Home with new baby: Care of newborn belly buttons and diaper areas

Home with new baby: Care of newborn belly buttons and diaper areas

Last month we discussed an overview of what to expect your first week home with new baby. This month we will be going more in depth into some concerns new parents have when caring for their newborn.

Babies don’t come with a set of instructions, and there are a few things that can make a new parent concerned when they first get home with their newborn.

Care of the Umbilical Stump

Every baby is left with an umbilical stump. Most babies receive a small plastic clip that seals the blood vessels in the umbilical cord near the baby’s navel for the first 24 to 48 hours after birth.

The plastic clip is usually removed before leaving the hospital, leaving behind what’s called the “umbilical stump,” which is the end of the umbilical cord that needs to dry up and fall off. This small piece of umbilical cord will become dry and will fall off anywhere from 1-6 weeks after your baby is born.

Your biggest goal will be to keep the area clean and dry until the umbilical stump falls off. Don’t try to pull the stump off. Allow it to fall off after it has completely dried out naturally. LEAVE IT ALONE! Fold your baby’s diapers downward to avoid rubbing on the stump or use special newborn diapers that have a cutout that avoids irritating the stump. You will want to give your baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord stump falls off. Your baby cannot be submerged in a bath until it falls off, is dry, and healed. Don’t use alcohol in the area and, in fact, leave the area alone as much possible.

Complications involving the umbilical stump are rare, but you need to call your doctor if you notice any evidence that the umbilical stump is painful to your baby or if the skin is reddened. If you notice a foul smell around the umbilical stump or if there is yellowish drainage coming from the site, you should also call the doctor.

Care of your Baby Boy’s Circumcision

When a little boy is born, he will be born with a small piece of skin that provides a covering for the end of the penis. This piece of skin is called the foreskin. Circumcision involves removing this foreskin if a family chooses to have it performed.

The newborn circumcision is an entirely elective procedure. There are some benefits, but also risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not currently recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys. A newborn must be healthy and stable to have the procedure and a male can be circumcised from infancy throughout adulthood. For more information on the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on circumcision, please visit their website.

After the circumcision, most babies are left with a reddened glans penis (the end of the penis). The red is because the skin is raw and needs to grow a new layer of skin over the surface of the glans. Change the diaper often to avoid stool and urine contact with the penis. Depending on the technique used for the circumcision, you will have to care for the area in very different ways. The doctor performing the procedure will tell you how she wants you to care for it. Sometimes the penis is covered with petroleum jelly and gauze after the circumcision, which is something you will continue to do at home to keep the glans penis from sticking to the diaper. The glans penis will completely heal in about 10-14days after the circumcision.

Some doctors do a Plastibell procedure that involves leaving a plastic ring on the end of the penis. This ring should be left alone until it falls off 5-14 days after the procedure. This is the most common way to circumcise an infant in this part of the country, and leaving it alone is important

Complications are rare from circumcision. Baby boys with bleeding disorders may have excess bleeding, which should be reported to the doctor. You should also call the doctor if there is blood in the diaper larger than the size of a quarter, if the redness is getting worse instead of better or if the baby doesn’t urinate normally within 6 to 8 hours after the procedure.

Care of the Uncircumcised Penis

Baby boys who do not have a circumcision still need special care to the end of their penis for the first six months of their life. The uncircumcised penis should be kept as clean as possible by gently washing the area during bath time. Mild soap and water will suffice. You should know that the foreskin will not retract fully until the baby is school age, so you don’t need to force it to retract.

Care of Baby Girls

When changing your newborn daughter’s diaper, be sure to wipe from front to back. It is also normal to have white discharge in the diaper area. Baby girls’ parts are more open and exposed than in grown women so make sure you treat the area delicately. The clitoris is very sensitive and babies interpret that as pain, so be mindful when cleaning feces around the clitoris area.

If you have questions about newborn care or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding your child you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1477524/