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Umbilical Cord

When babies are in the womb, they receive nourishment and oxygen through the placenta which is connected to the inner wall of the mother’s uterus. The placenta is connected to your baby by the umbilical cord through a opening in your baby’s tummy. After your baby is born, this umbilical cord is clamped and cut close to the body in a painless procedure, leaving behind an umbilical stump which becomes what we call our tummy button.

Many first time mothers are a bit wary of this stump in their newborn baby. This stump dries, heals and within 1 to 3 weeks falls off. During the time the stump is healing, it should be kept as clean and as dry as possible. So in order to keep it dry, sponge bath your baby but if the stump does become wet or soggy, you can carefully dry it with a clean, absorbent cloth or use a hair dryer on a warm setting. Of course you have to be very careful not to burn the baby’s skin. If the stump becomes dirty or sticky, wash it with soap and water. Exposing the stump to air helps to dry out the base. Keep the front of your baby’s diaper folded down to avoid covering the stump. Change wet or soiled diapers quickly to prevent any irritation.

Occasionally, there can be problems with the umbilical cord and you should watch for possible infection or active bleeding. It is normal to see a little crust or dried blood near the stump. An infection can spread quickly and the signs of this would be a foul-smelling, yellow drainage from the cord, redness and tenderness of the skin surrounding the cord or a fever in your baby. Active bleeding could occur if the cord is pulled off prematurely. Always resist that temptation and allow the cord to fall off naturally, even if it is hanging only by just a thread. Should there be such active bleeding, contact your doctor immediately. Active bleeding is when every time you wipe away a drop of blood, another drop appears in its place.

When to clamp and cut the umbilical cord has been a controversial issue in medical circles for decades. The norm in the US is to clamp and cut the cord within the first 5 to 10 seconds after birth. But a new Canadian study at McMaster University in Hamilton says that putting off clamping for a minimum of 2 minutes in full term newborn babies reduces by half the risk of anemia and boosts iron stores in infants for as long as six months. Others believe delaying clamping allows too much blood to flow to the baby, overloading its blood volume and increasing the risk of respiratory distress or jaundice. In addition, early clamping is seen by some as a way to help prevent postpartum hemorrhage in mothers.

You might like to investigate donating your baby’s umbilical cord as this could give hope to a patient with leukemia, aplastic anemia or other blood diseases. The blood within the umbilical cord, known as cord blood, is a rich and readily available source of primitive, undifferentiated stem cells. It is also possible to store your baby’s cord blood at a cord blood bank for the possible future illness such as leukemia in your child. This practice is very costly and still somewhat controversial.