touch the cord or surrounding area and your baby appears in pain
- Your baby develops a fever greater than 100.4
- Your baby’s stump smells bad, even after you clean it.
- Your baby’s cord stump has not fallen off after 21 days.
- You see fluid leaking from your baby’s belly button after the stump comes off.
- You have questions or concerns about umbilical cord care.