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How to care for the umbilical cord stump?

newborn with umbilical cord stump

Key points:
1. The umbilical cord, which supplies nutrients in pregnancy, is cut after birth, leaving a stump that falls off naturally. Removing it early can harm the baby.
2. Proper hygiene is vital to prevent infection in the stump; keep it clean and dry. If dirty, clean with moistened cotton and gently dry with absorbent gauze.
3. Check regularly for infection signs: bad odor, yellow discharge, redness, tenderness, swelling, bleeding, or baby discomfort. Some bleeding is normal as the stump falls.
4. Use sponge baths until the stump falls, usually in 1 to 4 weeks. Consult the pediatrician if it doesn’t fall. If allowed, normal baths are fine with thorough drying.

During your pregnancy, the umbilical cord helps your little one to get nutrients and oxygen; but after birth, it is no longer needed, so it is clamped and snipped, and babies are left with a small stump in the navel. The umbilical cord stump falls by itself and it is necessary to let it heal and not try to remove it because that can hurt your baby.

Hygiene of the umbilical cord stump

Your newborn’s umbilical cord stump requires special care to prevent infection. To ensure good care, try to maintain the stump and surrounding area clean and dry. If you notice that it has become dirty, clean the area with a cotton ball moistened (not soaked) in clean water, and then dry the area gently with an absorbent gauze or by fanning it.


It’s important to regularly check the umbilical cord for signs of infection. Infections are rare, especially when cared for properly, but look for the following signs:

  • The stump gives off a foul odor and yellowish discharge.
  • The skin surrounding the stump is red, tender, or swollen.
  • It continues to bleed.
  • It seems painful to your baby.

When the umbilical cord stump falls off, it might bleed a little, and in the healing process, it’s normal to see a little blood near it, just be sure it is not actively bleeding. 

Remember to stick to sponge baths while your little one still has the stump. It will take about 1 to 4 weeks for it to fall off; but if it hasn’t separated by that time, communicate with your pediatrician to see the reason. Now, if your doctor tells you that you can bathe them normally, you can do it as long as you dry the stump area thoroughly. 

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