What's the purpose
of the umbilical cord?
Babies in the womb receive nourishment and oxygen through the placenta,
which is attached to the inner wall of the mother's uterus. The placenta is
connected to the baby by the umbilical cord,which attaches to the baby through
an opening in the baby's abdomen. After a baby is born, the umbilical cord is
clamped and cut close to the baby's body in a painless procedure, leaving an
How long will my baby
have an umbilical stump?
The stump will dry up and drop off in about 7 to 21 days,
leaving a small wound that may take a few days to heal.
Does the stump require special care?
It should be kept clean and dry. Fold the baby's diaper away from the stump
(or buy newborn diapers with a cut-out space for the stump) so it is exposed
to the air and won't come in contact with urine.
The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend cleaning the base of
the stump daily with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.But researchers
have found that untreated cords heal faster than alcohol-swabbed cords and
carry no more risk of infection, so the AAP has changed their recommendation.
Until your baby's umbilical stump falls off:
Give your baby sponge baths instead of tub baths.
Have your baby wear just a diaper and loose T-shirt in warm weather to let air circulate and speed the drying process.
Avoid dressing your baby in bodysuit-style undershirts.
Never attempt to pull off the stump, even if it looks like it's hanging by a thread.
When the stump falls off, you may notice a little blood on the diaper, which is normal. Sometimes after the stump falls off, there may be some clear or yellow fluid drainage and some bits of lumpy flesh may remain. These "umbilical granulomas" may disappear on their own or may need to be treated by your child's doctor. But they aren't serious and don't contain nerves, so any necessary treatment is painless for your baby.
What are the signs of infection?
Infections are rare, but consult your healthcare provider if:
Your baby cries when you touch the cord or the skin next to it.
The skin around the base of the cord is red.
The stump smells foul or gives off a yellowish discharge.
Also call the practitioner if the stump bleeds continuously, as this may be a sign of a bleeding disorder.
It looks like my baby has dandruff. Is it cradle cap?
If your baby's scalp has flaky, dry skin that looks like dandruff, or thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches, it's probably cradle cap. Doctors call it infantile seborrheic dermatitis, and it's very common.
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Give your baby relief from congestion by suctioning out the mucus with a standard bulb syringe or other nasal aspirator. Our pediatrician shows you how.
Cradle cap isn't cute, but it's harmless. It shows up most often in the first few months of life and usually clears up on its own in about six to 12 months – although some children have it for longer.
You might notice the same condition around your baby's ears or eyebrows, on his eyelids, or even in his armpits and other creases.
What causes cradle cap?
© Chris Priest / Science Source
The cause is unknown. But we do know that cradle cap is notcaused by poor hygiene or allergies.
Some experts believe that the hormones a baby receives from his mother at the end of pregnancy overstimulate the baby's oil-producing (seborrheic) glands, resulting in cradle cap. Irritation from a yeast that grows in the sebum (the substance produced by the glands) is also thought to be a possible culprit. But there's no consensus on the cause.
Cradle cap isn't contagious. And it probably doesn't bother your baby at all, although if it gets severe it might itch.
How should I treat my baby's flaky scalp?
You don't really need to do anything, but if it bothers you, here are some things to try:
Gently massage your baby's scalp with your fingers or a soft brush to loosen the scales.
Shampoo more frequently (up to once a day), but be sure to rinse out all the soap or shampoo. After shampooing, gently brush your baby's scalp with a soft brush or a terrycloth towel.
Some parents have had success using baby shampoos developed especially for cradle cap.
Is it serious? Find out fast
If your baby has a stubborn case of cradle cap, you may want to try an oil remedy
to help loosen dry flakes:
Rub a small amount of a pure, natural oil – such as almond or olive oil – on your
baby's scalp and leave it on for about 15 minutes. Then gently comb out the flakes
with a fine-tooth comb or brush them out with a soft brush. Be sure to follow up by
washing your baby's scalp with a gentle baby shampoo. The last thing you want to do
is leave oil on his head, which could clog the pores and cause the flakes to stick. You
might try leaving the shampoo on for a few minutes before rinsing, to help cut the oil.
Should I take my baby to the doctor?
Talk with your baby's doctor if the cradle cap is severe, if there is any bleeding, or if it
spreads beyond your baby's scalp. The doctor may suggest an over-the-counter or
prescription dandruff shampoo or, if the scalp is inflamed, a cortisone cream. Less
commonly, if a yeast infection could be to blame, the doctor will recommend a topical