Belly button or umbilical bleeding in a newborn is usually seen before or after the umbilical stump falls off. The umbilical cord connects the baby with the maternal placenta for nourishment during fetal life. The cord is clamped and cut during delivery. The cord’s remaining part on the newborn’s abdomen is called the umbilical stump.
A few drops of blood from the belly button are not a cause for concern in most cases. However, you may seek medical care if the newborn has continuous belly button bleeding.
Read this post to know about the causes and treatment of belly button bleeding in newborns and tips to promote umbilical stump healing.
Normal Umbilical Cord Bleeding
A small amount of umbilical cord bleeding is normal while it begins to separate from the baby’s body. You may notice a few drops of blood coming from the stump during or after it falls off. Bleeding may also occur if clothes or diapers rub against the stump (1).
A few drops of bleeding that subside quickly is normal and not a cause for worry. Sometimes, cleaning or applying pressure on the stump slows or stops the bleeding. Umbilical bleeding is considered abnormal if the blood appears even after wiping away or applying pressure.
Newborn belly button bleeding can be due to various reasons. In most cases, it is not a cause for concern and part of the natural healing process. Below are the common reasons for belly button bleeding in newborns (2).
- Clothes or diaper rubbing against the umbilical stump
- The umbilical stump begins to separate from the body
- The umbilical stump has just fallen off
Although minor bleeding from the newborn’s belly button may resolve itself, persistent bleeding requires medical attention.
When Does The Umbilical Cord Fall Off?
The umbilical cord may fall off within one to two weeks in most newborns (3). This may occur early or later in some babies without any specific reasons. During the initial days of life, the umbilical cord stump begins to dry and become smaller in size, falling off eventually.
How To Care For The Umbilical Cord Stump?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend dry cord care, which means natural drying of the umbilical stump. Alcohol cord care is usually advised in conditions that pose a high risk of infection and only if recommended by the doctor.
- Let the stump fall off its own: Pulling the stump is not recommended since this may increase bleeding or infection risk.
- Keep the stump dry and clean: Bathe the baby with a damp washcloth or sponge to keep the stump dry.
- Expose to air: You may keep the front of the diaper folded below the umbilical stump to expose it to the air. This may enhance the healing process.
- Changing diapers on time: This may prevent wetting or soiling the umbilical area. Practices such as swabbing the stump with rubbing alcohol during each diaper change are not recommended anymore since this may kill valuable bacteria.
- Choose loose-fitting clothes: Use loose baby clothes with delicate materials to avoid pressing and rubbing the stump.
Below are some don’ts to remember during umbilical cord care.
- Do not rub the cord with alcohol unless recommended by the doctor
- Don’t tug or pull the cord to remove it
- Don’t bathe the baby in the tub or sink until the umbilical cord falls off
The color of the umbilical stump may change from yellow to green and black while it is drying. There is no need to intervene since it is a natural change in color before the umbilical stump falls away.
When To Worry About Your Baby’s Umbilical Bleeding?
You may seek immediate medical care in the following situations (3).
- Umbilical stump continues to bleed even after applying direct pressure as instructed by the pediatrician
- Few drops of blood are seen for more than three days
- Newborn has a fever, indicating infection
- Redness, foul discharge, or swelling around the stump
- Baby cries when the area around the belly button is touched
- Rashes, blisters, or pimples around the belly button
- Cord does not fall within the stipulated timeframe, persisting beyond three weeks
Doctors may recommend trying homecare over the telephone for uncomplicated umbilical bleeding in newborns. They may often instruct you to apply gentle pressure on the cord holding a sterile gauze pad. Applying pressure with bare hands may increase the risk of infections, making it essential to use a sterile gauze pad. Seek immediate medical care if the bleeding is not resolved after homecare interventions (2).
Babies with infections may receive antibiotics. Fresh frozen plasma, factor concentrate, and vitamin K may be prescribed if the bleeding is diagnosed to be a bleeding disorder.
Belly button bleeding can be seen in many newborns. You may follow your doctor’s instructions for proper cord care. The detachment of the dry umbilical stump is a natural process; let it happen naturally. Seek medical care and intervention if you notice frequent bleeding and delayed detachment of the umbilical stump.
2. Umbilical Cord Bleeding (Newborn); FairView
3. Umbilical Cord Symptoms; Seattle Children’s Hospital
4. Umbilical care; Raisingchildren; Australian Parenting Website