Caring for your baby’s umbilical cord can be simple! Knowing what do to and what to look out for in the first two weeks of your baby’s life is important. Read more to learn more and how to care for your baby’s umbilical cord.
Umbilical cord basics
Did you know that your baby’s umbilical cord attaches to your placenta and provides nutrients and oxygen to your baby? Once baby is delivered, there’s no need for the umbilical cord since baby will now be breathing and eating on their own.
The umbilical cord is cut down to a “stump” and will take 7-14 days to heal and fall off. During this time, it’s important to care for your baby’s umbilical cord to prevent infection and promote healing.
For the first days, your baby’s cord will be jelly-like in appearance and feel. This is normal! It will take a few days to dry out and look more like a scab. The healing process can take up to 2 weeks. It’s normal to see a few drops of blood in your baby’s belly button once the cord falls off.
Here’s how to care for your baby’s umbilical cord:
- Keep the diaper rolled under the cord.
- It’s important to avoid pressure or rubbing on the cord in order to let it heal. Roll or fold your baby’s diaper under the umbilical cord and attach tabs.
- Keep the cord exposed to air.
- Keeping the cord exposed to air or under thin layers of breathable cotton clothing will promote drying out the stump and healing.
- Give sponge baths with mild soap and water until the umbilical cord has come off on its own.
- Don’t worry if the cord gets a little bit wet; it is not harmful to your baby. Try to avoid submerging the stump in water until the stump is off and the skin underneath is completely healed.
- Submerging the cord in water.
- This can promote bacterial growth, so it’s best to keep as dry as possible with sponge baths until the cord falls off naturally.
- Pulling or picking at the cord.
- It can be tempting! But it’s important to make sure the cord heals on its own to avoid accidentally opening a wound, causing bleeding and possible infection.
- Using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol to clean the cord.
- Studies have shown that this decreases the good bacteria that promote healing! Use a mild soap and water on a wash cloth to gently clean around the cord during a sponge bath.
RED FLAGS to look for on your baby’s umbilical cord:
Signs and symptoms of infection (omphalitis) (notify your provider immediately):
- Pus coming from the umbilical stump
- Redness or swelling around the umbilical stump
- Tenderness to the touch
- Foul odor is coming from the stump
- Tenderness to the touch
- Your baby has a fever
The umbilical cord has not fallen off within 3 weeks after birth.
- This will require an appointment with your provider to ensure the healing process is still going well.
There is a chance that once the umbilical cord falls off, there is a small reddened area of scar tissue. This is called an umbilical granuloma.
There may be small opening with fluid draining out of it. Sometimes, this condition heals on its own within a week or so. You should call your provider as soon as possible to have it looked at.
On occasion, your baby may develop an umbilical hernia. This is a weakening in the abdominal wall that happens in some babies and causes abdominal tissue to bulge out under the skin.
This is not painful to your baby and is usually caused by increased pressure in the abdomen from straining or crying. This condition usually heals on its own before 18 months of age. Let your provider know right away if your baby develops an umbilical hernia.
Have more questions? Schedule a text or video chat consult with Kate, Lauren or Natalie (NICU RNs) and they can help answer any questions that you have!BOOK CONSULT NOW
Other helpful blog posts:
- Medicine Kit Essentials
- Sick baby and toddler essentials
- 10 common baby + child illnesses
- Newborn acne – when should I worry?
- Kate’s effective diaper rash remedy
**This is an educational blog post and the advice given should not replace that of your provider.