Cutting the umbilical cord is a symbolic gesture that represents the beginning of your infant's autonomy

The umbilical cord

Cutting the umbilical cord is a symbolic gesture that represents the beginning of your infant’s autonomy: it now breathes alone and feeds itself. Once fallen, the umbilical cord will leave a unique scar: the belly button.

Umbilical cord features

The umbilical cord is white-yellowish and looks gelatinous and slightly tortuous. It connects the child to his mother throughout the fetus life. The blood flowing there performs several functions essential to the well-being of the fetus, such as nutrients and oxygen intake and waste disposal.

At the end of pregnancy, the umbilical cord measures an average of 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 baby’s neck. Most of the time this will be without consequences.

When it’s time to cut it, two clamps are placed on the umbilical cord to stop blood circulation. Once the cord is cut, a small plastic clamp is installed 2 or 3 cm from the infant’s stomach. It is removed two or three days later when the cord is dry enough.

When to cut the umbilical cord?

Experts have long thought that the cord should be cut quickly after baby was born to reduce the risk of losing too much blood as a result of childbirth. The latest studies carried out on the subject, however, indicate that this is not the case.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends delaying the moment the umbilical cord is cut, as waiting for 1 minutes would benefit the baby. This one would then have a higher birth weight, higher hemoglobin concentration and better iron reserves at 6 months old. These benefits have also been seen in premature babies. Waiting before cutting the cord would however slightly increase the risk of jaundice in the newborn baby, a condition that is easily treated.

How to clean umbilical cord?

It is important that the cord remains clean and dry to prevent infections. Indeed, because of the blood vessels in the cord, the cord is a front door for bacteria. Be without fear, cord manipulation does not cause any pain to the baby. There may be a small flow slightly tinted with blood during the first few days. The important thing is to properly clean the base of the cord.

Umbilical cord care at home

You can give your baby a bath, even if his cord hasn’t fallen yet. The important thing is to dry it well afterwards.

Wash your hands before you start.

Clean the base of the cord every day with a cotton stem soaked with warm water (ideally boiled) or physiological serum, while going around the cord with the cotton stem to remove all debris.

Dry all surfaces well using the other end of the cotton stem.

Fold your baby’s diaper below the cord to minimize friction. Some brands of disposable infant diapers have a splinter designed for this purpose.

Don’t apply friction alcohol, cream or ointment to the umbilical cord, as this could delay its fall. Previously, it was advised to moisten the umbilical cord every day with 70 % friction alcohol, but this is no longer the case today.

Don’t cover the cord with a compress or a dressing. The best thing is to leave the cord looking as much as possible.

Once the cord falls, keep cleaning the belly button with warm water (ideally boiled) or physiological serum, and dry it well until full healing.

When will the umbilical cord fall?

When the umbilical cord is cut, the remaining part of the cord will dry and naturally fall before the age of 1 months, most of the time during the second week of life. When it’s ready to fall, the cord will look blackish, but its base will usually remain gelatinous and paler.

What to do if the umbilical cord folds?

By drying, the umbilical cord can fold back to its base and cover it completely. The base of the cord can then become wet and be more at risk of infecting. This can also delay his fall.

Parents sometimes fear lifting the cord, lest they hurt their infant or bleed. To successfully lift the cord without problem, wet it a little with warm water (ideally boiled) or physiological serum. Then cleanse its base and dry it, according to the method described above.

What to do if the umbilical cord is accidentally ripped off?

If the cord is snatched by accident, there is a chance that there will be a bleeding. If this happens, apply a compress until the bleeding stop and go to the CLSC or a non-appointment clinic. A doctor will then examine your baby and the part of the cord still attached to the belly button.

When to consult a doctor?

If your baby under 1 months old has a fever, whether the signs mentioned below are present or not, he should be seen by a doctor.

Consult a doctor if you notice:

a persistent redness around the base of the cord;

swelling around the base of the cord;

a flow at the base (blood, pus or seep);

an unusual scent of the cord;

that the cord hasn’t fallen yet after 1 months of life;

that the cord was snatched by accident;

a bleeding that doesn’t stop after the cord falls;

Bad bellybutton healing after the cord falls. In this case, you’d see a little dew or red bump that tends to slightly suck inside the belly button. This requires silver nitrate cauterization. This is a very simple procedure without pain for the baby.

To remember

Umbilical cord naturally falls before the age of 1 months, most of the time during the second week of life.

It’s important to clean your baby’s cord everyday. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt him.

You can give your baby a bath even if his cord hasn’t fallen yet, just dry it well afterwards.