Caring for the Umbilical Stump

Once your baby’s umbilical cord is cut, the skin and tissue surrounding the belly button dries and then falls off. The process takes about 1-2 weeks and it’s important that you keep the umbilical stump clean and dry until then.

Here are some tips to help promote healing of the cord stump.

To Clean: For the most part you should leave the stump alone and let it heal naturally. Researchers say that if left alone, it may heal faster: antiseptics and rubbing alcohol are unnecessary.

If there is any wet, sticky, or dirty stuff that needs cleaning, use water and a mild soap on a cotton swab to gently wipe around the sides of the stump and the skin around it.

While the stump is healing, do not scrub or submerge Baby’s navel–sponge baths are generally recommended during this time.

To Dry: After cleaning, gently pat Baby’s cord stump with a clean, soft, absorbent cloth or “fan” Baby’s belly lightly. Do not use a hairdryer!  The heat of a hair-dryer can be very difficult to control and may inadvertently harm your baby.

Support the drying process by exposing Baby’s belly to the air when possible and when diapering, fold down the front of the diaper so that it doesn’t cover the cord stump. Allowing natural airflow is the goal!

It might be tempting to pick at it but resist! Let the tissue dry gradually and fall off on it’s own. Like a scab, there may be a little blood around the base and you may notice blood on Baby’s diaper for a few days after the cord falls off.  This is all normal.

Watch for signs of infection: Oozing pus or red, swollen skin surrounding the navel warrants a call to your health care provider.  This is especially true if the baby has a fever or cries when you touch the area.

After Care:  

For most people there is little to worry about once the cord has fallen off. The belly button will continue to change as the abdomen heals.  Occasionally the umbilicus can start to bulge out, and this may be more noticeable when the baby cries. This is called an “umbilical hernia” and will need to be followed by your doctor. Most hernias will correct over time but some will require surgery. Some babies can have a patch of skin that appears red and moist at the base of the naval. This is called a granuloma and will also need to be followed by your doctor to ensure proper healing.   

BabySarah Cosman