Umbilical cord / Te pito

After your baby’s birth, the umbilical cord is cut, and a plastic clamp or tie is put on the umbilicus that’s remaining (the stump). Usually the clamp is taken off after one to two days by your midwife or nurse, once the stump has dried and sealed. 

The whenua 

The umbilical cord is culturally significant to Māori and some whānau will have a special ritual and place where they bury the whenua (placenta) anpito (umbilical cord). This practice reinforces the connection between the new baby and the land where they were born. 

Caring for your baby’s belly button

Your baby will still have a stump in their belly button, where their umbilical cord was cut after birth. It usually shrivels and will separate from your baby’s tummy in about seven to 10 days. It may ooze or bleed a little, so be gentle when caring for your little one’s belly button.  
When caring for your baby’s belly button, remember to: 

  • wash your hands before touching the belly button area 
  • avoid touching the stump, if possible 
  • use water to keep your baby’s belly button area clean – you don’t need to use soap, creams, antiseptics or alcohol  
  • if the stump gets wee or poo on it, wash it off using clean water and a mild cleanser  
  • make sure the stump is dry after bathing. This will help the stump heal faster  
  • try not to cover the stump with nappies  as this can make the area hot and moist. To do this, once the nappy is on your baby, fold down the top so the belly button is uncovered
  • never try to pull the stump off yourself, even if it’s about to fall off.

Umbilical hernia

Some belly buttons stick out and this is called an umbilical hernia. The bulge is soft and not painful. It can take up to five years to disappear as the muscles around it tighten slowly. 

When to visit a doctor

Talk to your midwifeor call PlunketLine or your family doctor if your baby’s tummy button:

  • bleeds often 
  • is sticky, smelly 
  • is red, or the skin around the area is red.
Umbilical care

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