The umbilical cord is the tube that helps supply blood from your placenta to your baby. It runs through the abdomen of your baby and goes straight to your placenta. Thanks to this tube, your baby gets a continuous supply of oxygenated blood. The umbilical cord is no longer needed at the time of birth because your baby can now eat, breathe, and void the bowel and bladder. Therefore, the cord is cut after delivery, but it takes a few weeks for the umbilical cord to fall off completely. During this time, you may notice that the umbilical cord is smelly, which can make you feel concerned. Does this indicate anything special?
Smelly Umbilical Cord: Is It Normal?
It is normal for the umbilical cord to smell bad and change color from yellow-green to black. All that you need to do is to take special care for this portion of cord until it dries out completely and falls off on its own. This may take a couple of weeks after birth.
Although it is normal to have a stinking umbilical cord, it can sometimes indicate infections, especially if you also notice:
- There is yellowish drainage and redness around the belly button.
- The area is tender to the touch.
- Your baby has a fever.
Other Mother's Experiences
"With my first two babies, I never noticed any problem related to a smelly umbilical cord, but my third baby was different, and in that his umbilical cord smelled quite bad. I asked my doctor about it and he said that it is quite normal and I do not have to worry about anything. He told me to use a Q-tip and water to keep the area clean. It finally fell off after a week."
"When I asked my doctor, he told me that it was normal for the stumps to have a bad smell sometimes. That is mainly because the stump is actually a chunk of rotting flesh. I believe that there is nothing to worry about so long as there is not any icky discharge."
"It is possible for stumps to smell bad sometimes, and using antiseptics, alcohol, etc., is not going to help. You will be better off using water to keep the area clean. However, talk to your baby's doctor if you notice any signs of infection, such as redness around the stump and icky discharge. If it is not an infection, the cord will eventually fall off in a week or so."
How to Take Care of a Baby's Umbilical Cord?
As mentioned already, it is normal to notice a smelly umbilical cord, but you need to take proper care of it to ensure that it falls off naturally. Here are some guidelines:
1. Keep the Area Clean
It is important to ensure that the area around your baby's umbilical cord is clean all the time. You need to clean it at least once every day. Simply take a cotton swab, soak it in warm water, and use it to clean the skin around the stump.
You may have to follow this cleaning routine for a couple of weeks or so. Be patient and keep cleaning the area until the stump eventually falls off completely.
2. Keep the Area Dry
Do not leave the area wet after cleaning. You should also ensure that your baby's diaper is not covering the umbilical cord stump. You have to expose the area to air to avoid infections. You can give your baby a bath, but keep the stump above the water level. Sponge bath is a better idea at this time.
3. Know What to Expect
While you may feel concerned because of a smelly umbilical cord, it does not always indicate a complication. It is quite normal, just like many other things. For instance:
- You may notice that the stump looks quite worse as compared to how it was in the beginning. It may be white and shiny after birth, but it is likely to become gray, brown, or even black once it dries up gradually. Do not worry; this is normal.
- The stump is likely to fall off within the first week after birth, but do not panic if it takes longer. It can take up to 2 weeks in some cases.
- When it falls off, there may be a raw-looking spot left where the stump was, but that is normal too. You may have to call your doctor in case the area does not become dry or heal completely within 2 weeks.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About Umbilical Cord
Beside a smelly umbilical cord, there are some other questions regarding the stump.
Should I Do Anything If My Baby's Stump Does Not Seem to Heal?
Do not panic. Sometimes, a stump may take longer to heal, and you do not have to do anything special during this time. Just keep the area clean, but be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice signs of infection that may be delaying the process. Sometimes, the stump may have to be sealed – the process is called cauterization – and your doctor will guide you in this case.
Can My Baby Have an Umbilical Hernia?
It is rare but possible. It happens when there is some gap in your baby's abdominal muscles. You may want to talk to your doctor if your baby's belly button sticks out or stays that way when he/she cries or coughs.