How Do I Care for a Newborn's Umbilical Cord?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
A newborn's umbilical cord should be kept as dry as possible.
A newborn's umbilical cord should be kept as dry as possible.

Caring for a newborn's umbilical cord primarily involves keeping the cord stump clean and dry until it falls off. Methods of doing this vary, and in all cases you should follow the instructions given to you by your physician, midwife, or nurse. Depending on your health care professional's instructions, you may need to provide specific types of care to the cord after the baby is born in order to hasten the drying process. You may also be instructed to keep an eye on potential problems, such as signs of infection.

An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.
An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.

After a baby is born, his umbilical cord, which provided oxygen and nutrition to him while in utero, is cut, leaving a stump still attached to the baby's navel. Eventually, the stump dries up and falls off in a process that can take anywhere from one to two weeks. Doctors advise not trying to hasten the cord falling off by tugging or pulling on it. Simply leave it alone so that it breaks off naturally.

In previous years, doctors typically advised patients to dab rubbing alcohol on the cord stump to facilitate drying. Some experts now advise against this and simply encourage new parents or caretakers to leave the cord stump alone unless it becomes dirty. If your doctor does recommend rubbing alcohol, you may want to apply some moisturizing lotion around the baby's navel in order to help prevent irritation. Make sure any lotion you use is safe for your baby's skin, and talk to your doctor or nurse about recommended brands.

If it is necessary to clean the cord stump, using mild soap and water is generally recommended. After cleansing, gently dry the newborn's umbilical cord stump by fanning the area or blotting it with a soft, dry cloth. While the cord stump is still attached, avoid immersing the baby in water and instead clean the baby via sponge baths.

Key to a newborn's umbilical cord removal is keeping the cord as dry as possible. You can do this by exposing the cord stump to air as appropriate. For example, when you put a diaper on the baby, fold the front of the diaper down so that the cord stump is exposed.

It is generally unlikely that there will be any problem with your newborn's umbilical cord removal. You should, however, keep an eye out for signs of infection, including oozing, bleeding, or redness around the navel. In some cases, you may notice some bleeding around the navel right after the newborn's umbilical cord detaches, which is normal. If in doubt, contact your health care professional for advice.

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    • A newborn's umbilical cord should be kept as dry as possible.
      By: Andrey Bandurenko
      A newborn's umbilical cord should be kept as dry as possible.
    • An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.
      By: massimo maghenzani
      An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.