Knowing How To Take Care Of Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord

Knowing How To Take Care Of Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord

There are so many things that are on a mother’s mind after giving birth. Knowing what to do and how to take care of your baby’s umbilical cord may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to preparation for the baby. But taking care of the baby’s umbilical cord is a very important thing. 

Advice has changed over the years from using rubbing alcohol to not because of bacteria. Growth. This can confuse women and that’s why here is everything you need to know when it comes to your baby’s umbilical cord. Let’s talk about what it is and what’s a healthy and normal umbilical cord verse not. 

What Is an Umbilical Cord?

The umbilical cord looks like a tube that assists in getting the baby food and oxygen while getting rid of waste through the mother while she is pregnant. When the baby is born the doctor will clamp the umbilical cord and cut it leaving behind an umbilical stump between a half-inch to an inch long. Because the cord has zero nerves, neither you nor the baby will feel the cutting. 

The cord sits on your baby’s stomach until it falls off 1-3 weeks later. Most commonly this is between 10 and 14 days. When the cord is ready to fall off it will shrivel and turn black whereas at the start it may be shiny and yellow. 

Umbilical Cord Care

umbilical cord care

While the umbilical cord has no nerves, it is not immune to infection. This is why taking care of the cord can be so important even though eventually it will fall off. You’ll want to make sure it dries out properly so it can fall off in the first three weeks by following these care practices. 


Here are the things you should be doing to properly care for the umbilical cord. While going through this checklist, you give your baby the best possible chance to be healthy and avoid infection. 

  • Keep It Dry

For the umbilical cord to fall off, it needs to dry out. Getting the umbilical cord, a little bit wet by accident won’t cause any harm to the baby. However, it is supposed to be kept clean and dry so opting out of bath time or sink time and using sponge baths are encouraged. 

  • Let It Fall Off When Ready

All doctors will tell you not to pull or tug on the umbilical cord. Trying to take it off is a major no-no as the cord should fall off naturally. If you end up touching it too much you could end up hurting your baby or infecting it if your hands aren’t sterile. 

  • Watch the Diapers

Just like you don’t want yourself to pull at the umbilical cord, you don’t want other things to aggravate it also. Diapers tend to rest right around the same area so if you fold them down a little bit to avoid the friction, you’ll end up having a happier baby and a safer cord. 


Here are the things you definitely should not do when it comes to your baby’s umbilical cord. Health practices have updated and changed the way suggested care for umbilical cords is done. 

  • Rubbing Alcohol 

Doctors used to advise parents to rub running alcohol around the base of the umbilical cord because it would help dry up the stump. However, since then this advice has been rejected and updated as it can be harmful to your baby. 

  • Leave It Unsterile 

Even though you don’t want to let the stump get wet or play around with it too much, you also want to make sure it is clean. If the baby passes a bowel movement and you can see that it has touched the stump, you can use water and a little bit of soap to clean it. Just remember to lightly dry the area afterward. 

What to do when the stump comes off?

When the umbilical cord falls off you will want to continue practicing some of the same efforts you are when the stump Is still attached. However, you also want to be aware of what is normally looking so you aren’t concerned when you don’t need to be.

Anything that is outside the normal occurrences described below should be followed up with a medical professional. 

Normal Occurrences 

These are normal effects that come with a stump falling off. This does not mean in any way that your baby’s stump is infected. 

  • Redness around the navel.
  • Small oozings of fluid.
  • Scabbing

Redness Around The Naval

At the point of separation, it is particularly common to see the navel look irritated and red. The earlier the stump falls off the more common this is. So if you see the stump fall off at 7 days rather than 14, you may have a great chance of seeing redness. 

Small Oozing of Fluid

It’s also normal to have some fluid that may seem puss-like come out of the point of separation as well. It may look similar to when you get your ears pierced and some of the fluid comes out a little as it heals. 


Even scabbing around the navel and the separation point is normal. Remember just like you don’t want to tug around the stump to make it come off earlier, you also do not want the scabs to fall off earlier than supposed to. Let them heal naturally and fall off when they are ready to avoid infection. 

Care Practices

Even when you see normal signs of healing and the stump has fallen off, you will want to keep up the same routine you had before. By following these norms, you give your baby the best shot at avoiding infection. 

Clean and Dry

You will still want to keep the navel area as clean and dry as possible. Since secretions are quite normal anytime you notice them you will want to take a cotton swab or small cloth that can be slightly damp to wipe away. Then make sure to lightly pat the area down and dry it. 

You don’t want to use anything like tissues or paper towels to wipe away any fluids because the paper towels can be too rough and the tissues can wither away causing more of an issue. When you go to dry, you’ll want to be as gentle as you were when the stump was there. 


Baths should be avoided still for a few more days. Because the area is still very much healing, consider doing sponge baths to avoid getting it too wet for about four more days. Once the area seems to be healing up and there is less irritation, then you can start to do regular baths again. 

Diapers and Clothes

We don’t want to irritate the area any more than it probably already is. That’s why continuing to fold down the diapers to avoid touching the area as well as getting any bowel movements all over it. Clothes can also be aggravating so you make sure nothing is too tight. 

Signs of Umbilical Cord Infection

While some normal effects occur after the umbilical cord detaches, there are some warning signs that the umbilical cord or the navel area is infected. Babies who were born prematurely or have a lower weight have an increased chance of getting infected umbilical cords. 

Here are the signs of an infected umbilical stump:

  • Excess Blood

A little blood around the area is normal. This is what will turn into light scabbing and eventually heal. However, a lot of blood is not OK, especially if the open wound doesn’t seem to be healing.

  • Excess Fluid

The same can be said for any puss or oozing fluids. A little around the early stages of the camping and cutting of the umbilical cord and again when it falls off. Consistent fluids may be a sign of trouble. This discharge may be yellow, green, smell funny, or other alarming qualities.

  • Spreading Redness

Any redness around the point of separation is expected. If the redness has spread from the navel to around the stomach this is a sign of an infection spreading. Sometimes clothing can be irritating to a new body or rough blankets. Make sure to see if the redness starts at the naval and moves outward for this reason. 

  • Bumps

If the naval area develops a wet-looking bump at the point of this is also a sign of infection. It may be as small as a dime-size bump or a quarter. Any sign of swelling should be looked at by a medical professional.

  • Pain with Touching

If your baby seems to be flinching, crying, or having looks of discomfort when you lightly touch the area to clean, this could be an indicator that this area is infected. Your baby will most likely have trouble sleeping and show signs of being extra fussy. 

Umbilical Cord FAQs

Umbilical cords are pretty straightforward. Once the doctor clamps and cuts it, the stump will go through its natural process before falling off. Having said that it is a good idea to keep a careful eye out for infection and protecting your baby. Here are some of the most common questions when it comes to a baby’s umbilical cords: 

What To Do When Infections Sign Show?

Infections with the navel and umbilical cord need to be treated right away. Often the baby will need some sort of medication prescribed by doctors to control the infection. Because the umbilical cord is connected with the bloodstream, an infection can be quite a serious matter. This infection can turn into sepsis which can be life-threatening. 

What Are The Treatment Options?

If the infection is caught on early your child may be able to just have some at-home care with prescribed medication. The more serious the infection is the more treatment your baby will need. In some cases, the baby may need to be hospitalized and put on IV antibiotics. In other instances, the baby may need to get the infection surgically drained. 

What Is The Normal Recovery Time From An Infection?

While it will take a healthy navel seven days to heal after the stump has fallen off, an infection can take much longer to recover from. When the infection is caught on the earlier side the baby may take a few weeks to recover. 

If the baby was hospitalized and needed any type of surgery to have it drained, this can take longer as the baby will spend some time in the hospital first and then some recovery weeks at home. 

How Common Are Umbilical Cord Infections?

Luckily, thanks to outstanding care in hospitals when cutting and clamping the umbilical cord only about 1 in 200 babies experience serious infections. This is also because at-home care is relatively easy to follow and infections can be caught early on. 


Because of the low rate of infection among babies, the odds are in your favor. Having said that, remember if your baby was born prematurely or underweight, they are subject to having more of a likelihood of getting an umbilical cord infection than others. 

Because the process is relatively simple there is no real need to fret about it. A clean stamp is a way to go and if for some reason you do need to wipe off any bathroom waste or excess oozing, use a soft cotton swab or cloth so you don’t irritate it any more than it may already be. 

Lastly, if signs do start to show that your baby may be experiencing an infection either before it falls off or shortly after, don’t wait to contact a medical professional. What may start as a small infection always has the potential to turn into something much larger and life-threatening. Getting ahead of it can save some serious stress.