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23 Apr

Care of the umbilical cord

Following birth, the umbilical cord is usually clamped and cut leaving a 2-4cm stump. Some parents may choose to use umbilical cord ties to secure the cord, or choose to leave the cord attached to the placenta until it naturally separates (known as a ‘lotus birth’ and pictured below).

After birth the umbilical cord will dry, turn from a white/yellow colour to a green/black and eventually separate over the course of 5-14 days. Here are a few tips for taking care of your baby’s cord whilst this process happens:

- Keep the cord as dry as possible. It is safe to bath your baby in plain water, but ensure the cord is left to dry by exposing it to the air for a short period after drying it gently with a towel.

- Don’t use any products on the cord; for the cord to separate some bacteria must be present, and using soaps, particularly antibacterial products, can affect this process.

- Fold down the top of your baby’s nappy or use nappies that have a cut out section to avoid friction and allow air flow to the area.

- There may be a slight smell as the cord begins to separate, and the base can take on a wet or sticky appearance. If you are concerned about this, there is a large amount of discharge, the base of the cord or skin on your baby’s abdomen appears red or inflamed, or if your baby seems unwell in any way, contact your midwife as soon as possible for further advice.

(Image from Geneabirth.com)

Care of your perineum following birth

Your perineum (stretch of muscle and skin between your vagina and anus) can be tender following birth, particularly if tearing has occurred and/or stitches have been required.

The area has excellent blood flow and in almost all cases will heal very well. Below are a few tips to ease discomfort and promote healing during the days and weeks following birth.

- Ensure you have a balanced, varied diet and keep well hydrated. This will have the added bonus of assisting your milk supply and improving your energy levels.

- Ensure you exercise your pelvic floor as much as possible to improve muscle tone in the area.

- Ensure the area is kept clean as much as possible; this can be achieved by pouring warm water over the area each time you use the toilet in addition to your regular baths/showers.

- Change sanitary towels regularly to promote hygiene. Disposable sanitary towels can irritate the skin around some tears; you may wish to consider using non-disposable, washable towels made of more natural fibres such as cotton or linen if you experience discomfort.

- Some natural remedies have been traditionally used to ease discomfort, swelling and assist healing. This includes using 2-4 drops of lavender essential oil in a jug of water before pouring over the area or applying manuka honey to a pad before placing it in your underwear.

- Some home-made remedies include frozen pads (see here for instructions: http://mylittleme.com/homemade-postpartum-pads-for-soothing-and-healing/) which can be made ahead of time, and may be useful.

- Feeding your baby in reclining or side-lying positions can help ease the pressure in the area.

- Being aware of any signs and symptoms of concern, including offensive smells or worsening pain levels, and allowing your midwife to inspect the area if these occur, can help identify any problems with healing or signs of infection.

Post by Kelly, One to One Midwife

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