Updated: Dec 2, 2019
After birth, the umbilical cord becomes devitalized. This makes it prone to colonization by bacteria and with the possibility of developing an infection that is called omphalitis. That’s why proper care of the umbilical stump is needed to decrease this risk and shorten the time of cord separation.
Over the years, understanding this susceptibility has helped scientists and medical practitioners to develop safer practices like the sterile cord section that helps prevent infection from bacteria like Clostridium tetani, which is responsible for neonatal tetanus. But while this practice has proven to be effective, some other practices like the systematic application of disinfecting agents over the umbilical stump have not been proven yet and currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend it.
For infants born in hospitals, the care of the umbilical cord is very simple. The correct practice starts with the sterile section of the umbilical cord, which prevents initial bacterial colonization. It is followed by close maternal contact that allows the stump and baby's skin to be engulfed in beneficial maternal bacteria before the colonization by other environmental harmful bacteria.
After that, the stump must be cleaned with water and a cleanser during the baby's bath time. Then it should be thoroughly dried. It’s also recommended to keep the stomp dry and out of the diaper. This prevents moistness and contact with urine and feces. But if this eventually happens, because babies and diapers can be messy, cleaning it with water and a cleanser is enough.
Recommendations for home birth in the resource-limited population still include the application of topical antiseptics, but recommendations for less scarce resources population's home birth has not been specified.
Taking care of the umbilical stump is basic, and the application of non-sterile products like ashes, breast milk or herbal preparations is discouraged as it could increase contamination and even irritate the surrounding skin, showing that natural also means simple.
Are you in need of more information about baby care? Learn more about baby skin care here.