Every baby is born with an umbilical cord protruding from his belly that is tethered to the mother's placenta. When the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, a stump is left that will wither away to leave a typical human belly button. New parents are given all sorts of cord stump care instructions upon leaving the hospital with the new babies. Unfortunately, that literature may not address the problem of pants and covering the cord stump with clothing before it heals.
In those first few weeks of a baby's life, when the stump has yet to wither away, nothing but a thin shirt should cover it. The cord stump needs to be kept dry and open to the air so that it can dry without becoming infected. Covering the stump with tight fitting clothing or the waistband of baby pants can create a moist environment that will endanger the cord stump and prolong healing. The waistband of pants can also tug at the cord stump in a way that will move it before it is ready to come off. This can produce bleeding and open the area to infection.
Don't worry about the baby being in pain because the stump is pulled. In fact, pain is not a factor in the decision to keep pants off your baby until the cord stump heals. The cord stump has no nerve ending, so the baby feels no pain, even if the pants pull the stump causing it to bleed, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Proper care for the umbilical stump means keeping it clean and dry for two weeks up to a month until it falls off. You can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean away any minor bleeding around the stump. The Mayo Clinic advises parents against submerging the area in water until the stump falls off. Instead, use sponge baths to keep baby clean.
The only time any parent should worry about an umbilical stump is when there is heavy bleeding or pus coming from the stump. If you see these things, contact the baby's doctor immediately. The stump will dry and turn black. This is normal. Even a minor spot of blood is normal, especially when the cord falls off. Remember that the baby does not feel any pain when this happens.
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