The umbilical cord

Cutting the umbilical cord is a symbolic gesture that represents the beginning of your infant’s autonomy: he breathes alone and will gradually be able to feed himself. Some basic measurements will ensure complete healing of the umbilical cord. It will leave a unique scar: the navel.

The umbilical cord is yellowish-white, gelatinous and slightly tortuous. At the end of the pregnancy, it measures on average 2.5 cm in diameter and 55 cm long. It can, however, measure up to 100 cm (1 m). A cord too long can sometimes wrap around the neck of the baby. Most of the time, it will be of no consequence.

Experts have long thought it was necessary to cut the cord quickly to reduce the risk of the mother losing too much blood after delivery. However, the latest studies on the subject indicate that this is not the case. On the contrary, waiting at least a minute to cut the cord would be beneficial for the baby. It would then have a greater birth weight, a higher concentration of hemoglobin and better iron stores at 6 months of age. Delaying the time to cut the cord, however, slightly increases the risk of jaundice in the newborn, a condition that is easily treated.

When it is time to cut the cord, use 2 forceps to stop the circulation. After the cord has been cut, a small plastic clip is placed 2 to 3 cm from the baby’s belly. It is removed 2 or 3 days later when the cord is dry enough.

What is it used for?

The umbilical cord connects the child to his mother throughout the life of the fetus. It contains 2 arteries that bring blood from the fetus to the placenta and a vein that delivers blood from the placenta to the fetus. The blood circulating there provides several functions essential to the well-being of the fetus, such as the supply of nutrients and oxygen.

Cord hygiene

Back home, it is important that the cord stays clean and dry to prevent infections. Indeed, because of the blood vessels present in the cord, the latter is a gateway for bacteria.

What remains of the cord will dry and fall spontaneously before the age of 1 month, mostly during the 2nd week of life. The cord will have a blackish appearance. Its base will generally remain more gelatinous and paler.

How to clean it

For many years, it has been recommended to moisten the umbilical cord daily with 70% alcohol. This practice has, however, been neglected. It is now recommended to use water only. In particular, we recommend:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before performing cord care
  • Clean the base of the cord every day with a cotton swab soaked in lukewarm water
  • Wrap the entire cord with the swab to clean all debris
  • Thoroughly dry all surfaces using a dry cotton swab

You can give your baby bath, even if his cord has not fallen yet. The important thing is to dry it well afterwards.

Sometimes there is a small flow slightly tinged with blood during the first days. The important thing is to clean the base of the cord.

If the cord folds

While drying, the cord sometimes folds on its base and covers it completely. It can become wet and be more at risk of infection. It can also delay the fall.

Parents are sometimes afraid to lift the cord for fear of hurting their baby or bleeding. Be safe, cord manipulation does not cause any pain. In addition, by moistening it with water, it will be easy for you to lift it and reach the base to clean it, then dry it.

There is no need to apply creams or ointments to the umbilical cord as this may delay its fall. The best is to leave it in the air as much as possible. Also remember to fold the layer under the cord to minimize friction. Some brands of disposable diapers for infants have a notch designed for this purpose.

Medical attention is required if there is:

  • Persistent redness around the base of the cord
  • Swelling around the base of the cord
  • A flow of the base (blood, pus or oozing)
  • An unusual odor of the cord;
  • Persistence of the cord beyond 1 month of life
  • Persistent bleeding after the fall of the cord
  • Poor healing of the belly button after the fall of the cord

If your baby under 1 month has a fever, whether the above signs are present or not, he should be seen by a doctor.

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