The doctor snipping the umbilical cord can be a poetic symbol about severing bonds of obligation and moving forward into a new form of familial dependency. Some cultures keep the stump as a tool of divination or “fortune telling." Learning a few basic steps for umbilical cord care is essential.
Before You Give Birth
The first step toward true umbilical cord care for preservation purposes is to ask your doctor, preferably before you’re in the delivery room giving birth, to save the cord or stump for you. Some doctors may ask you this question, but if keeping even part of the cord is important to you and your romantic partner then it’s a good idea to take some initiative.
Cleaning the Cord
Cleaning the cord is essential; depending upon your hospital and cultural traditions this step might be completed on your behalf. However, if this doesn't happen then you’ll need to clean the cord yourself. Use cotton balls dipped in a solution that is either 70 percent alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. If you didn’t keep the whole cord but just the “stump" end of it, then likely you’ll just need to complete a light cleaning process.
Oils, Herbs, and Other Preservation Tips
Apply religious herbs and oils if you’re preserving the umbilical cord as part of a religious tradition. Even if you’re not preserving your baby’s cord for cultural reasons, you still might want to place items such as sea salt, rosemary and lavender to the cord. Be creative; this is a truly special project for you as a mom. If you’re not comfortable with herbs, oils, and ceremonies then don’t feel forced into that aspect of umbilical cord preservation. Likewise, don’t feel compelled to fashion the cord (if you kept the entire length) into heart shapes or circles unless you feel drawn to do so as a mother.
Drying the Cord
Place the umbilical cord onto a well-insulated indoor shelf or outside for drying; this process can take three to six days. Make sure that the cord is out of reach of children and animals. Try not to handle the cord during this time; keeping it clean is a key to safely preserving your newborn’s umbilical cord.
Display and Storage Tips
Store and/or display your baby's umbilical cord as you see fit. Remember that once the cord is dry, children and adults can handle it as appropriate. As a mother, you may prefer only you and close friends and family members handle your child’s “cord of life." Feel free to set any boundaries you’d like; this is your child’s cord and deserves any respect you wish for it. Some people may publicly display the cord, while others may wrap it in cloth and carry it around or keep it in a more secluded area of their home inside a wooden keepsake box.
While you don't need a special type of cloth to safely carry your baby's umbilical cord, you may choose to use silk or another fabric that is meaningful to you. If you decided just to preserve the stump, you could place it in your baby scrapbook.
Those concerned about mold may want to take their umbilical cord care a step further by cleaning it with a gentle soap and water or the 70 percent alcohol or hydrogen peroxide solution.
- The Umbilical Cord: Transcultural Care and Customs [http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0091-2182/PII0091218282901665.pdf]
- CBS News: Banking Umbilical Cord Blood [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/04/13/health/main611600.shtml]
- Baby Center: Should we save our baby's umbilical cord stump? [http://www.babycenter.com/400_should-we-save-our-babys-umbilical-cord-stump_500624_0.bc]
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