Sunday, November 22, 2009

Can my baby be British?

We reached one of our first milestones with Tye last night- her umbilical cord stump fell off. It had been loose for at least a full day, and it was making me extremely nervous because I had only ever read that the stump should fall off between 2 and 6 weeks after birth, and here was Tye loosing hers at 1 week. Someone told me once that children have outie bellybuttons because their umbilical cords weren't cared for properly as infants, and all I could think about was Tye having an outie and people thinking that I didn't take care of her as a newborn.
I was so upset that last night I spent a long time googling "umbilical cord stump fall off" and variations of the phrase. I found a good deal more sites that listed 2-6 weeks as an appropriate time frame for loosing the stump. Most sites included information on swabbing the stump with alcohol daily or with every changing and sticking to sponge baths to keep it dry.
Eventually, I stumbled upon a page by that had several accounts of infants' stumps falling off naturally much earlier than 2 weeks. It also mentioned that the stump falls off faster if it is allowed to dry out thoroughly, which Tye's was- she even spent several days without clothing covering it, just skin to skin with me, in an attempt to encourage the milk to come in.
Then I found information on that threw me for a loop. BabyCentre is the same site as BabyCenter, only the UK version- except that the information available is completely different! BabyCentre states:
The cord may be clamped and cut immediately after birth or when the cord has stopped pulsating; as part of a natural or physiological third stage of labour, this allows time for blood in the placenta to transfuse to the baby. It must be kept clean and dry to prevent infection. Some time between five and 15 days after birth, the stump will dry up, turn black, and drop off; leaving a small wound that may take a few days to heal. While waiting for the cord to fall off and heal, it is safe to bath your newborn if you want to. Many families enjoy giving their newborn a bath but your baby doesn't need a daily bath to keep clean; provided you wash off any obvious muck, babies at this age stay clean enough. In the past, cord stumps have been cleaned with antiseptic tissues or sprinkled with an antiseptic powder. The use of antiseptics or antibiotics may still be relevant in less industrialised societies, where umbilical cord infections continue to cause many deaths, but in most Western countries where standards of cleanliness are high this is not necessary. Studies of the healing process have found no advantage to using antiseptics over simply keeping the cord clean; unless the baby is premature or in intensive care. Antiseptics also cause the cord to take longer to fall off, which causes anxiety to mothers and increases the number of post natal visits from midwives.
Needless to say, I felt a huge sense of relief knowing that my baby's bellybutton development is considered within normal range somewhere in the world. The difference in information on how to treat an infant's cord stump stunned me, and I spent a long time investigating BabyCentre, reading about "nappies" (diapers) and "dummies" (pacifiers) and "signs you should call your midwife" (not your physician or your pediatrician). Not only did I learn a lot about cultural differences in medicine, but I also learned how much I love BabyCentre. I'm a huge fan! Why can't the American version be so good?

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