5 Tips for Caring for Baby's Umbilical Cord Stump

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umbilical cordThe first one to three weeks of your baby's life, he'll have an umbilical cord stump that was clamped in a painless procedure following the birth. (It's actually kind of cute.) But there are ways to go about caring for the stump (to put rubbing alcohol on it or not?). Don't worry, it's not rocket science, but here are 5 tips for caring for your baby's umbilical cord stump.

(And, no, your baby won't feel any discomfort during this newborn rite of passage -- the umbilical cord doesn't contain nerve endings!)

1. Air it out. Before the cord stump falls out, try to avoid dressing your baby in tight-fitting onesies or shirts. Letting the cord get air will help speed the drying process. On the same token, avoid having baby's diaper over the cord stump. Fold the diaper and tuck inside toward baby's belly.

2. No baths until the cord stump falls off. Your doctor will probably tell you this, but here's a friendly reminder. It's natural to be excited to give your baby his first bath, but please wait until the cord has fallen off! Umbilical cord stumps should be kept clean and dry. Wash your baby with warm, soapy washcloths the first few weeks of his life. Don't worry, he's not very dirty.

umbilical cord care

3. Do not pull at baby's cord stump. Even if it looks like it's just hanging on by a teeny-tiny thread, leave it. It will fall out on its own.

4. To swab or not to swab? Some doctors recommend cleaning around the baby's cord stump with an alcohol-dipped cotton ball; others recommend letting it dry naturally. Some research has found that cord stumps that haven't been treated at all tend to heal faster.

5. Know signs of infection. Consult your doctor if your baby displays any of the following signs: fever; the stump bleeds continuously; a foul smell is emitting from stump; the area surrounding the navel has become swollen, red, or warm to the touch; there's pus at the base of the stump.

How did you care for your baby's cord stump?


Image via Jade Brookbank/cultura/Corbis

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foblu... fobluvsme

I just took a newborn class at the hospital and they said do not use alcohol and baths/getting the stump wet is fine.

Tracy Bull

They told me to keep it dry and only do sponge baths until it came off. His just came off today. I cried. lol

nonmember avatar me

getting it wet is fine. how many times we heard that in ob clInIcals in school

Sarah Nelson

I knew about #2, no baths until it fell of.  Me and my hubby used rubbing alchol on all 3 of our kids and it worked out just fine.

Rachel Booker

We  used cloth diapers and found we could not get then low enough on his belly to avoid his stump. He got a little infection and we switched to swaddlers until it came off. It was a help.


Kay Wynn

We knew about all of them.   We gave both boys sponge baths until their stumps fell off and we used a little bit of alcohol on each one and had no problems.  They fell off w/i 7 -10 days after birth.


Hunny... HunnybearSG

Keep in mind that my oldest is going to be 13 in Feb. His brother is only 17 months younger, It has been 11+ years since I have done this. I am no expert and am simply explaining what worked for me.

Once we were home & I ran out of the alcohol swabs the hospital gave me, I used a Q-tip dipped in alcohol to clean both of my boys' stumps and I always let it dry completely before I dressed them. Pampers Swaddlers were the only diapers I found that worked until their stumps fell off. As far as bathing them, I was told by a nurse to use baby wipes to clean them and a moist wash cloth to rinse and then to lotion them well avoiding the stump area. It was ok to get them a bit wet but not to give a full bath until 24 hours after the stump came off. My oldest's stump was stubborn, took almost a month for it to finally fall off. Did the same exact thing with my younger son, and it only took 1 week. But, my younger son's stump had something very dark blue on the whole area. Neither ever got any kind of infection.

nonmember avatar Toni

Number 2 although its usually forgotten is not practiced at the childrens hospital here full submersion in water for a bath 24 hrs after birth. I was shocked when my second child was bathed this way by the nurses.....however his cord stump dried and fell off in less than a week completely healed :)

Michelle Lee-Reid

We gave baths, washed it with a q-tip dipped in alcohol, and they wore onesies and the cords were fine and fell off when they were supposed to.  I did buy the newborn diapers with a section cut out in the front for the sturmp or cut out a little area on the waistband of other diapers for the stump.  I think with babies we think a bit too much and simply need to use common sense most of the time.  (although I did obey the rules about not sleeping on their stomach!).  


Rachael Roark Shell

My first childs fell off on it's own we cleaned it twice a day with rubbing alcohol and didn't really have any issues with it. My second child on the other hand has just a deep inny belly button that no matter how much we let it air dry or put rubbing alcohol on it the dr had to retie it off closer to the stump and she is 18 months old now and STILL has the small lil brown tail inside her belly button. It's not infected and dr says not to worry about it. Poor kid will always have a littly bit of her ubilical cord with her lol

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