15 Mistakes Parents Make When Cleaning The Umbilical Cord

There's nothing more amazing in this world than the baby's umbilical cord attached to the placenta. It is the very epitome of life's newness. As the blood pulses through the cord after the baby is born, it slowly comes to a halt as the blood is delivered to the baby's tiny body. Baby breathes, suckles, and experiences life outside the womb for the very first time, all within a few hours of arriving on the scene.

It's absolutely inspiring!

Now, after that unforgettable moment of cutting the cord, parents get to care for their new baby. From the first diaper change to the first time mom dresses her new little one, it's all an adventure. Everyone is going to tell mom what to do or what not to do. This is normal, and mom just has to take it all with a grain of salt.

One topic we're going to approach is the grumpy, little cord stump the umbilical cord left behind for mom and dad. This crinkling little thing is going to be their friend for a few days or weeks, so it's time to get acquainted.

Cord stumps are funny looking things, and sometimes they can seem mysterious. They're not really all that mysterious, though.

By learning from the mistakes other new parents have made in the past, parents can avoid any issues with their baby's cord stump. Soon it will be gone anyway, and a cute little belly button will take its place.

Here are 15 mistakes parents make when cleaning the umbilical cord. Enjoy!

15 Using Rubbing Alcohol


Cleaning all wounds with rubbing alcohol, including your baby's umbilical cord stump, used to be the norm. It was the go-to agent in all things first aid related. Moms have reached for rubbing alcohol for ages it seems. There is a new kid in town, though.

Good ole fashion water is the recommended cleansing agent for cord stumps. Whereas alcohol could very well irritate your little one's tender skin, water won't. Dabbing lukewarm water on your baby's cord stump is what the doctors are ordering.

You might want to keep the rubbing alcohol around for later on. For now, just stick to H2O. Both you and your bundle of joy will be satisfied.

14 Keeping The Cord Stump Covered With Bandages


Your baby's cord stump is not a wound necessarily, but it does require healing. Because the cord is no longer needed to bridge baby and placenta, it IS dying. It's dying in a different way than a normal wound flesh would, though.

Although there are even differing opinions about caring for flesh wounds, be confident that a cord stump needs oxygen to heal.

One of the biggest mistakes new parents make in caring for the cord stump is to keep it covered with bandages, wraps, and bandages. It doesn't need to be covered in this manner. It doesn't actually need to be treated like a flesh wound at all. It may look like one with it's yucky brownish color, but it is not the same thing.

13 Not Following The Rules On Baby Bathing


The rules on bathing a newborn are simply to stick with the sponge bath until the cord stump falls off. Different doctors follow different rules, but this has been standard for many years.

One of the risks in submerging the baby's body in a tub full of water is not in the bath itself. The danger lies in the aftermath of the baby bath. New parents often don't pat baby completely dry. The cord stump retains moisture from the bath, and runs the risk of infecting the cord stump site.

Playing it safe means following the sponge bath rule. It's really only for a few weeks, so it's not a long wait. You'll have so much time to splash around with your little one in the coming years. Grant him or her this short time to heal.

12 Dressing Baby In Full Bodysuit


I'll be the first to say that today's micro-fashion is awesome! Designers have gone above and beyond when it comes to onesies and cute little bodysuits for those chubby little bodies. If it's not the first thing you reach for in dressing your new baby, it will probably be #2 at least.

Hold your horses, though. Part of keeping your baby's cord stump clean is in the air circulation. You don't really think of airing out your baby's tummy as a cleaning process, but it is.

Air circulation is all part of the healing stages, and this is where a lot of new parents falter. They can't resist the temptation to dress that little person in adorable tight-fitting onesies. The only problem is that the cord stump gets no TLC under wraps. Do your baby a solid and keep him or her in loose-fitting clothing until the cord stump falls off.

11 Using Antibiotic Cream On The Cord Stump

Normally when you clean a wound you wash, medicate, and bandage. Am I right? Well, like mentioned before, your baby's cord stump isn't your typical wound. It requires care, but mostly it just wants us to leave it alone.

You see, baby cord stumps are like grumpy old men. They can accomplish more if you just leave them alone. Don't hover over them or coddle them. Don't lavish them in fancy lotions or creams. In the case of your baby, it would be antibiotic cream at the crux.

This is a reasonable mistake new parents make. It's thoughtful and full of common sense, but it's just not exactly right. Your baby's cord stump will heal faster and more completely when you just leave off the fancy healing creams.

10 Failing To Recognize An Umbilical Hernia


When you're cleaning your baby's cord stump you should be inspecting it as well. Any changes, big or small, should be noted. Some things that you need to be looking for include: color change, discharge, bulges, and sensitivity to the area.

There is such a thing as an Umbilical Hernia. When your baby cries, do you notice a small bump in the umbilical area? If this area seems sensitive and you baby is reacting in this manner, you will want to address it.

Basically an Umbilical Hernia is a small opening in the stomach wall. It's not considered incredibly serious. It typically heals itself by the time your child is a year to 18 months of age. Still, a doctor's careful eye can diagnose this with confidence.

9 Picking At The Cord Stump


If you're one of those people who pick at scabs, dry skin, and what not then watch out! A drying cord stump is going to drive you crazy. It's such a huge temptation to want to pick the ugly thing right off.

Please refrain, dear pickers. Your baby's cord stump can handle itself. So long as you do your part (which excludes picking), that cord stump will be long gone very soon.

Not only are your fingernails embedded with yucky germs, you will probably injure your baby as well. Think about it. How many times have you picked away a scab even though it hurt? So, no picking.

8 Using Tissues Rather Than Cotton Swabs


It's so easy to grab for the tissue box or pull from the roll of toilet paper. This is not the way to go when it comes to cleaning a newborn's cord stump. Although tissues and toilet paper may feel soft to us, the weave of it can be rough on a baby's skin.

Opt for cotton balls or cotton swabs. The natural fiber of the cotton will be much more gentle on your baby's brand new skin. Also, it won't catch nearly as much.

Tissues or toilet paper (even paper towels) will all weaken and fall apart. Small fragments will be left behind in and around the cord stump. These fragments can threaten with infection. Better to just depend on cotton.

7 Missing Signs Of An Umbilical Granuloma


When you clean your baby's cord stump, it's going to be a little yucky. The umbilical cord has a fleshy look to it anyway, so it's not good looking as it withers. It will look like a crinkled up scab. With a slightly reddish-brownish hue to it, it's not pretty.

One mistake in cleaning the cord stump that new parents make is to miss signs of infection. Yes, the cord stump can totally gross you out, but exactly how gross is it supposed to be?

Well, it's not supposed to be oozing anything. When the cord stump starts to form scar tissue, it's called an Umbilical Granuloma. It typically heals itself in a week, but always a good idea to visit a doctor when you see infectious looking material aka yellow oozing gunk.

6 Failing To Fold Down Diaper


Like mentioned before, cord stumps like to air out. They want to channel your pregnant self and let it all hang out. It's a good idea to let them do just that.

One very common mistake that new parents make is forgetting to fold down the diaper so the cord stump is not covered by it. If it's covered, the cord stump is at risk of getting wet with urine leaving it more vulnerable to infection.

Lucky for you, diaper manufacturers make newborn-sized diapers with cutouts, so parents don't have to remember. New parents are nervous enough as they change dirty diapers on a tiny person for the very first time. Thankfully, somebody thought to throw them a bone.

5 Cutting Off The Cord Stump At Home

Newborn (5 day old) baby boy sleeping on blue blankets

This is a big no-no. Just don't do it - ever. If you feel the need to get scissor happy, cut your bangs, not your baby's cord stump. This no-no rule applies to every sharp object you may be thinking of using. Whether it's fingernail clippers, razors, scissors, knives, or tweezers, put it down.

More than likely, you will end up injuring your baby. Injuring your baby will create an open wound risking infection for the cord stump and the new open wound. It doesn't matter if the cutting tools are sanitary. Just don't do it.

Some parents think it's okay to start nipping away at the cord stump as it withers, but not even this is a good idea. Just leave it alone, and put the scissors down.

4 Allowing the Cord Stump To Remain Wet

in daddy's hands

Cord stumps have several opportunities to get wet. The two obvious are while bathing and from a wet diaper. You already know to turn down the diaper and to pat baby dry after his or her sponge bath.

Did you ever think of sweat, though? This applies to summer, spring, fall, and winter babies. Most babies love to snuggle, and most babies will snuggle through a soaking sweat. They don't mind. Cord stumps do mind, unfortunately.

You may not even notice that your baby is sweating until after the snuggle time is over. A lot of times you can see wet hair on the nape of his or her neck or feel the sweat on the shirt back. During times like this, the cord stump needs cleansed with water and patted dry.

3 Rubbing The Cord Stump Vigorously


Have you ever heard a person talk to another who didn't speak his language. After the initial failed attempt, the first person slows his speech. It doesn't really matter how slow or perfect he enunciates, but he does it anyway. The second person simply does not speak the same language, and isn't going to understand no matter what.

Rubbing your baby's cord stump vigorously is sort of like that. It doesn't matter how much effort you put into all that rubbing, it's not going to heal any faster.

In addition, all of that vigorous rubbing will most likely irritate your baby's skin. It could very well damage the cord stump and throw a wrench in the entire healing process. It's better to just chill out on the vigorous rubbing action.

2 Using Antimicrobial Agents


Agents like echinacea and powdered goldenseal root are becoming increasingly popular. They're both powerful antimicrobial agents making their mark on the holistic world.

Goldenseal root is used to aid in the common cold and upper respiratory infections (among other things). Echinacea is used for treating urinary tract infections and slow healing wounds.

They sounds perfect for healing a cord stump, but think again. The agents may very well cause allergic reactions in your newborn. As well as a reaction, they may burn your baby's skin. Please consult a doctor before using these. It's even better to avoid them all together just to play it safe.

1 Failing To Monitor The Length Of Time Cord Stump Is Healing

Some cord stumps take longer to heal than others. What is an appropriate time frame? The answer is two months. Most cord stumps fall off in a matter of a few days or weeks. This is normal and this is good. The quicker they fall off the easier it is on the new parents.

Some cord stumps like to be a little more stubborn than others, though. If after two months your baby's cord stump hasn't completely fallen off then give your doctor a call. There may be something else at work that needs addressed.

Days seem to blend together as a new parent, so it can be difficult to keep track. Thankfully, we live in a digital age. Set a reminder for yourself to follow up on the time frame each time you clean your baby's cord stump.

More in Did You Know...