How to Clean Your Baby’s Belly Button?
When you are pregnant, the umbilical cord is what delivers oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby, and removes waste from your baby’s blood. Very shortly after birth, this cord is clamped or tied, and subsequently cut, leaving a little stump that will eventually become your baby’s belly button.
Caring for the intact umbilical stump
The first few days after bringing your baby home, you may notice the umbilical stump getting darker in colour. This is because the circulation has been cut off and the tissue is dying. There are no nerve endings left in this stump, so don’t worry, your baby does not feel pain. There may or may not be slight oozing and even some mild odour, as the stump dries out and prepares to fall off on its own. This is part of the healing process and should last between 5-15 days, during which time you will want to keep the area clean and dry.
Wash your hands properly: Wash your hands prior to handling the baby. The umbilical stump site can very well still be open, and you want to reduce the risk of infection. Before bathing, check the stump condition for any tenderness or swelling, redness or continuous bleeding, and take note of any irritable behaviour from you baby. These and other symptoms may be indicators of infection, so don’t hesitate to contact your midwife or doctor. You may want to have your partner or friend around for the first few baths if you’re nervous, or lend a hand if your newborn gets a little squirmy, or grab an extra towel.
Prepare baby’s cleaning station: Speaking of which, it’s also a good idea to prepare your cleaning station and any supplies in advance. You may want to use a clean, soft towel or a sponge; some cotton swabs; and mild baby-specific soap in the case of wee or poo in the area. Baby poo has a higher fat content and may be difficult to wash with just water. Forego the use of antiseptics, as recent research has suggested they may slower the healing process.
Moist cotton swabs to clean: Use a cotton swab moistened with water to clean the base of the stump, and a sponge or towel on the rest of your baby’s body. Most parents will stick to sponge baths until the umbilical stump has fallen off. However, as long as your baby is full term and healthy, you may bathe them in warm water in the sink or small baby bath.
Dry the cord area: The most important is to thoroughly dry the cord area after bathing. You may want to do this gently with a clean cloth. Fold down the nappy to expose the stump and let it air dry. A loose t-shirt will help circulate air better than a onesie, and will cause less irritation. Try not to handle the stump unless washing (certainly don’t pull on it!) and keep the area free from bandages, lotions, or creams.
After the umbilical stump has fallen off
Your baby now has a sweet little belly button! The site may bleed or ooze a little for the first couple of days, while the navel completely seals itself off. If symptoms persist, your baby exhibits a fever, or is otherwise unwell after the stump falls off, seek medical advice as there could be an infection.
There can sometimes be small, excess protrusions of tissue in the belly button area, almost like pink, moist lump(s). These are generally harmless and go away on their own. It’s good to continue to keep the area clean and dry with regular washing, and avoid irritation until they heal. If you are concerned and the granulomas remain after some time, point them out to your pediatrician during the check-up. They may suggest a salt or silver nitrate treatment based on your baby’s age and size of the granuloma. Don’t worry, the area does not have any nerve endings so it will be painless for your baby.
The name sounds scary but you need not be. An umbilical hernia is a result of the baby’s tummy muscles not fully healing after the umbilical cord has been cut. These are generally painless and eventually heal on their own. It may look like a small bulge near the navel, and you can usually spot a hernia when your baby is doing something that would put pressure on their tummy- coughing, laughing, or doing in a poo. Complications rarely happen, but for your piece of mind, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for changes.
Bathing a fully healed belly button
You may begin (or continue) with regular bathing in a shallow baby tub, or a sink filled with a couple inches of water. If it’s baby’s first bath in the water, you may want to have your partner or friend help out in case they become squirmy. Eventually bath-time will become a relaxing activity that you and your baby will both enjoy. Sponges or washcloths are still a good idea for getting into creases and may give your baby a soothing sensation.
Whether your baby has an “innie” or an “outie”, rinse and dry the belly button area as you would any other part of the baby’s body; with gentle pats, never scrubbing. Delicately drying an “innie” with a cotton swab can also be a good idea to get rid of moisture that can develop with a deeper set belly button.
Moisturizing your baby’s belly with a baby-specific lotion or baby oil can be a good idea if you find your baby’s skin drying out. Belly rubs can aid with your little one’s digestion and facilitate some one on one bonding time. Try to avoid using any products unless the belly button has fully healed as they may be irritating and promote infection.
Test products on small patches of skin for 24 hours prior to using all over your baby’s body to rule out allergies to any contents, and never use adult products on your baby’s sensitive skin.
Do finish off bath time with some gentle bedtime cuddles or midday giggles by blowing raspberries on baby’s belly!